Friday, 18 April 2008

Nursery/primary education: Plaid/Labour coalition back-tracking

Kirsty Williams AM, our representative on education in the Assembly, reports that the Plaid-Labour Government has flip-flopped over its One Wales commitment to radically reduce class sizes for 3 to 7 year olds, through the roll out of the Foundation Phase.

In the One Wales delivery plan 2007-11, launched today, the Government stated that this ‘radical reduction’ would be completed by 2011. But in a letter sent to Directors of Education across Wales last month Assembly officials stated that the implementation of the foundation phase was a “4-year developmental process” and schools should “work towards achieving the Foundation Phase (adult/pupil) Ratios” over this period.

With the Foundation Phase’s implementation being timetabled to start in September 2008 and completed by 2010-11 these additional 4 years will take the Government beyond its 2010-11 commitment for reduced class sizes.

Kirsty writes:
“The Government has failed to meet its commitment before it has even started implementing the foundation phase.
“In its letter to Directors of Education the Government has admitted that there has been a shortfall in staff recruitment and as a result it plans to phase the initiative in over four years.
“This was not previously the plan, and along with inadequate funding is symptomatic of the government’s failure to adequately prepare for the introduction of this scheme."

I am personally in favour of the Scandinavian approach to early years education, which starts formal instruction a year or so later than we do, while making high-quality nursery places available. But, given the structure we have, it is a dereliction not to make the promised reduction in class sizes.

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