03 SES 10 A, Curriculum Implementation and Teachers' View
The Foundation Phase (FP) is a Welsh Government (WG) flagship policy of early years education (for 3-7 year old children) in Wales. It has been progressively ‘rolled out’ in all schools and non-maintained (NM) settings since 2008 with the aim of addressing ‘common shortcomings’ in early years classes. These shortcomings centred around an overly formal curriculum for children in Key Stage (KS) 1 which was claimed to lead to attaining lower standards and a dissatisfaction towards education and learning at a later age.
It was intended as a curriculum which promotes play and active learning in stimulating environments, both indoor and outdoor, with the addition of child-initiated activities. It was based on a plethora of internationally existing approaches to children’s learning commonly seen to represent ‘good’ practice within the field of early childhood education such as the programmes of Reggio Emilia in Italy, New Zealand (Te Whãriki) and Scandinavia (Einarsdottir, 2006; Malaguzzi, 1993; Maynard, & Chicken, 2010).
It encompasses a developmentally appropriate curriculum as a theoretical basis based around seven statutory areas of learning which aim to develop children’s learning through experiential, hands on experiences. In order for schools and NM settings to implement the pedagogy effectively, the adult: child ratio was increased, staff training was provided, and increased funding was available to develop key areas e.g. the outdoor environment.
A three year evaluation of the FP is currently underway to consider how the FP is being implemented and what impacts it is having. Part of the evaluation included a national postal survey of Head Teachers (HT) and funded NM leaders, Local Authority (LA) interviews and visits to randomly selected case study schools (n41) and NM settings (n10) in order to gain practitioners and key stakeholders’ opinions about how the FP works in practice.
This paper takes data from the evaluation, and focuses on the key issue of how the FP was intended to be, according to WG documentation and how this compares with its actual implementation, both in schools and NM settings. The way in which practitioners have responded, what changes were made and what barriers were experienced will all play a part in determining how implementation reflects policy.
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