Estyn supports schools in the foundation phase through new good practice guide

Schools that provide 3 to 7 year olds with good opportunities in indoor and outdoor areas to learn and practise new skills, successfully boost children’s literacy and numeracy development. In a good practice guide and film published today, Estyn describes how the best schools plan the foundation phase and balance child-led discovery with adult teaching.

Through the report and film, ‘Active and experiential learning’, Estyn uses case studies and cameos to describe detailed practice and common characteristics of schools where pupils achieve high standards in literacy and numeracy in the foundation phase.

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says, “A significant strength of Welsh education is the ethos and principles of the foundation phase. Central to its success is careful planning by practitioners so the learning environment reflects pupils’ interests and their stage of development so they can develop and practise their skills.

“Today’s guide and film bring to life how schools across Wales should be providing the foundation phase. From role-playing preparations for the Queen’s birthday celebrations to running a pop-up bakery, there are many ideas to inspire everyone working in the foundation phase to help improve provision and outcomes for children.”

Supporting the development of strong literacy and numeracy skills involves a mix of strategies. For example, in the best schools, practitioners recognise the importance of talking in learning to help children’s vocabulary and create active imaginations. Numeracy skills are developed across a range of activities such as planning the cost of a holiday that enables children to interpret and extract information from data.

One of the many case studies in the illustrated guide highlights how the story of the three little pigs was used to challenge pupils to build a sturdy house. Pupils built houses for the pigs in the outdoor area out of a range of different materials. They made a note of measurements and counted how many bricks, crates or boxes they used. They tested the strength of the houses using fans and took photographs. Pupils were able to talk about the houses they had made. They communicated in writing and used the mathematical skills they had learned. 

As well as highlighting good practice for schools, the guide outlines the roles that local authorities, regional consortia and the Welsh Government can play to support the delivery of the foundation phase. These include providing training, identifying and sharing effective practice and supporting understanding in schools of how to develop pupils’ skills through active and experiential learning when developing a new curriculum for Wales.

About the report
Estyn’s report ‘was commissioned by the Welsh Government and is available in full at

Case studies

  • Brackla Primary School, Bridgend
  • Ysgol Gymraeg Cwm Derwen, Caerphilly
  • Ysgol Gynradd Saron, Carmarthenshire
  • Ysgol Glan Gele, Conwy
  • Sandycroft Primary School, Flintshire
  • Sealand Primary School, Flintshire
  • Ysgol Gymraeg Ifor Hael, Newport
  • Tongwynlais Primary, Merthyr Tydfil
  • The Meads Infant and Nursery School, Pembrokeshire
  • Ynystawe Primary School, Swansea
  • Blaenavon Heritage VC Primary School, Torfaen
  • George Street Primary School, Torfaen
  • Borras Park Community Primary School, Wrexham


Publication date

Thursday, 14 December, 2017