Continuous provision in EYFS

What is continuous provision in EYFS?

By Ben White

Continuous provision in EYFS refers to the resources and learning opportunities accessible to children all of the time within a provision.  When developed well it will invite children to interact, explore and of course, learn.  When effective, the adult’s role in continuous provision is to interact purposefully by following the lead of the child.  Adding enhancements provides further challenges or develops new skills and as a result enables learners to make progress within the environment

Undoubtedly, the overarching key to an effective Early Years classroom is getting the Continuous Provision right.  However, enabling children to learn whilst still promoting independence and child initiated learning can be challenging. 

The first advice I often give is to explore your inner child.  Consider yourself as the learner in your classroom, what would motivate you to learn? Are there resources that spark curiosity, resources that are accessible and most importantly people to talk to about your learning.

Getting the basics right

A useful starting point is to ensure that each area of the early years classrooms has a well stocked array of different resources linking to that specific area of provision.  For example, in a dedicated writing area, is there a selection of different mark making tools, from pens to pencils, crayons to chalks?  A variety of things to write and draw on is also important: paper, card, notebooks, post-it notes to name just a few.  Such lists for all areas of the classroom can be found online and provide a great starting point to developing any area of the provision.  You only need a few items of each resource and ensure everything is visible and easily accessible in pots or baskets – less is more here.  Ensuring everything is labelled, either with pictures or simple words that the children in the provision  can read will, promote independence and encourage even the youngest children to tidy up once they have finished.  Don’t be afraid to allow children to move resources from one area to another, this sparks creativity and could develop into a deeper level of play.

Plan for enhancements

With this basic set up a continuous feature of your classroom, the practitioner’s role is to plan and prepare for enhancements.   What additional resources will you provide to develop learning further over time?  Enhancements could be inspired from a range of different places.  First of all, the children’s own interest.  One rainy day,  a rainbow might be seen out the window  for example- this is a great opportunity to encourage rainbow themed painting on the art table with conversations about colour and opportunities to try out mixing colours.  With all the tools easily accessible, children and practitioners will be able to focus on the learning opportunity almost immediately without the need for adults to spend gathering tools and resources. 

Another way to enhance the learning is to make links to current learning themes – around the time of Diwali for example, planning some simple enhancements on how learning can be threaded through each area can be very useful.  Candles in the playdough area for example to make diva lamps, colourful clothes and material in the roleplay corner and coloured rice or sand in the tuff spot to create rangoli patterns (with some examples or templates as a guide).  This will encourage children to make connections and as a result develop a deeper understanding.  There won’t always be obvious enhancements and therefore practitioners shouldn’t force these for the sake of it.

Interactions are key

The adult’s role in continuous provision is key.  Knowing when to interact and how is vital in moving the children’s knowledge on.   There are resources that can support with assessing this such as the Sustained shared Thinking and Emotional Well-Being Scales (SSTEW) as self-audit tool to reflect and evaluate the provision.    A simple tool I regularly use is the Leuven Scales for Involvement.  A simple five scale assessment of the engagement pupils are showing. These can be seen below:

Involvement Scale

  1. Extremely low – Activity is simple, repetitive and passive. The child seems absent and displays no energy. They may stare into space or look around to see what others are doing. 
  1. Low – Frequently interrupted activity.  The child will be engaged in the activity for some of the time they are observed, but there will be moments of non-activity when they will stare into space, or be distracted by what is going on around them.
  1. Moderate Mainly continuous activity. – The child is busy with the activity but at a fairly routine level and there are few signs of real involvement. They make some progress with what they are doing but don’t show much energy and concentration and can be easily distracted. 
  1. High – Continuous activity with intense moments. The child’ activity has intense moments and at all times they seem involved. They are not easily distracted. 
  1. Extremely high – The child shows continuous and intense activity revealing the greatest involvement. They are concentrated, creative, energetic and persistent 

This simple scale can be used to monitor the activity of children as they move around the environment or it can be a useful tool to identify which areas of the provision are most and least engaging.  In cases when high levels of engagement are high, an adult’s interaction may not be necessary as the play is developing well and by interacting at this point may interrupt deeper thinking or play development.  

One thing to consider when planning the continuous provision is the use of the internet to prompt ideas.  Social media sites and internet searches provide great ideas, however it is always important to consider the learning and skills that children will develop from the activity you see.  Often, what at first glance appears to be a beautifully designed and laid out activity often lacks interest to a young child or allows any opportunities for deeper learning.  You know your children best, let them lead and develop the environment in a way that enables them to feel a sense of ownership in their classroom.

Progress in Continuous Provision

Finally, effective continuous provision will develop over time.  Young children develop and learn at such a pace and the provision and enhancements will need to keep up with this.  For example, playdough is a staple of any EYFS classroom, however I would question seeing it all year around.  Why not introduce plasticine the next term – this requires more finger strength to manipulate and colours can be combined to create more advanced sculptures. Once secure with plasticine, next introduce clay and with the build up of skills throughout the year, children will be in a position to handle it with more confidence and create more purposeful and higher quality outcomes.  Consider what progression may look like in other areas of the classroom, the role play corner or maths area for example. Adding in mark making opportunities or resources from other areas can be a highly effective way to link skills and knowledge and develop the play further.

Ben White is a co-headteacher of Crawley Green  Infant school in Luton. For more ideas and to get in touch please see @benwhitej on Twitter.

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