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Playing for time can be justified

Plans for a child-centred foundation phase for all three to seven-year-olds in Wales are radical and important. They will allow a more natural way of helping young children to develop and learn. Early childhood education needs to be about children's lives in the here and now, as well as preparation for future learning.

In England, where the play-based stage ends at five, and formal learning will continue to begin in Year 1, many teachers are envious of Wales's plan.

Unfortunately, it is expensive to implement, and the old system has left Wales with too few well-trained early-years staff. It is a pity that the new play-based, unified phase will not reach more children as quickly as many experts would like. But education minister Jane Davidson is right to delay rolling it out to all schools until it can be done properly.

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