Priorities for new term

5th September 2008 at 01:00
Jane Hutt promises extra cash for play-led learning

Jane Hutt has vowed to secure more funds to ensure the introduction of play-led learning for all under-7s meets its 2012 deadline.

In an interview with TES Cymru, the education minister said clinching extra money for the foundation phase in next month's budget was her "absolute priority" for the new school term.

Staff at many primary schools returned this week to deliver the widely acclaimed foundation phase to reception classes as planned, many doing so with the 1:8 child to adult ratio recommended by experts for pupils aged five or under.

Their determination to meet the requirements of the learning through play revolution - despite significant under-funding of the scheme and staffing shortages - has been praised by Ms Hutt.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan said this week it would go down in educational history as a landmark.

"This is a major step for a small county like Wales to take on its own - the foundation phase breaks with 125 years of British educational tradition. I believe others will follow," he said.

But the implementation has been blighted by funding problems. Ms Hutt this spring admitted huge cash shortfalls after months of lobbying from teaching unions, opposition parties and headteachers. This week she said the foundation phase would go a long way to tackling low self-esteem and underachievement, as well as raising reading and writing standards

Vanessa McCarthy, head of Brynnau Primary School, Pontyclun, Rhondda Cynon Taf, said: "I believe the foundation phase will have a positive impact on teaching in that it will encourage teachers to develop confidence in their own skills as directors of learning, helping to guide children through their early education experiences in an imaginative way."

Ms Hutt promised a quiet year free of "initiative overload." She believes Wales now has the advantage over the rest of Britain, particularly with the foundation phase and the growing popularity of the Welsh baccalaureate qualification.

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