How to improve your continuous provision

It's more than just the resources you lay out
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May 16, 2018
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In a rush? Here's the quick run down.

  • Continuous provision is more than just the resources that happen to be out at your nursery.
  • When used properly, continuous provision gives children the opportunity to be independent active learners, and to enhance their interests. It should be a constantly evolving process, and you don’t want to let it stagnate.
  • You might use continuous provision to supplement adult-led learning in your setting or it might play an even larger role as part of in-the-moment planning. But either way, it should always be an area of your early years setting that you’re looking to improve.

What is continuous provision in the EYFS?

Continuous provision is the resources and areas that you have laid out for your children to explore freely. Effective continuous provision should:

  • Be enticing and attractive to little learners - the point is to encourage children to take ownership of directing their own learning.
  • Give children the freedom to be independent choice-makers - think about accessibility and whether adult intervention is required to reach resources.
  • Be carefully thought out and planned for children to use every day

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So how do I plan continuous provision?

All your areas of provision and planned learning environment should be constantly evolving with your children’s interests and continuous provision is no different. To work out what's working and what might need a refresh, observe children playing with your continuous provision for an extended period and ask yourself:

  • Which resources are being used constantly? Which ones are largely ignored?
  • Are the children displaying the characteristics of effective learning?
  • Do the current resources reflect the childrens' interests?
  • Are the resources available right for the ages, needs, and abilities of the children using them?
  • When was the last time we introduced something new?

Improving your continuous provision

So now that we know what we mean by continuous provision, let’s take a look at some steps you can take to improve your provision today. And what better place to start than with you…‍

1. How adults enable children to learn

Instead of being teachers here, adults are facilitators for children to learn and develop while accessing continuous provision.

There will be hundreds of little opportunities to scaffold or support each child’s learning while they are engaged in activities that fascinate them. For example, you might be using open-ended questions to support children's language development, by giving them the vocabulary they need to explain what they’re doing.

2. Continuous provision is not static

Don't be fooled by the term continuous provision - you shouldn't hold onto an area just because you think it’s best practice. If the children aren’t engaged in it, then it’s not working.

Not sure where your current provision stands? Try out the ‘Why?’ test.

Simply go around the provision and ask why every single part of it is there. It could be because it’s fulfilling a child’s interest or it could be a developmental need. Anything can be the answer to your why question, but if you can’t find an answer at all then the chances are that it needs to go.

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3. There are a million different ways to play

In this great article from Alistair Bryce-Clegg, he explains that one of the biggest challenges in continuous provision is that children tend to engage only with what’s familiar to them.

Now that’s not a problem in and of itself. It’s good that they’re engaged and happy learners tend to be successful learners. But challenging every child is important too, and if your children are always going to the same familiar resource and engaging in low-level behaviour, then they’re unlikely to be progressing.

The answer to this is in understanding common play behaviours for every area of your continuous provision. To do this, you need to take each area and list all the activities that children might engage in there. Once you’re done, you split that list into emerging, mid-level and high-level activities.

Then, you make sure that you provide the resources for children to engage with the area at every level. That might mean providing tools that require finer motor control, or larger collections of certain things to improve their number recognition.

Whatever it is, it’s not about telling the children what level of resource they need to engage with. You just need to provide them with the options to progress to higher-level activity. As an educator, you can see that the separation is there, but each child is simply seeing a range of interesting things to play with.‍

4. Early Years education is about giving children time

Continuous provision is really about allowing the children to go on a learning journey on their own terms. They should be able to visit old explorations of course, but also to follow their interests into new ones.

Continuous provision is so much more than just filler time in between your adult-led activities. But, in order to give the children the time they deserve to fully immerse themselves in the resources you've provided, you need to make sure that the structure of your day is not getting in the way.

Think about every time that you interrupt the children in order to pull everyone together:

Is every circle time necessary?Does lunch need to be at 12 on the dot?Why not swap a fixed group snack time out in favour of offering children self-service snacks? This means children can eat when they’re ready to rather than being pulled out of something they’re completely engaged in for the sake of a carrot stick or two.

The big ideas

download pdf
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Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

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UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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