Continuous Provision: a teacher's guide

Paul Main

How can your classroom embrace continuous provision to improve outcomes?

What is Continuous Provision?

The term 'Continuous Provision' is referred to as providing the resources to the children to learn independently. The main purpose of the continuous provision is to enable children to learn in absence of an adult.

What are the benefits of Continuous Provision?

It is claimed that it helps to improve the child’s learning outcomes. It also reduces the number of absences from school and improves attendance rates.

Continuous provision is linked to different learning areas in a classroom, which are consistently available for the children to use every day. In these areas, there is a wide range of resources, which are frequently upgraded to reflect the curriculum and the developing areas of young learners.

Why is Continuous Provision important?

Carefully performed continuous provision is important because it allows pupils to learn skills, helps them to understand concepts and challenge their thinking. Continuous Practice also offers an opportunity for learning conversations between children and instructors with abundant opportunities for extending and modelling speech and vocabulary. Due to the learning environment of continuous practice, young learners will also build key learning attributes. How an environment is used, valued, resourced and planned, may affect children’s curiosity, resilience, self-confidence, collaboration, independence and engagement.

Providing opportunities for self directed play
Providing opportunities for self directed play

What are the key elements of Continuous provision?

Continuous provision can improve each area of learning and transform children into active learners. While preparing resources for continuous provision, it is recommended that:

  • Continuous provision must include important resources to encourage young learners to engage and explore in a variety of ways.
  • Continuous provision needs to incorporate open-ended questioning as an essential element, which may stimulate creative thinking and engage young learners in conversations.
  • Continuous provision is an outstanding practice, which must include a wide range of high-quality resources to offer an effective starting point for the young learners’ explorations.
  • Continuous provision must provide young learners with the time to revisit what they have learned in the previous classes.

What is the role of an adult in continuous provision?

Continuous Provision refers to the areas and resources laid out in a classroom to stimulate learning by way of play and exploration. An adult practitioner plays an important role in the continuous provision. Adult-led learning must not only offer an effective learning environment but also support busy children to effectively interact with their surroundings and different type of resources. While pupils are engaged due to the most effective learning characteristics of continuous provision, an adult practitioner may take the opportunity to interact with the young learners in a variety of unique ways, other than making just the formal observations, which is a crucial aspect of the modern-day early years' reforms. This is an important characteristic, because an adult practitioner's experience may help him to enhance his instructional strategies at a later stage. The effectiveness of a child's learning environment can be improved by establishing rules, limitations and behavioral expectations. When children know what is expected from them and what are the rules, they can perform their explorations with more confidence. In absence of any rules, challenging resources, and boundaries, children are more likely to continue to use their familiar resources in their familiar play, which is less challenging.

Research suggests that one of the most effective adult-led activities is to play with the children. Playing may help to model ideas, language and may strengthen an adult's bonding with the children. Playing may also provide the opportunity to engage active learners by asking open-ended questions and giving activity ideas, to enhance the children's learning journey for an extended period.

How to assess the effectiveness of continuous provision?

It is important to connect Continuous Provision with the assessment and levelled around the proficiency of children in that area. Then, the teacher may increase the level of resource to encourage students' exploration, thinking, the investigation that will encourage engagement.

It is essential to incorporate challenges in every area of Continuous Provision. This can be an explicit challenge where young learners will get a direct request to complete a particular challenge within an area whilst their free play, or it can be an implicit challenge connected to the fact linked and levelled according to the resources.

Playful approaches to learning
Playful approaches to learning

What are the key recommendations for continuous provision?

It is recommended that the continuous provision must be designed according to the interests and needs of the children in a classroom environment. Continuous provision approach to child must empower child development by providing suitable opportunities for the children to further explore their familiar areas. Hence, in most cases, the continuous provision may remain the same. It will be only enhanced according to the progress of children’s learning. Instead of engaging in extensive and time-consuming planning for the continuous provision, teachers may just need to create a list of resources for children in each area of learning. The list of resources for children can be re-checked and upgraded by the adult working with the children on regular basis. In some schools, it can be mandatory for the teachers to show their continuous provision planning.

It is recommended for adult practitioners to continuously make formal observations of the young learners within the areas of continuous provision. It is an important part of the practitioner’s role. Through meaningful observations, an adult practitioner may identify children's interests, and typical behaviors and patterns of children’s learning. Meaningful observations of the children may also help and affect what a teacher plans next.

To make our children more creative and curious to pursue their interests, it is recommended to make the learning environments richer and more appealing. It can be achieved by using the most effective collections of resources in the classroom consistently available for the children to use every day. Even the most resilient learners may lose their interest and get disengaged if the provided selection of resources is outdated, incomplete or broken. Therefore, it is recommended to allocate a reasonably generous budget to book resources at the beginning of a financial year. Some practitioners may also send a list of everyday resources to the carers and parents as some basic resources can be sourced or donated from local businesses. After fulfilling the basic needs of the desired resources to engage learners in a range of key children activities, the adult practitioner is in a perfect place to move on to enhance them.

The main goal of an effective continuous provision is to provide children with a constant environment that is safe to explore, challenge their learning and allow them to initiate play without interacting with an adult. Continuous provision must allow children to achieve the independence to explore and become free to make choices. Some of the most effective and popular continuous provision classroom activities include using picture flashcards for children, activity with playdough, or engaging children using a fantastic activity with mud kitchen utensils, snack time role-playing activities, everyday class story and many other creative activities in and outside the classroom.