Things EYFS Practitioners want you to know: Continuous Provision

Guest Post by @Emmccatt 

EYFS always seems to be a subject of discussion on Twitter. It seems that everyone, no matter what phase, job title or area of expertise, has an opinion. With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to write a series of blogs delving into the practice of Early Years. This blog will focus on provision and how it is used effectively in the setting.

What is continuous provision?

When Early Years is discussed on twitter, the subject of ‘play’ often comes up. For some, they picture children running around all day not learning anything. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Continuous provision is essentially all of the resources in the environment that have been provided by practitioners to extend the learning of the children in their care. Children are able to access these resources independently and safely, and use them to explore. They are chosen carefully and mindfully by the practitioner so that even in the absence of an adult the children are able to build upon learning. It is not shoving some toys out and watching the children fight over them. Each resource is carefully considered.

How is the provision planned for?

The provision is planned for with the characteristics of essential learning in mind. Development Matters (Non-statutory guidance supporting practitioners in the implementation of the statutory requirements of learning and development under the EYFS framework) defines the characteristics of essential learning as:

  • Playing and exploring – children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’;
  • Active learning – children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements; and
  • Creating and thinking critically – children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas, and develop strategies for doing things.

Each child is seen as an individual. Practitioners reflect on the ways in which individual children learn and respond to the environment and use this to inform their practice.

The Early Years Framework states:

 “Practitioners must consider the individual needs, interests, and stage of development of each child in their care. They must use this information to plan a challenging and enjoyable experience for each child, across all areas of learning and development.”

An important part of the provision provided is that it is never static and always changing. Good EY practitioners will ensure that the environment the children are accessing is planned for with the children’s interests in mind, as well as planning for next steps to build upon previous learning. The aim is always to engage each individual and move forward their learning. Areas in the environment are carefully monitored for use and engagement. Nothing is there for the sake of being there and looking pretty, engagement and learning is paramount.

How do adults engage with the provision?

Adults respond to the child in the moment, what they are doing and use that to extend the child’s learning. Continuous provision does not mean the adults relax and babysit the children engaging with the provision but rather they go in and be part of it. This is what can sometimes be hard for teachers within other key stages to understand as it is so different to standing at the front of a classroom and delivering! Although it is very different, it doesn’t make it less valid and actually a lot could be learnt from EY (expect a blog in the near future).

Sometimes these engagements in the environment between teacher and child can be planned for, but more often than not it becomes planning in the moment. This might be done via open questioning designed to promote higher order thinking. A child in the construction area for example, might want to make the tallest tower they can with the bricks available. A competent practitioner would ask open ended question to facilitate this, guiding them as they make choices and explore as well as reminding them what has been learned before and how that can be applied to the current situation. Practitioners also use these times for opportunities to model and support language development by referring back to vocabulary and using it themselves in the correct context. Alongside this is the making observations of focus children and using this to inform both the ever growing and changing picture of the child and future planning for the class as a whole. Effective practitioners move through various spaces ensuring they are supporting and developing learning throughout the environment whilst also ensuring each particular area is child ready throughout the day.

How is provision used to enable learning?

The framework tells us that, “Settings should provide a ‘challenging’ and ‘developmentally appropriate’ environment ‘based on children’s interests.” Effective provision allows each child to move at pace appropriate to their learning. Purposeful play means children are constantly challenging themselves in an environment that has been designed for that very purpose. Children are given the time, space and support to engage with a variety of activities that have been effectively planned for to extend their stage of development by both scaffolding and pushing their learning forward.

I recently tweeted the below to highlight some of the incredible provision the reception class teacher at my school provides for children to develop and strengthen hands to aid in the writing process.

EYFS

This activity and others like this are appropriate for the children developmentally, purposeful and engaging. It will provide the foundations needed to write. It is one small example of how purposeful play promotes the necessary skills that create and lay the foundations for school life.

There is a reason why it is called ‘foundation stage’.

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