Planning for Continuous Provision – Reception and Year One

Alistair Bryce-CleggChild Initiated Learning, Continuous Provision, Creativity, EYFS Policy and Practice, Nurseries, Planning and Assessment20 Comments

If you are looking at an effective transition for children into Year One then your timetable will be very similar to a good Reception one rather than a more traditional Year One format.

Your children will have periods of direct adult input this could be whole class or group depending on what you are teaching.

The children will then spend much longer periods of time in Continuous Provision where the adults will be observing, supporting, challenging and teaching.

My preferred style of working in Continuous Provision is that after you have finished your direct input everyone goes into the play together. It know it is tempting to keep a ‘group’ back on the carpet and then rotate through your groups across the session until everyone has done the activity. But, if you do this then the adults focus is solely with the group they are working with and not on the engagement and attainment of all children.


I have talked in my previous blog posts about using a Gap and Strength Analysis to help you to decide on which areas of provision you are going to focus on in your learning space.

Once you have decided this then you need make sure that the resources that you put out for children really do ‘Continue the Provision for Learning in the Absence of an Adult’ and isn’t just a collection of random ‘suff’ loosely based on a theme!

To help me to do this I would consider the impact Common Play Behaviours on children’s choices. You can find more information about Common Play Behaviours and how to apply them HERE.

Once I know that my areas of Continuous Provision are in place then I need to plan for my enhancements on a weekly basis.

I wouldn’t expect you to enhance every area of provision every week. Some areas might keep an enhancement for a while whereas others might change.

You can have more than one sort of enhancement in an area at the same time. The important thing is that you have your enhancements for a reason and that they are ENHANCEMENTS and not the only resources available in that area.


Usually you enhance around 5 main areas

  • Theme (what you are talking about at the moment e.g. Autumn, space, celebrations)
  • Children’s Interests (anything the children are interested in)
  • Skill (a skill you want the children to experience or learn e.g. language development, printing, joining, cutting)
  • AOL (EYFS)/Subject (Y1)/Basic Skills (Area of Learning, Subject including Literacy and Numeracy)
  • Direct/Explicit Challenge (a challenge linked to learning you would like the children to attempt)

If I am reading the story of The Gruffalo and in my Small World area I put out a Tuff Spot with Gruffalo puppets and a copy of the book. This isn’t Continuous Provision for Small World play. It is an enhancement. If I took the Gruffalo themed play away, what would be left? Nothing. So, your Small World Area needs to have a bank of Continuous Provision Resources that you add to with various enhancements. That way children who don’t want to play Gruffalo can still engage in Small World Play.


Gruffalo enhancement added to Small World Continuous Provision

I ask the settings that I work with to produce a weekly Continuous Provision plan. On this plan, all I really need to see are the areas that have been enhanced and why.

Some people like to list every area on their plan every week and indicate the ones that have a ‘new’ enhancement/s. Others only show the areas where the enhancement/s are newly in place.

Here is part of a version of of the planner that I use that has been filled in by an F1 setting


The first column is the AREA OF PROVISION that you are enhancing. Sand, water, malleable materials, role play, small world etc

The second column is the AREA OF LEARNING that you are hoping to access with your enhancement. If you have a range of development or ability in that Area of Learning then you might indicate this using Early Years Outcomes or National Curriculum Objectives

The third column is where you list the actual RESOURCES that you are adding.

The fourth column is a REALLY IMPORTANT one. I ask settings to record why they are putting an enhancement there in the first place. What is the SOURCE of their decision to enhance. Usually the source will come from the list that we discussed above.

  • Theme (what you are talking about at the moment e.g. Autumn, space, celebrations)
  • Children’s Interests (anything the children are interested in)
  • Skill (a skill you want the children to experience or learn e.g. printing, joining, cutting)
  • AOL (EYFS)/Subject (Y1)/Basic Skills (Area of Learning, Subject including Literacy and Numeracy)
  • Direct/Explicit Challenge (a challenge linked to learning you would like the children to attempt)

You may have more than one ‘source’ for your enhancement in the example above the team have enhanced their sand provision with resources linked to their ‘theme’ which is Autumn and ‘basic skills’ as they want to encourage the children to count.


The biggest mistake that we make when it comes to Continuous Provision planning is to make unrealistic statements about what children will do with the enhancements that we have given them. ‘The children will use the feathers to make initial patterns in the sand indicated in the school’s handwriting policy’.  Er, not very likely, especially in Continuous Provision, especially without the influence/direction of an adult!

So, in my plan I ask the adults to make some suggestions (not an exhaustive list) of things a child may do with the resources in their independent play. ‘May‘ is an important word because we just don’t know how a child will interpret the resources that we give them. That is the joy of children!

I then also ask them to record what an adult may use the enhancement for. This will link to the objectives in the Area of Learning column. Again, ‘may is crucial here. We definitely need to think ‘may’ not ‘must’. So much quality play is ruined because adults feel obliged to deliver their objectives at all costs. This planning format is in place to support adults with their interactions. It should not be used as a tick list.

In Reception and Year One every week you are going to be planning for your direct teaching sessions (individual, group or class) and your Continuous Provision. I mentioned earlier that the ideal scenario for me is that when the children go into provision so do the adults.


While the adults are working alongside the children in provision they will have the opportunity to observe play (often from a distance, without interaction), scaffold learning, challenge, reset learning spaces and deliver planned objectives. Some of those objectives or areas of focus will be reflected in your Continuos Provision plan but I also often use an Objective Led Plan to further support teaching.

You need to think of an Objective Led Plan as replacing the activity that you might have historically pulled children out of play to come and do.

With an OLP you take the objective into play.

The plans are simple. Sometimes each adult in the setting will have their own OLP. Sometimes adults will share one.

Some OLP’s last for a day, some for longer. It all depends on the children, the objective and the prevailing wind!


When you are composing an OLP the first thing you identify is your focus. This can literally be anything that your observation and assessment is indicating as a need.

Your focus should be specific rather than general. So, you might record ‘adding one more’ as opposed to just ‘mathematics’ or ‘numeracy’.

Once you have your focus you now group your children according to their ability within that focus. This means that within an Area of Learning like Mathematics (or subject like Numeracy), your groupings will change based on the focus as children’s ability in number might be different from their knowledge of time. This allows for more accurate teaching than when you put your children into a generic group for all aspects of maths.

After you have grouped your children, I would then ask you to make a ‘statement of current attainment’ in the box under their names. This helps to crystallise your thinking and make your assessment of their current knowledge clear.

In the next column you would write a ‘next step’ statement for each group. This is not an activity, just a next step.

It is this next step that you may use in your play and interaction with children.

As children don’t play in ability groups, you will often be differentiating your next steps to suit the ability of the children that you are working with.

The final column is there for you to record any evidence of assessment that you feel is useful.

Here are just a couple of examples of Reception OLP’s but they can easily be adapted for Year One.



You can find more information about Objective Led Planning HERE

Again, this is not a ‘tick list’ you are not picking off children one at a time regardless of what else they are doing. This is an opportunity to enhance or extend their play if it is appropriate. So, enhance – not interrupt.

A good plan for your Continuous Provision will help you to ensure that you are getting both high level engagement and the potential for high level attainment from your children.

Couple that with the presence of an adult(s) in the provision to observe, support, challenge and teach and you have got a really powerful recipe for effective teaching and learning.

Have a go…I promise you, it is worth it!


20 Comments on “Planning for Continuous Provision – Reception and Year One”

  1. What is the best way to move the children/send them off to continuous provision after the carpet session? Do we introduce areas with new enhancements? Do we just ask them to go and choose something to do? Do we encourage targeted children to go to specific area?

  2. I would like to ask about the use of continuous provision in Year 1 – what does it look like? How can this pedagogy work alongside the demands of the KS1 learning. Our Year 1 appear to be confusing continuous provision with blended/ thematic learning. They’ve described their set up when it comes to planning as ‘looking for links within other subjects’ but I do not think this is continuous provision. Can you help clarify this for me?

  3. Hi,
    A very interesting and thought=provoking post – thank you.
    As a lot of people are doing, I am looking into developing my continuous provision as to help with the recovery curriculum. What would you suggest are the essential resources on a budget(!) to get the most out of the children?
    Many Thanks

  4. Hello
    We are going to be looking into introducing child initiated learning and continuous provision in Year 1 and 2 in September as part of our Recovery Curriculum. Can you point me in the right direction for examples of planning for CP and how you teach Phonics, Maths and English – we are going to be using Talk for Writing in English.
    We do not have a budget and therefore was wondering what are the ‘Must haves’ to get us started!
    Thanks in advance

  5. I have been reading your blog posts and especially this one, in preparation for Reception children transitioning in to Year 1 in September, following lock down. This Objective led plan process and linking it with CP sounds very interesting and useful. Thanks

  6. Any suggestions on how to do this across a space which incorporates a year 1 class and a year 1/2 class. Year 2 is under pressure to keep it more formal but Year 1 not so much.

  7. I am struggling to understand how other schools plan for all NC objectives (beyond English and maths) through CP. If children only engage with areas/challenges of their own choosing, surely there are children missing out subjects/objectives.

    1. Hi Karen. Have a look for the blog posts from St Johns and Peckover Primary as they both talk about how they cover they curriculum in Year One.

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  9. Anyone got any advice for a R/Y1/Y2 teacher in a small rural school – 6 children in Rec, 7 in Y1, 7 in Y2? How do we manage CP, inside and out, with the demands of all of KS1, and 3 part time TAs who are mainly attached to 2 SEN children??

  10. So glad I read this. All ta’s in my class will be doing this week too! My question is ‘What are the timings of this? 9am input, 9.30 provision and then repeat for afternoon? How many inputs per schools day?’
    Mixed Nursery/Reception/Year 1 teacher

  11. Has anyone tried this in year 2, with the new pressures of the curriculum I am finding it very hard to fit everything in within this year group. I would really appreciate any comments or help.

  12. I tried to do this at the beginning of the year but I found it really tricky. I simply couldn’t find the time to engage with all of the children in my class during their play, whereac with pull-out style I was definitely able to achieve this.
    We keep an objective for a week and I usually ‘pull’ the children out straight after a whole-class carpet session to avoid interrupting their play. We have adults supporting their play with no specific objective (although language support is always an objective as most of our children have EAL). How do you ensure that you achieve what you want to in the timeframe you have set-out?
    Thank you for your support, I really want to make this work.

    1. Hi Leah,

      I too find it hard to reach all of the children in the groups when they are playing at different ends of the classroom. Even when I tried to provide a ‘hook’activity that was influenced by children’s interests, it wasn’t successful. Maybe I am not doing something right. I really like this idea and will keep trying, as I hate pulling children away from their play. I am worried that these OLP’s will stay the same for a while if I am having to repeat to ensure all of the children in that group achieve the aim. Any suggestions anyone?


  13. This was a great post and perfect timing for me too. I was wondering how would you advise to record or for children to record what they do in provision please?

    Thanks Jenny

  14. I am a new EY Leader and am looking for a more effective way to extend childrens learning so this post was really interestinf.

    I think I know the answer to the question but would you not have small ‘groups’ at all? You would just keep to whole class sessions and extending learning through objective led planning ?


    1. I wouldn’t Natalie, just because you end up pulling children out of CP to do group work, but lots of people do do some group work just to help them keep track of who has done what, especially when you are getting used to CP and OLP.

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