What is Continuous Provision?
What is Continuous Provision?
Early years education is special and unique with its focus on child development, effective learning characteristics and holistic approaches. It’s this breadth that can sometimes be baffling to those who view early years practice from afar. In fact, the early years is so unique that it has its own terminology: terms like ‘enhancements’ and ‘continuous provision’ are part of the language of early years practice, alongside phrases like “less is more”.
If we’re not careful though, the correct use of some of this terminology can be lost in translation. Let’s take the term continuous provision. This is a term that’s used a lot but can have very different meanings when reflected in our practice. So, what is continuous provision, and why is it important?
Continuous provision describes all of the different provision areas which are available for your children to use every day. Within each of these areas of provision there should be a core range of resources that children can use all of the time, throughout the whole year. Planning effectively for continuous provision is crucial and involves a consideration of classroom layout and resourcing that will enable staff to offer a breadth of learning possibilities.
Why is Continuous Provision Important?
Carefully planned continuous provision will enable children to learn skills, will challenge their thinking and help them to embed concepts. It should also provide the context for a variety of learning conversations between children and adults with rich opportunities for modelling and extending speech and vocabulary. It is within this learning environment that the children will also develop key learning attributes. How your environment is planned, resourced, valued and used can impact positively, or negatively, on children’s engagement, independence, collaboration, self-confidence, resilience and curiosity.
If you’re looking to develop your continuous provision, you’ll need to start by reflecting on some key principles.
The Importance of Defined Spaces
Children will be more likely to be engaged within your continuous provision areas if you create enclosed, clearly defined spaces. Creating provision areas in this way tends to lead to fewer distractions and also provides the context for children to collaborate, form relationships and communicate. As you create the spaces, think carefully about the layout of the room. Consider which areas are likely to work well together or alongside each other in order to promote mathematical thinking or meaningful writing opportunities
The resources and materials within each area of provision will need to earn their place based on the number of learning possibilities that they provide. Be careful not to overload provision areas with resources as too many materials will lead to clutter and potentially a lack of purpose in children’s play. Use our Early Excellence audit tools to help you to reflect on the possibilities offered by different collections of resources. The audit tool is available here:
Consistency is Key
Once you have planned your classroom layout and then provided carefully selected resources, be consistent. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of changing a room around on a regular basis or rotating resources. If you are confident that the resources and materials provided offer a broad range of possibilities, then allow the children to learn and develop by using them over an extended period of time. Changing resources on a regular basis will not support the children’s independence and it won’t lead to a progression of ideas.
A well-planned learning environment should encourage children to follow their own interests and express their own ideas. Separate out your materials and resources into small containers or baskets so that the children can easily see what is available to them. Where appropriate, store some resources directly onto a shadow backed shelf. This works particularly well for storing wooden blocks and for tools and containers in the sand and water areas. Again, consistency is important for developing independent learners so store materials and resources in the same way every day.
Reflecting on Practice
So, as you reflect on your own learning environment, there are a number of key questions to consider:
- Is your learning environment organised into clearly defined corners or bays?
- Are resources stored effectively, in the same way every day?
- Have all of the resources earned their place based on the number of learning possibilities that they provide?
- Do all of your staff team recognise the importance of a consistent approach to the environment in order to nurture children’s self- confidence and independence?
Early Excellence Support and Guidance
Don’t forget about our other resources such as free planning guides, blogs and podcasts to update you on the latest updates and practical guidance on supporting your youngest children and those working with them.
Our Guide to Continuous Provision is packed with detailed advice and also contains a full set of continuous provision planning guides for you to use and adapt. We also have an Outdoor & KS1 Guide available and sample guides to download.
Join us for our Summer National Briefing designed to keep School Leaders in the loop about all the latest from Ofsted, DfE and educational research. Packed with insightful information and practical guidance on supporting our youngest children, this term we are drilling down on Ofsted’s view of Early Years with an interview with Ofsted’s Phil Minns, HMI.
Our National Centre is also open to visitors every Tuesday – Thursday from 9am – 5pm. You can also visit us virtually, where you will find a highly informative interactive environment to look around with ideas for your classroom, lots of display ideas and an exhibition of children’s work to inspire you.
We hope to see you soon!