From September, the Assembly Government is pioneering our early years initiative, the Foundation Phase. Last week Education Minister Jane Hutt announced an additional £5 million this financial year, on top of the £25 million grant already secured in 2008/09.
The Foundation Phase for three to seven year olds is designed to give children in Wales the best possible start in life. It is based on learning through play, active involvement and practical activities which enhances their creativity, knowledge, skills and understanding which are invaluable for future learning.
The scheme has been widely supported by teachers and head-teachers. One head-teacher has written to me to say:
I constantly praise (the) Welsh Assembly Government and in particular our Welsh education system to English friends. We were first to take the brave step of removing SAT testing and we have a far more holistic approach to education with less concern about league tables and academic comparisons between schools. I believe that the philosophy of the Foundation Phase was to be the “crowning glory.” At last we can allow young children to be individuals and develop in their own way. Apart from the improvement in oral language I honestly believe that it will drastically reduce the disaffection which we battle with later on, especially with boys. If properly funded, it would make us world leaders in education.
However, there have been concerns about the funding of the Foundation Phase, and I met several Rhondda head-teachers yesterday to discuss the issues that they face. I have already written to the Education Minister on the issue and I was pleased to hear about the additional £5 million last week.
I believe that the Foundation Phase will mean a step-change in the education of children in our primary schools, and I want to ensure that we get the introduction right….