What is continuous provision in the early years?
Provision is usually talked about in terms of Continuous Provision and Enhanced Provision. Here’s a quick summary of the differences between the two.
Continuous provision is made up of the resources and activities that are available to the children all the time; this also includes the environment and how adults interact within it. When considering the continuous provision in your setting, think about how children are consolidating and rehearsing previous learning, how they may build on those skills and make small steps forward in their learning.
In essence, continuous provision enables children to continue learning in the absence of an adult.
It does not need to be changed daily, weekly or even monthly! In September you will start with a basic skeleton of provision (such as sand, water, paint), which you then build on throughout the year based on the topics and interests you have covered: you can then tweak continuous provision on a half term or even terminally basis.
The main difference between continuous and enhanced provision is that enhanced provision is a much more scaffolded approach within our early years settings. Rather than giving the children the tools to practise and apply what they already know, enhanced provision is a way to support children, by providing guidance and scaffolds, in the application and practice of new skills and/or knowledge.
Adults in this instance are there to support children to become Independent learners by providing them with a scaffold, a guide to support them in progressing through the stages of a task or activity. Enhancements are a way to build in key knowledge alongside the development and practice of skills: they’re really tailored to build specific learning and they link to learning objectives.
One of the key challenges that early years practitioners face in their planning of continuous and enhanced provision is how to link themes/books/interests to the provision provided to the children without losing sight of the learning point.
So how can we ensure that the provision we plan for serves a learning purpose, is enjoyable and meets your children’s needs instead of it becoming simply a series of ‘nice things to do’ because it fits within a certain topic?
Firstly, I want to make it clear that despite Pinterest, Instagram and Early Years Facebook group ‘inspiration’, enhancement DOES NOT need to be all singing and all dancing.
As we know with young children, less is usually more, and that inevitably means less work/time spent creating and planning the provision for you. Yay! In fact, believe me when I say, if you’re wondering if you need to laminate one more thing for that enhancement, the answer is most probably no! Step away from the laminator and have a cup of tea and a biscuit instead!
Now you know you don’t have to magic up another day in the week to create the provision, what should you look at when planning enhanced provision in your setting?
Enhanced provision sits in one of three areas,
- An enhancement linked to theme or topic
- An enhancement linked to children’s interest
- An enhancement linked to assessment of a child’s or group of children’s need
Here are some examples of what each one might look like:
- It is springtime and you are going to be planting seeds in the EYFS garden; you want a learning theme to be around growing, so some areas of provision will be enhanced to support the children in acquiring new skills or knowledge linked to their knowledge and understanding of the world. Download my Sowing and growing planning back and choose some themed enhanced provision ideas for this, if you’re doing this this term.
- You have a pirate-mad class this year and you know that your children would love to apply their skills to some pirate themed learning. Planning this term will include some pirate themed activities and tasks to support the children in learning and applying new skills. Pssst – if this sounds like your class, I have a Pirate MTP bank just for you.
- Fine motor is an area many children in the setting are struggling with. There is a real need in the setting to enhance some of the provision to support this skill in different ways. In this case, planning 2-3 areas of enhanced provision which directly links to this skill will allow you to support those children who are struggling and give those more able in this skill to practise in new ways. Take a look at my fine motor planning bank for ideas for this one.
So, now we know what enhanced provision looks like, do we need to enhance every area, every day?
In short – no!
You absolutely do not need to enhance every area of provision everyday (or in some cases multiple times a day)!
There are 2 main reasons for this,
- You will burn out.
- The children will not benefit from this.
Let’s go back to the basics, remember that one of the teachers in the classroom is the environment. If the environment and provision in it is changing every hour of the day, imagine how confusing and overwhelming this becomes for children! We end up achieving the opposite of what we have set out to do.
Changing enhancements on a weekly, or even bi-weekly basis, is the best approach for you and the children. Of course, how frequently this will happen will depend on your formative assessments.
Let’s take fine motor as an example: you have provided children with a threading activity to support fine motor development. You know that the children you have identified as particularly needing this enhancement have made major leaps in their progress with this at the end of week one. Perhaps for week 2, the threading stays but this time with slightly more challenging materials. This is a tweak on your part rather than a full change and the children are then applying the skill they have been working on to a slightly different challenge.
Enhanced provision is part and parcel of all good early years practise, but very often it is made to be way more complicated and time consuming than it needs to be in order to meet the needs of the children in your setting.
This is something I am going more in depth with in my new free training available to email subscribers.
When you access this free training you will learn,
- The differences between continuous and enhanced provision
- The characteristics of effective learning and building skills through provision
- Ideas for resources and planning