Continuous Provision Planning

abc doesContinuous Provision14 Comments

Planning for Continuous Provision can be very time consuming and what gets written on paper often doesn’t translate into actual practice. I have been working with a number of schools and settings looking at how they can make their Continuous Provision planning less of a chore and more effective so, I thought I would share what we have been doing in the hope that it might be helpful.

I would always start with the question ‘What is Continuous Provision?’ It is not just provision that is continually accessible. It is a selection of resources that have been placed in areas by practitioners that continue the provision for learning in the absence of an adult.


Differentiated prompt cards for children to support their attainment in Continuous Provision – Bidston Primary School

Your Continuous Provision must be linked to assessment and levelled around the ability of your children in that area. You would then enhance it with open ended resources that will encourage investigation, exploration and thinking as well as resources linked to children’s interests that will encourage engagement.

There should be challenge in all of your areas of Continuous Provision. This will either be implicit challenge that will come from the fact that you have linked your resources to assessment and levelled them, or explicit challenge where children will have a direct request to complete a specific challenge within an area alongside their free play.


Explicit challenge in the form of a ‘Challenge Book’ – The Friars Primary School

Issue that often arises when we do our Continuous Provision planning is that children don’t actually do what we write on the plan.

The key question to ask yourself when you are planning is ‘will they do this when I am not there?’ If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘probably not’, then you need to think again.

For example, lots of settings will put specific capacity objectives into their sand or water play Continuous Provision planning:

‘Children will fill containers to the given mark and compare’

Will they?..Really?..Or will they just stand and pour?


Often mark making will make it’s way into sand tray Continuous Provision planning: 

‘Children will attempt to write the first letter of their name and then practise hand writing patterns using tools provided’

Hmmm, probably not!


Pictures under porridge oats  – Haygarth Primary. Great for motor dexterity and talk

These statements are not Continuous Provision plans, they are adult focuses within an area of Continuous Provision. The focus you might want an adult to have when they visit children in play IF they feel that the play they are observing would benefit from support, challenge or enhancement.

There will also be times when specific areas of Continuous Provision have been enhanced with a skill that you are focusing on or that contain an explicit challenge for the children to complete.

You might have enhanced your Creative area with a skills focus on printing

IMG_5637 Overchurch Infant School

 or used your Malleable materials ares to facilitate a focus on reading.

All of this information needs to be on your Continuous Provision plans without them taking 24 hours to write and reading like War and Peace! So, what could they look like?

The first method of weekly planning that I use for Continuous Provision is the ‘what’, ‘why’ format. This is a simple overview of your Continuous Provision that would still need a bit of explanation if someone was using it to track attainment through Continuous Provision.

This is a really simple grid where you list all of the areas of provision that you have created. Each area gets its own box.

In the box under ‘what’ you would list what you had enhanced that area with this week

Under ‘why’ you would say why you have added that enhancement (assessment,skill, interest etc)

I always then do a very brief levelling of any enhancement that I had added to show differentiation.

I also indicate any areas where I have added specific challenge. This is an example of a teacher’s planning using this format.

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 09.00.17

The ‘what’ has been driven by assessment, the ‘why’ is a prompt for adults. Obviously, there is no guarantee that just because you put it there the children will access it in the away that you want them to, but if all adults are aware of what is there and why, it can help them to facilitate effective challenge and support.

The second method of CP planning has a little more detail to it. Mine looks like this.

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 16.55.10On this sheet the column ‘AREA’ is not the area of learning, but the area of your space.  This is because you will often use an area of provision as a facilitator for another area of learning. So, you might be looking at ‘Shape, Space and Measure’ but in your construction area.

Under  the ‘OBJECTIVE’ column you are going to identify

  • Area Of Learning
  • Objectives that your Continuous Provision in that area has been planned to support
  • Focus for the adult IF required to enhance play.

In the ‘ENHANCEMENT’ column you will list any specific resources that you have added, any differentiation and any explicit challenges.

The next step in the process is to share this information with the adults who will be working in your space. The most obvious way to do that is to give them a copy of the planning – but with the best will in the world, that is a great deal of information to store in your head along with everything else that you have to think about!

Lots of settings create adult ‘prompt’ cards that differentiate any particular skill focus that they have chosen to enhance an area of Continuous Provision with.

IMG_5646Overchurch Infant School 

 There are many and various ways of doing this. It is really a question of what suits your team best. I have seen some settings use the ‘WALT’ and ‘WILF’ format for prompt cards for children.  What I don’t see very often (at all) are children in EYFS using ‘WALT’ and ‘WILF’ to plan and evaluate their play and learning.

If you are going to use prompt cards, then remember to audit their impact through observation. You don’t want to spend your life creating laminated cards that no one reads!

Here are a few ideas of activities that worked effectively as part of Continuous Provision that I have seen in action recently.


Stabbing a fruit box with paintbrush handles – Church Drive Primary – Great for shoulder and elbow pivot development as well as sound and rhythm.


Make your own milk shake in self service snack  – Liscard Primary 


Find the objects in the rice by moving and shaking the bottle, then record – Croft Primary School


Create and add your own tubes to explore trajectory, cause and effect, gravity…St Peters RC Noctorum


Give your friend a moustache and glasses! – The Friars Primary School


Fence weaving with natural materials – Devonshire Road Primary

Of course, any other great ideas that you have got around planning or activities for Continuous Provision then please feel free to share!

Have a great week.


14 Comments on “Continuous Provision Planning”

  1. I thought this post was brilliant! I’m new to FP and the concept of C.P and I found this so inciteful and inspiring. One thing I was hoping someone could help me with though! I really liked the ‘prompt card’ above that in this case is about about printing. Are the skills on the card from somewhere specific i.e a document of skills or has the teacher made them up to go with a specific lesson?

    Thank you in advance 😊

  2. Should continuous provision be planned weekly or daily? Just joined my first setting (having just qualified) and all they do CP daily, but it’s not done properly and not linked to assessment!!! Their justification is that it should take account of children’s interests, but all they do is list what resources/toys they will have out the next day in the different area’s of provison. Your blog has been very inspiring but could you please help me out with this quandary.

  3. This is exactly what I needed to read!
    I’ve just started at a nursery and like Natalie mentioned above, the activities on offer are extremely repetitive. I’m hoping if I explain this method to my colleagues we may be able to change the way we plan! If I’m getting bored the children must be as they’ve been there longer than I have!
    Just a quick question, would you complete your format on a weekly or daily basis?
    Thank you.

  4. My room at nursery seems to struggle with the concept of continuous provision and our activities tend to be repetitive and are not advancing the skills/abilities of the children. I am a new member of staff and I think this is why this seems more obvious. This information is really helpful and gives me a really good insight so that I can explain to my colleagues. Alistair would you add a column on the continuous provision table to allow for a review of effectiveness of the enhancements for that week?


  5. Hi Alistair

    A really useful and interesting post!
    I am new to Foundation. As of this year I will be back in full time teaching in Early Years from September, so need all the ideas, tips and inspiration to make the leap from primary!
    I love the ideas in this and how you need to make sure there is challenge alongside the ability for the children to be able to not only choose but be able to complete for themselves.
    Looking forward to putting ideas into practice and continuing to be inspired!


  6. Thank you! Your opening sentence made me smile – so true. One thought I had was around whether to use area of learning or area of provision. On an earlier incarnation of my CP planning I did have areas of provision (construction, water etc) but found that I would end up putting an activity into an area just for the sake of filling a box on the planning sheet. It took ages and was so disheartening as the suggested activities rarely happened. Then it was suggested that I change my planning to reflect areas of learning as this was what I had to provide – whether or not I had playdough didn’t matter. I find this a little quicker (there are fewer areas!) but it can be just as difficult to think of things to meet a need in each area and a particular objective is likely to be met in several different areas of provision. I’m not sure I’m making much sense but any tips on ensuring that all areas of learning are provided for? If following the planning outlines you suggested are you picking just a few specific areas to focus on each week?

  7. We have been looking at how to make our continuous provision planning more explicit. This looks like it could be just the thing! Am going to test it out this week and see what the rest of the team think. Thank you.

  8. This is great Alistair and just what I need for some training in foundation.
    Would you do the same for outdoor continuous provision ?

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