Assessment in the Foundation Phase: The Dangers of Curriculum Reform

13 Dec

I’m a huge supporter of the Foundation Phase and have previously blogged about why it’s the right approach for Wales’ youngest children.

It is with that in mind that I am concerned about the introduction of year on year expectations to be assessed against the Literacy and Numeracy Framework as part of the curriculum review; phase 1.

My main fear is that this will undermine the fundamental principles of stage not age development that drives the success of the Foundation Phase.

The Welsh Government’s own foreword to the Foundation Phase Framework for children’s learning for 3-7 year olds states;

“The Foundation Phase curriculum is planned as a progressive framework that spans four years (3 to 7 years) to meet the diverse needs who are at an earlier stage of development and those who are more able. Throughout their formative years, children’s learning develops more rapidly than at any other time. However, progress is not even and children go through periods of rapid development and times when they seem to regress. A curriculum for young children should be appropriate to their stage of learning rather than focusing solely on age-related outcomes to be achieved. Children should move on to the next stages of their learning when they are developmentally ready at their own pace.”

This foreword, as the underpinning principle of the Foundation Phase, is what makes the policy work so effectively and is what has drawn international acclaim. The changes proposed to introduce year on year assessment and expectations would quite clearly contradict the fundamental pedagogy that makes up the Foundation Phase.

It is naive to expect all children to develop at the same rate and achieve the same things at the same times. Different children will advance in different skills at different speeds. Some struggling across the curriculum, some excelling in all disciplines and some improving at different rates across different interests.

As the Welsh Government’s Foundation Phase Foreword states above, there will be occasions where children’s development will fluctuate between rapid progression and regression. This can be a reflection of parental support; socio-economic backgrounds; available resources outside the school in the community or even basic principles such as the month of birth of a child. It would be detrimental to expect all children to hit the same targets and so unless the year on year expectations reflect the flexibility of the developmental achievement they will be simply seen as yardsticks that cannot be proper indicators of success.

The risks of year on year expectations far outweigh any potential benefits; creating expectations that are simply not going to be met will deflate morale and serve no purpose for children’s educational development.


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