From chaos to calm: The importance of EYFS provision audits

EYFS provision audits are fundamental to evaluate the effectiveness of the teaching and learning experiences in your setting, but it can sometimes seem that an audit is “going through the motions” or simply a checklist of things you “should” have available for children. I’m here to explain why I think a more holistic approach to provision audits is best!

Understanding EYFS Provision Audit

An EYFS provision audit is the process of assessing the quality and effectiveness of the learning environment in EYFS settings. It plays a crucial role in ensuring that the environment supports and enhances children’s learning. The audit should look at various aspects of the provision, including both indoor and outdoor environments, time constraints and timetabling, resources and relationships. By conducting a provision audit, you can identify strengths and areas for improvement, leading to a more engaging and stimulating learning environment for your little learners’.

It is crucial to look at both indoor and outdoor spaces, timetables resources, and relationships in the audit process. The indoor environment should provide a range of learning areas, such as quiet corners, role-play and large scale play areas, and spaces for group activities. It should also include a variety of resources that cater to different interests and learning styles. Similarly, the outdoor environment should offer opportunities for exploration, physical activity, and contact with nature. It should be well-equipped with age-appropriate play equipment, natural elements, and open-ended materials that encourage imaginative play and discovery. By considering both indoor and outdoor spaces, resources, and materials, you can create a holistic and inclusive learning environment that supports children’s overall development and well-being.

Many provision or environment audits online focus solely on resources and what is available to the children. Multiple examples of audits can be found that are simple checklists of what “should” be available in each area of the provision. These sort of tick lists have their place; however, they do not take into account the diverse and unique needs of each setting. Each cohort is unique, each setting is unique, and each educator is unique! Therefore, these checklists can provide some useful ideas for how to resource your environment effectively but ultimately your open-ended resources will reflect the unique needs of your children, your environment and your needs.

The Impact of Chaos in the Learning Environment

All of our learning environments look chaotic from time to time (or every day!) but there is often a reason for this- you may have children exploring a transporting schema, perhaps Freddie has decided that he needs the jungle animals in the construction area today because he’s making a zoo or maybe the playdough is in the role play area because Ryan has been making cakes for Ellie’s birthday. This is exactly what should be happening on a daily basis as children use your provision to further enhance their learning. However, it is important that we ensure that all these resources have a “home” and that children can both access and put away resources independently.

Ask yourself:

  • At the end of the day or session, can children help in putting resources back in the correct spaces?
  • Do they have somewhere to store their “creations” or play to continue tomorrow?
  • Are their prompts to support children within the environment in the form of photos and pictures?
  • Can children access and return resources independently and see what is on offer to them?

The impact of a disorganised learning environment goes beyond mere distractions. A lack of organisation can impede engagement, concentration, and overall learning experience. For instance, when materials are not properly organised or easily accessible, children may struggle to find what they need, leading to frustration and wasted time. Additionally, a poorly laid-out classroom can limit movement and hinder collaborative activities, inhibiting social interaction and peer learning opportunities. Children thrive in environments that are thoughtfully arranged, with designated spaces for different activities and clear visual cues. Without these elements, children may not be able or willing to actively participate and fully immerse themselves in the learning opportunities available.

The benefits of EYFS Provision Audits

Provision audits in EYFS offer a multitude of benefits to both teachers and children. These audits serve as valuable tools for identifying areas that require improvement, highlighting how to use space more effectively, and enhancing the overall learning through continuous provision. By conducting thorough audits, you can gain insights into how to create a well-designed and organised space that caters to the specific needs of your learners’.

One of the primary advantages of provision audits is their ability to pinpoint areas for improvement. Through careful observation and assessment, you can identify aspects of the environment that may hinder learning or engagement. This could include issues such as cluttered spaces, inadequate resources, missed opportunities for interactions or ineffective layout (of both time and spaces). By addressing these areas, you can create an environment that is conducive to learning and promotes positive behaviour.

Practical Tips for conducting EYFS Environment Audits

When I talk about continuous provision (CP) you’ll know I talk a lot about this being a holistic view of what you provide to children, it goes beyond just the resources in your classroom or the play provocations you provide. CP is about everything in your classroom that links to learning- the space, the layout, the timetable, the resources, the adults… So, when you audit your provision, I strongly believe that you should audit all these areas and not simply focus on the resources you provide or the physical learning environment.

My Top Tips are:

  1. Look at the learning space

Spend time exploring the overall learning environment. Explore it from the child’s level. Yes- get down on your hands and knees and see what the children see! (I’ve done this- and been interrupted by a member of SLT who clearly though I was somewhat crazy! But it works!)

  • Look at timings

Can children spend extended periods of time exploring the resources on offer in the continuous provision or are you interrupting play for maths inputs etc. I know this is a difficult one as you need to match the needs of your children to the expectations of your setting- but if you can audit your timetable and even try out some new timings for a few days- what works well for your cohort. When thinking about timings, it can be useful to refer back to space… if children are getting shorter times in continuous provision, can they have a designated area where they put incomplete play to return to later?

You may find my F*REE timetable download useful to help you audit and redesign your timings (they’ve been tried and tested by me in real classrooms!)

  • Look for relationships

Remember when I said that continuous provision is EVERYTHING you provide for your children? Well, that comes into play here! Spend time observing relationships and how adults use the opportunity for interactions.You could highlight some examples of fantastic practice, but you may also find that there are some training needs you identify.

  • Include the children

Looking at the provision through the eyes of children physically is one step towards this, but why not gather your children’s thoughts on their learning environment. Do they feel like their interests are available to pursue? What additions would they like to see?

  • Come up with some next steps

When you’ve observed and audited, don’t sit on the information- create some SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time bound) targets that you and your team can work towards together to improve your continuous provision.

You’ll find supporting questions and a space to record evidence and next steps in my FREE EYFS Provision Audit Questions Document.

In Summary

EYFS provision audits are vital to ensuring that our children are engaged and making progress and allow us to evaluate the effectiveness of our teaching. Auditing the provision in terms of the space, time and relationships allows us to identify areas for improvement and ultimately improve outcomes and support the progress of our children.

I strongly encourage you all to have a go at auditing your provision (crawling on the floor not mandatory but strongly encouraged *wink*). And if you’re looking for a comprehensive audit tool to support you then check out my F*REE EYFS Provision Audit Questions document.

As always #youdoyou. It’s important that you make sure that whatever you choose supports your unique cohort of children, helps in your setting and is manageable within your teaching workload (but I promise a quick audit will save you time in the long run as it will pinpoint those areas for improvement really clearly)

If you want to chat more then head over to my socials or use the “contact” page- I love to hear from you!

With Love,

Emma x