Whether you are referring to ‘Continuous Provision’ as an environment, a group of resources or a period of time. The ethos and the aspiration are exactly the same.
Well planned Continuous Provision can be an absolute gift when it comes to raising the attainment of children through active learning and high level engagement. Badly planned Continuous Provision can also be a curse that promotes low level engagement and low level attainment – so what is the secret of good CP?
Continuous Provision is NOT just the resources that you have out all of the time. It needs to support adults in their teaching and interactions with children, allow children to consolidate and rehearse what they know, but it s also there to ‘continue the provision for learning in the absence of an adult‘
In any area where you put a range of resources and a group of children there will be potential to develop those children’s skills in personal interaction and exploration, but unless those resources have been carefully selected to meet the development needs of those specific children, then the learning potential is limited and greatly left to chance.
When it comes to any Early Years environment, ambiguity is an essential. Ambiguous, open ended resources and experiences encourage children to think,investigate and explore. To interpret what they are experiencing and handing in a way that is meaningful to them.
We should also be very aware of how children will develop key skills in areas of provision. How in their sand play they will be continually revisiting concepts like: digging, pouring, filling and emptying, transporting, sieving, sifting, enclosing, moulding, mark making – to name but a few.
If we constantly provide the same (often basic/emergent) resources in these areas, then we encourage children to revisit basic/emergent skills. Using a system of Common Play Behaviour identification can support us in providing challenging resources to compliment our open ended play spaces. (For more information on Common Play Behaviours see here).
Sometimes what we can end up doing as practitioners is not providing Continuous Provision, but instead only providing an ‘enhancement’.
Say for example you are talking about jungles and your Small World provision is a jungle set on a tough spot or table. What you have provided there is an enhancement to Small World play, not Continuous Provision. If I am not interested in jungle or have no knowledge of jungles then I am not likely or able to play with the Small World.
We also have to ask ourselves what is our expectation of what or how children will play with jungle resources when they have little or no knowledge of what happens there. How is this facilitating their play/skill development?
Continuous Provision for Small World Play would contain lots of resources that enabled children to access all of the skills of Small World/dramatic play regardless of the theme you were talking about. Then you would (possibly) enhance that provision with resources linked to your theme.
When we are short term planning for CP (weekly) then what we should be planning are the enhancements that we are going to add into the bank of resources that are already in place.
I find that people usually enhance around 5 main areas
- Children’s interest
- Theme or topic
- Skill (such as joining, printing, cutting etc)
- Basic Skills (elements of Literacy and Numeracy)
- Direct challenge
I would not expect that you would add an enhancement to every area every week (you would be dead by Friday)!
Sometimes you will add more than one type of enhancement to an area, sometimes you won’t add any.
Some enhancements will last a couple of days, some a week and some will then become part of your Continuous Provision.
(If I enhance my Creative Area this week with printing resources so that I can build my children’s skills and experiences in printing, then once I am confident that they secure with the idea of printing, the resources become part of what I offer them all of the time.)
It is important that our Continuous Provision is linked to assessment and observation and that we plan, assess and review it regularly. We need to be sure that we are creating spaces that support adults in their teaching and interactions with children, allow children to consolidate and rehearse what they know, but also ‘continue the provision for learning in the absence of an adult‘ We don’t just provide ‘enhancements’ linked to topic and theme that can be very limiting to children’s interest learning and development.
Let me know your thoughts…