Foundation Phase Excellence Network

About us

The aim of the Foundation Phase Excellence Network is to support the development and embedding of effective Foundation Phase pedagogy across Wales for improved practice and experiences for children, as part of a self-sustaining, self-improving education system.

It will identify, promote and support evidence-based pedagogical development, support education leadership and understanding of what constitutes effective practice in the Foundation Phase.

Dr Susan Davis

Dr Susan Davis, is a Senior Lecturer in the school of Education and Social Policy at Cardiff Metropolitan University. She teaches on the PGCE primary programme, is a module leader, lecturer and dissertation supervisor on the MA in Education and is the pathway leader for the Professional Doctorate in Education (EdD) within the school. She is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

Susan is currently carrying out research into emotional literacy and well-being, looking at the implementation of an emotional literacy programme on quiet, shy and anxious children in the Foundation Phase setting.

Previously, she was a primary school teacher, specialising in Foundation Phase pedagogy.

Sharon Poloha

Sharon Poloha is the Early Years/Flying Start Advisory Teacher at Merthyr Tydfil. She is a qualified teacher and has taught children 3 to 7 years and was owner/manager of a private day nursery for 23 years. Sharon has been a Nursery Inspector for OHMCI and a relief Inspector for Social Services. Since 2005 she has been an Early Years Advisory teacher to the non-maintained sector in Merthyr Tydfil. She was also a member of the Welsh Government Task and Finish Groups for the Foundation Phase Profile 2014/15, Expert Group in 2015-16 and member of the practitioners group for the Foundation Phase Action Plan.

She is chair of the all Wales Early Years Advisory Teachers group.

Since November 2015 Sharon has been an Estyn Registered Nursery Inspector for non-maintained sector and has been a school governor for 28 years.

Linda Davidge-Smith

Linda graduated from Exeter University with a B.Ed (Hons) and has gained her National Professional Qualification for Headship. In 2008 she was seconded to Newport Local Authority as Teacher Adviser for Foundation Phase. Following 22 years as a practising teacher and manager in the primary sector, Linda began work at The University of South Wales.

In 2012 she became Interim Associate Head of School for Initial Teacher Education and Training specialising in Foundation Phase practice.

Linda is currently an academic manager for the Faculty of Life Sciences and Education and is a member of the Welsh Government Foundation Phase Expert Group.

Sarah Coates

Sarah Coates is the Foundation Phase Development Officer, for NDNA Cymru. Sarah has over 20 years of experience working within the early years and childcare sector, starting her career as a teaching assistant. She has a range of vocational qualifications in Childcare in addition to a BA (Hons) in Childhood and Learning Support Studies and before joining the NDNA Cymru team in 2013 Sarah was responsible for the management of various sessional, after school and full day care settings.

Sarah is based within the NDNA Cymru office in Denbighshire, leading on the delivery of the Foundation Phase contract, providing support to member settings with the delivery of the Foundation Phase. Sarah also manages the delivery of the Welsh language contract.

Carolyn Asante

Carolyn Asante is Head of Cardiff’s flagship Ely and Caerau Integrated Children’s Centre. She has over 30 years experience as a teacher, senior leader and headteacher in both London and Cardiff, specialising in the Early Years. The Integrated Children’s Centre receives many visits from educationalists from across the UK and much further afield to observe the recognised exemplary Foundation Phase practice that is in evidence at the Centre. Carolyn is a previous recipient of the Welsh Teaching Awards Promethean Award for Headteacher of the Year in a Primary School.

Shelley Rees

Shelley Rees, Quality and Training Officer for PACEY Cymru (Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years) – Foundation Phase lead. Shelley has previously worked in Welsh pre-school sessional care and managed out of school play schemes.

Shelley is a qualified youth worker and adult learning trainer. She has a range of skills and experiences to share to enhance the work of the network.

Shelley is fully bilingual and has experience of developing, delivering and evaluating Welsh language training and resources and has a specific interest in supporting Welsh language development of children as part of the Foundation Phase.

Sioned Hywel Thomas

Sioned is a Core Leader and a Foundation Phase Portfolio Lead with GwE, North Wales regional consortium.

She began her career as a teacher at Ysgol Maelgwn, Llandudno Junction, before moving on to teach in a number of primary schools in Conwy and Gwynedd.

Between 2007 and 2016 she was a headteacher in two primary schools. She has also been on secondments with Estyn as a Primary School Inspector and Gwynedd Education Authority as a Maths Advisory Teacher.

Eleri Griffiths

Eleri Griffiths is a Policy Manager for Mudiad Meithrin. The role involved managing the Foundation Phase Project to support Cylchoedd Meithrin to raise standards and share good practice across Wales. The work also covers the policy areas of inclusion, children's rights, poverty, the Welsh language and equality. Prior to this she held a range of jobs in the parenting and Early Years fields, and was a Child Protection and Child Rights Trainer in the voluntary sector.

Eleri has experience and a keen interest in children's educational development. She has been a Chair of Governors in a primary school and is an experienced Cylch Meithrin Chair. Eleri understands the challenges of the non-maintained sector but also appreciates the important experiences provided by Cylchoedd Meithrin through the Foundation Phase, and the central role this plays in passing on the Welsh language gift to future generations.

Jane Alexander, Chief Executive Officer, Wales Pre-school Providers’ Association

Jane joined Wales Pre-school Provider’s Association, the largest provider of comprehensive services to the Early Years sector in Wales in 2014. After graduating from Surrey University, Jane’s career started as a civil servant at the Welsh Office based in London. Thirty years ago, she joined the early years and play sector and has worked with families, managed the delivery of Playwork and Early Years qualifications and run a successful childcare business. In 2001, she joined Clybiau Plant Cymru Kids’ Clubs and as National Training Manager contributing to the development of qualifications and national occupational standards for the childcare and playwork sector.

Professor Chris Taylor

Chris is a Professor of Education at Cardiff University and Co-Director of the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD), a collaboration of five Welsh universities. Chris led the Welsh Government funded independent three-year evaluation of the Foundation Phase. He also helped lead the recent evaluation of the Pupil Development Grant (PDG). Chris has published extensively on a range of educational issues, from early years education to widening access to higher education. He was awarded the inaugural Hugh Owen Medal for his contribution to educational research in Wales by the Learned Society for Wales in 2017.

Jackie Phillips

Jackie Phillips describes herself as a teacher first and foremost. Her mantra is ‘Children have one chance, we are that one chance!’

She has worked in a wide variety of schools as a teacher, advisory teacher, headteacher and executive head teacher. She has extensive knowledge of the whole primary phase and has supported headteachers and other senior leaders within schools in assuring quality experiences for young learners. Following leading the pilot of Foundation Phase in a local school, she was seconded to the local authority as a School Improvement Officer for the Foundation Phase and in this role she worked with a team of advisory teachers in preparing for the implementation of the Foundation Phase. She is an Estyn and Section 48/50 inspector. She is currently working as Foundation Phase Expert for Welsh Government

Ann-Marie Gealy

After working in finance and banking Ann-Marie Gealy qualified and worked as a primary school teacher with responsibility for science. She joined Trinity College in 1997 as a lecturer in the School of Initial Teacher Education and Training. In 2003 she moved to the School of Early Years as a senior lecturer and became Head of School in 2014. She is currently the Director of Early Years within the Institute of Education at UWTSD. Her research is with both children and practitioners and she is ‘Gold Star’ trained in the application and use of the ‘Sustained Shared Thinking and Emotional Well-being’ (SSTEW) rating scales. Ann-Marie has published research findings in journals, written and published books for children and produced training material for practitioners.

Hazel Jane Wordsworth

Hazel is the Director of Initial Teacher Education and joined Bangor University in 2010. Her work is to ensure the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of work within the ITE programmes. She lectures on the Foundation Phase pathways for trainee teachers. Prior to starting at the University Hazel worked as an Early Years teacher, an LEA Early Entitlement Advisory Teacher and Foundation Phase Training and Support Officer. Hazel has sat on the Welsh Government Task and Finish Group for the Foundation Phase and worked closely with the Care Council for Wales. Hazel’s main research interests are child-initiated play, the child's voice and ownership of their own learning. She is also currently researching Communication and MAKATON in Flying Start settings.

Gaynor Brimble

Gaynor Brimble has extensive experience of working in early years education both as a teacher and school leader. For the last twenty years she has shared her expertise in an advisory capacity firstly as a School Improvement Adviser and latterly as a Challenge Adviser. Taking advantage of international study visits and her own professional reading, she supports schools and settings to improve provision and practice within the Foundation Phase. She is most interested in supporting practitioners and leaders to recognise and value the irresistible drive to learn through play.

Gaynor is a passionate advocate for early literacy development having gained a Masters degree while training as a Reading Recovery Tutor. This passion underpins her support and advice to schools and settings.

Elizabeth Riley

Elizabeth Riley is the Strategic Lead for the Foundation Phase Alliance (FPA) Schools, and has been a Challenge Adviser in the Central South Consortium (CSC) region since 2013.

Elizabeth spent 24 years in the Northwest of England where she developed a wide range of skills in a variety of roles in Salford, Sheffield and Manchester local authorities as an Early Years Practitioner, Advisory Teacher, Associate DHT, EYFS LA Consultant and School improvement Officer across schools and settings in the voluntary, independent, private, maintained and non-maintained sectors.

Elizabeth has a strong commitment to creating, contributing to and facilitating opportunities for a wide range of professionals with an interest in Early Education and Care to engage in useful professional dialogue and joint practice development.

Gwenda Easton (Headteacher Ysgol Saron, Carmarthenshire)

Gwenda Easton has worked at Ysgol Saron for over thirty years. Her background is set firmly in the Foundation Phase. Having spent time working with Carmarthenshire local authority as an Early Years Adviser she returned to Ysgol Saron as headteacher, providing a refreshing and realistic approach to leadership based on everyone learning together.

Gwenda has since spent two years working as an inspector with Estyn gaining a firm understanding of Foundation Phase practices across Wales. Having returned to Ysgol Saron in 2015 to continue her headship role, the school went on to gain great accolade during a recent Estyn inspection.

Gwenda strongly believes in the importance of ensuring high-quality provision for all learners. She is also committed to the effectiveness of experiential learning as a means of engaging young children in their learning.

Sally Abadioru

Sally Abadioru taught in the London Boroughs of Barking and Dagenham and Wandsworth from 1994 to 2006 when she left to take up the post of Early Years Adviser for Pembrokeshire County Council.

In her current post Sally is an associate Challenge Advisor for Early Years and Foundation Phase. She is also Chair of the All Wales Foundation Phase Advisors Group which is a sub group of ADEW.