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Building Blocks: Inclusion in the Foundation Phase

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Executive Summary

  • An analysis of 21 cases relating to Foundation Phase children received by the Commissioner’s office over an 18 month period showed common themes in cases involving children being excluded and isolated. These include gaps in educational provision, confusing processes of referral, and delays to meeting the child’s needs.
  • Case work received by the Commissioner’s office show incidences where unlawful (or ‘unofficial’) exclusions were experienced by Foundation Phase-aged children, and existence of this practice is also shown in other research.
  • Local authorities reported to us that in total 768 fixed-term exclusions were issued to Foundation Phase children in Wales in 2018-19 (19 of 22 local authorities submitted information, so this figure does not include data from 3 local authorities).
  • A significant number of children in the Foundation Phase in Wales receive more than one fixed-term exclusion in a year. One local authority reported 18 fixed term exclusions for one Foundation Phase pupil and in another area a Foundation Phase pupil had been issued 9 fixed term exclusions. Across the 18 Local Authorities reporting use of fixed term exclusions, the mean average number of Foundation Phase children per authority who were excluded more than once during the academic year 2018/19 was 9 pupils (range 3-23 pupils).
  • Case work and local authority data also show that some children in Foundation Phase are being taught in isolation or on significantly reduced timetables.
  • Consultations held with education professionals in the EAS and GwE consortia (south-east and north regions of Wales) showed common areas of challenge reflected in the experiences and development of children with Social, Emotional, and Behavioural Difficulties. These include: unmet needs; communication; working with peers; home life and relationships with families; routine and structure; the impact of poverty and the use of technology.
  • Professionals also highlighted challenges of classroom environments for children with SEBD and the professionals supporting them. These include: physical space and design; class sizes and funding; Foundation Phase pedagogy; academic expectations.
  • Educational professionals highlighted areas of whole school provision that enable better provision for children with Social, Emotional, and Behavioural Difficulties, these include: embedding a children’s rights approach; ensuring a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing; and supporting the wellbeing of staff.
  • Education professionals expressed frustration at the current approach to joined up working, telling us they felt like they were chasing agencies and that children were being “missed” due to a lack of collaboration. They felt that fundamental elements of support are not in place for Foundation Phase children with SEBD, citing a lack of early intervention, long waiting times, a lack of specialist support and insufficient specialist placements.
  • In response to these findings the Commissioner sets out steps that should be taken as part of a national drive for early support and intervention that leaves no young child excluded from education in the Foundation Phase.
  • These include longer term recommendations for the next Government and also immediate actions that can be taken by Welsh government, local authorities and consortia.
  • One of these actions is to distribute and promote the Commissioner’s toolkit “Building blocks: Inclusion in the Foundation Phase”. This has been developed in collaboration with schools in Wales that have experienced some success in inclusive practices in the Foundation Phase