Primary education in Wales has a similar structure to Primary education in England, but teaching of the Welsh language is compulsory and it is used as the medium of instruction in many schools. The introduction of the Foundation Phase for 3- to 7-year-olds is also creating increasing divergence between Wales and England.
In 2001, the Welsh Assembly Government introduced the idea of a new curriculum for Wales.
In Wales, statutory education begins in the term after a child's fifth birthday, although many children start primary school earlier than this or their parents choose to home educate them. Between the ages of 3 and 11 a child's education is divided into three main stages:
- Foundation phase - pre-compulsory education (ages 3–7) (replacing Early Years (ages 3–5) and Key Stage 1 (ages 5–7).)
- Key Stage 2 - the second phase of compulsory primary education (ages 7–11).
Primary schools in Wales must, by law, teach the basic curriculum and the National Curriculum. The basic curriculum consists of religious education (RE) and personal and social education (PSE). Primary schools are also required to have a policy on sex education. At Key Stages 1 and 2, the National Curriculum consists of "core subjects" (English, Welsh, mathematics and science) and non-core subjects - Welsh second language, design and technology, information technology, history, geography, art, music, physical education and religious education. There is no statutory requirement to teach English at Key Stage 1 in Welsh-medium schools.
Pupils are statutorily assessed to establish their starting point when they first enter school in the Reception Year or Year 1, and there are further statutory assessments in the core subjects at the end of Key Stages 1 and 2. Primary school league tables were abolished in Wales in 2001; a Bristol University study indicated that this had caused a fall in standards in about 75% of schools.
From September 2008, the Welsh Government introduced a new Foundation Phase for children from 3 to 7 years of age, combining Early Years Education for 3- to 5-year-olds Key Stage 1 of the National Curriculum for 5- to 7-year-olds. The Foundation Phase places a greater emphasis on experiential learning.