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What are the Benefits and Challenges of an Integrated Foundation Phase Curriculum in terms of Developing Childrens Learning?

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Introduction

What are the Benefits and Challenges of an Integrated Foundation Phase Curriculum in terms of Developing Children's Learning? The Foundation Phase, launched in 2001, is the new approach for learning aimed at children aged three to seven years, replacing the Key Stage One and Early Years Curriculums. Whilst there are no single curricular subjects for the children to learn, there are 7 areas of learning, which are taught through an holistic approach; Creative Development, Mathematical Development, Physical Development, Knowledge and Understanding of the World, Language, Literacy and Communication, Personal and Social Development, Well-Being and Multi-Cultural Diversity (PSDWBMCD) and Welsh Language Development. 'An appropriate curriculum for young learners in the Foundation Phase in Wales should be made up of integrated and overlapping areas of learning.' (WAG, 2003, p.9) This means that during a single activity a child may gain several different skills at once and that the areas of learning should not be taught in isolation (See Appendix 1). The means for implementing this style of teaching is through topics and themes rather than subjects such as English, Maths and Science. Using themes allows teachers to provide opportunities for developing skills in many if not all of the areas of learning. The cross-curricular areas also enable children to advance their logic, problem solving skills, perceptive thinking and conceptual skills. As a result, each child will proceed to develop their skills and their personality in an holistic manner. Both work and assessment in the Foundation Phase goes beyond the textbooks of the old curriculum. Observation of young children in this system of learning shows progression in all aspects of the child development, not just their academic ability. The child's personal and social skills are assessed, along with their ability to become more self-reliant, independent and active learners. Children's skills and knowledge of how the world works (Knowledge and Understanding of the World) are not developed merely as a demonstrable amalgam of the sciences, geography and history, but as applicable skills in logic and adaptation of prior knowledge and experiences. ...read more.

Middle

The conventional method of assessing children's sense of wellbeing is the inclusion of Circle Time and/or the SEAL scheme (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) in the timetable. This is an opportunity for the children to explore and communicate their thoughts, ideas and fears. When integrated with play activities, 'childhood play helps children to learn that different people have different ideas' (BRUCE, 2001, p.93) thus developing their social skills and encourages acceptance of others, regardless of similarities and differences. On the other hand, children's ideas of where they would like to proceed next in pursuing their interests can still be ignored as planning may have already been completed and preparations made. Activities such as circle time can also be unproductive or challenging due to the shorter attention span of younger children along with the additional needs and support of SEN pupils such as physically and /or mentally underdeveloped children, selective mutes, etc. The integrated curriculum of the Foundation Phase generates an abundance of opportunity for children to initiate their own structure for development. Children are no longer under pressure to keep up with their age group and are therefore exposed to a greater quality of learning and are fairly assessed according to their present stage of development. "The disposition to learn and motivation to persevere with a learning activity will depend on the effect of the learning stimulus, which may not be the same for each child. Depending on previous knowledge and experience, a child may not want to pursue a particular activity but may choose a different interest if given the opportunity. This is acceptable as the same outcomes can be achieved in different ways". (WAG, 2008, p. 6) There are schools existing today whose curriculum is dedicated to the works of such researchers as Montessori, and Steiner-Waldorf. These schools put into practice the theories of fostering social development, learning through active involvement and practical experiences, learning the relevant skills as the children showed an interest. ...read more.

Conclusion

(BENNETT, 1976, p.22)) The information that the children assimilate is more relevant to their everyday experiences and adaptable to continuation at home. The amount of information retained into adulthood within the Key Stage curriculum is much smaller because of the way it is all separated into different subjects with no bridges in between. 'Latest inspection reports and anecdotal evidence from head teachers indicates the play-led strategy has raised teachers' performance and vastly improved pupils' all round communication skills. (PORTER, 2009)' Exam results for the teenagers of the future could well be improved because of the child-centred, integrated curriculum. As for the method of implementation; playful and exploratory learning, BRUCE (2001, p. 76) claims that 'childhood play will turn into adult creativity and imagination, but only if it is encouraged. It can be extinguished or diminished if it is not supported or extended.' As the children progress into education for older children (Key Stage two) they are more likely to ask questions and be more independent and willing participants in their own education. It is clear from this discussion that there are many challenges and benefits to the integrated Foundation Phase curriculum in terms of developing children's learning. From John Comenius to Janet Moyles, theorists have supported and debated the idea of experiential learning and play for centuries. Although there are some setbacks to the time, dedication and organisation, the framework emphasises the importance of the children and not the need to push knowledge towards class after class of pupils. Overall, integrating the seven areas of learning has so far proved to increase enjoyment and relieve pressure on pupils to achieve in academic statistics. There are issues that can be addressed depending on the organisation of each establishment such as the supplies and financial implications of staff and resources. However, learning through an integrated curriculum and developing the children holistically are already showing positive results in performance and well-being of both children and staff. However, we won't know whether the benefits of the Integrated Foundation Phase curriculum have truly outweighed the challenges until the children who have been educated within the system reach adulthood. ...read more.

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