More pilot play is shock to schools

A SHOCK decision to extend the play-led foundation phase pilot to 42 extra schools and other settings one year early could be a challenge too far, it has been claimed.

Officals announced last week that babies, toddlers and children on some of Wales's toughest council estates would be signed up to the scheme, which allows children more scope to learn through structured play, from September.

The earmarked centres are all located in Flying Start areas where initiatives are targeted to help both parents and children under three.

They will be called Early Start Schools and Settings, and the learning through play curriculum is expected to run alongside the parenting classes, free childcare and health improvement schemes.

But Geraint Davies, Welsh secretary of education union the NASUWT, said the announcement was likely to send heads and leaders at the chosen settings into a state of panic.

"This is an admirable, exciting thing to do but it must be backed up with the right funding and trained staff," he said. "This is a huge challenge, especially in the areas that have been designated."

Mr Davies said many schools in Wales had still not made changes to their curriculum to cater for the foundation phase, despite a full roll-out from September 2008.

He said this was due to a lack of Assembly government guidance that was keeping schools and teachers in the dark. Last month Susan Lewis, chief inspector, said the pilot's progress was being hampered by a lack of guidance for teachers, although she praised staff for high teaching standards.

It is believed that the new schools and settings were only made aware of the intention to roll out the scheme two weeks ago.

But an Assembly government spokesperson said that guidance material would not beJavailable until January 2008 and that this was due to consultation now taking place on proposals for the Framework for Children's Learning in the foundation phase that had been scheduled with the autumn 2008 roll-out in mind.

Much of the foundation phase is focused on outdoor learning, with settings expected to have facilities both and in and out of the classroom. It has meant many nurseries selling up to find more suitable venues. But figures out last September showed that more than half of Wales's primary schools do not yet have enough staff to teach the curriculum.

There have also been question marks over the teaching of literacy under the new phase. A report out before Christmas by some of the Assembly government's closest academic advisers found the quality of literacy, communication and language teaching in the pilot schools had "significantly declined" last year, compared with 2004-5. More adult-guided learning was recommended to redress the playwork balance.

The new settings are a mix of English-medium, Welsh-medium and faith schools, playgroups, nursery and infantjunior schools.

New settings in the foundation phase

From September 2007


Ysgol y Graig Cylch Meithrin Stryd y Bont

Blaenau Gwent

Deighton primary school

Cylch Meithrin ABC


Blaenllynfi Infants Caerau nursery


Upper Rhymney primary

Cylch Meithrin Rhymni


Herbert Thompson primary

Cylch Meithrin Pila Pala


Ysgol Gynradd Bigyn

Myrtle House nursery


Ysgol Plant Bach Aberteifi

Cylch Meithrin Llanarth


Ysgol Babanod T Gwynn Jones Cadwgan playgroup


Emmanuel, Rhyl

Playdays playgroup


Gwynedd CP school Nippers Nest playgroup


Ysgol Gynradd, Maesincla

Cylch Meithrin Maesincla

Merthyr Tydfil

Gurnos nursery school

Gurnos Infants


Deri View primary and nursery Cylch Meithrin Y Fenni

Neath Port Talbot

Sandfields primary


Pillgwenlly primary Castleton Baptist Church playgroup


Pembroke Dock community school Tabernacle kindergarten


Maesyrhandir CP school

Trehafren children's centre

Rhondda Cynon Taf

Heol Y Celyn primary Cylch Meithrin y Ddreanen-wen


Townhill community primary school


Penygarn infants school

Buzzy Bees day nursery

Vale of Glamorgan

Cadoxton nursery primary schools


Ysgol y Gaer Bradley playgroup

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