Stump up for play-led learning

24th August 2007 at 01:00
The enthusiasm that oozes from teachers in infant and primary schools piloting the foundation phase (FP) in Wales is evident to any outsider including reporting staff at TES Cymru (page 2). But it appears that all is not rosy in the garden with this initiative, which has already inspired the hearts and minds of so many adults and children.

While Estyn, the Welsh inspectorate, reports that staff have had their confidence boosted by this new, play-led way of teaching young children, the same cannot be said about the funding available. Fears that current levels, outlined in Estyn's report, will not be enough to meet the needs and aspirations of this well-thought-of strategy even despite additional cash announced last year have always lurked, if we are honest. The practical elements, however, appear to have been glossed over with great gusto in the rush to make this forward-thinking policy work.

Yes, it is worrying that not all teachers are clear over this learning technique the great emphasis on outdoor play being a major part of its philosophy. It is also concerning that the assessment of young children's progress is not being tracked or monitored effectively. The idea that our young may be wandering around playing aimlessly, with their teacher not quite sure when to intervene or guide, is a stab in the heart for any parent. But without more money for training staff, how will these teething problems be sorted out?

The cracks are appearing and the Assembly government must move quickly. With just one year until the introduction of the FP to all three to five-year-olds, we need action sooner rather than later.

There is no doubt that this initiative is a good one and improvements in children's language use are already evident, as is some excellent practice and delivery. However, it is time for the Assembly government to face reality and realise that even the most sweetly wrapped initiative on the surface needs some hard cash and clear guidance at its core.

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