The work I am doing at the moment with settings on how they are managing their continuous provision is having some really positive impact on attainmentso I thought I would share a bit!
As EYFS practitioners a great many of us are about to get bashed over the head with a big stick called 'school readiness'! I have already encountered numerous settings (schools in particular) where this phrase is being interpreted as a green light to go back to formality and get the tables back out of the store cupboard!
There is often a large gap between the quality practice that is taking place in EYFS and the knowledge of the person who is making judgments about impact and attainment and that is because often, they are not sure what it is they are looking at. A more formal approach to teaching makes it easier to make those judgements.
In the past Headteachers have said to me that they can see how the children are learning when they are with an adult, but when they are playing in the environment they find it had to see evidence of attainment taking place.
When it comes to how a lot of us use our Continuous Provision, then I think they have a valid point.
I think Continuous Provision is often greatly misunderstood.
Continuous Provision is NOT just the resources that you have out all of the time. I think a better definition of the term is:
'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.
If you think about what you know about children, when they get the chance to 'choose' what to do they tend to pick things that they like and can do. This is just basic human nature. I have yet to meet an EYFS child who will make the conscious decision to walk into an area of Continuous Provision and actively challenge themselves.
So, If your CP is just a selection of resourced linked to a general area of development. Then when I am playing in there, my opportunities for learning are limited.
Really these are not areas of Continuous Provision. They are holding stations for children that keep them busy doing things they can already do until an adult comes along to take their learning forward.
As well as providing opportunities for exploration and discovery, your CP HAS to be linked to your assessment of your current cohort. If it going to be available all of the time an children are going to access it with limited adult input it HAS to be structured around their development needs and dressed to reflect their interests.
- Could you stand in front of each and every area of CP in your setting and tell me how what is in that area is directly linked to your observation and assessment of your children?
- Can you show me the assessment and link it to specific resources?
- Does the size of your area of CP reflect the needs of your cohort? If you have children who need to develop language and talk skills, have you significantly increased the size of those areas?
- Have you levelled your CP, linked to assessment so that you can show which resources have been placed in there linked to the development of high middle and low achievers in that area?
For example, if we were standing in front of your mark making area could you show me how you had set that space up to reflect the mark making development of your current cohort? Have you got resources in place that are specifically aimed at each stage of their mark making development?
MOST IMPORTANTLY have you 'dressed' specific resources to appeal to the group of children that you are targeting?
If you have a bunch of fine motor girls who are into Disney Princesses and a bunch of more gross motor boys who are into Ben 10 then you could create 2 boxes of resources one that contains lots of things that challenge and develop fine motor skills and another that challenge and develop more gross motor.
If I just put these two boxes in my mark making area then the target group of children might, perhaps, maybe come in and pick up the correct resource, or maybe not!
If I 'dress' the fine motor resources and the box in a Disney Princess theme and the gross motor in a Ben 10 theme, then if I am one of your gross motor target boys, I am more likely to come into the mark making area in the first place because there is a Ben 10 box in there. When I get in there I am more likely to put my hand in the Ben 10 box than I am the princess one. Therefore I am significantly more likely to be accessing a resource that has been specifically chosen to help my development.
You CANNOT guarantee that this will happen every time, but what you can do is say with confidence that you have:
'maximised the potential for attainment in Continuous Provision and minimised the risk of failure.'
Now when anyone asks you if you can quantify attainment outside of focused teaching, the job just got a whole lot easier and as a practitioner, you can be secure in the knowledge that your CP is really continuing the provision for learning and isn't just a collection of nice resources.
There is so much that you can do to ensure that your environment has a huge role to play in impacting on attainment that this short post only begins to scrape the surface. But hopefully it has got you thinking.
I appreciate that for lots of people, outdoors is still the part of the curriculum delivery that presents a great deal of challenge. Maybe not so much in just getting out there, but how you provide quality learning and not just 'playtime'.
What we should all be aiming for is equality between indoors and out in terms of planning, resourcing and use. We need to think of our indoor and outdoor together and one big space and not two separate ones. Some children prefer to learn outdoors and the outdoor environment can offer so many unique opportunities that indoors just can't.
Although there are many links between indoor and outdoor play, outdoor play offers the opportunity to develop and extend specific skills.
When you are thinking about your outdoor provision, first look to your assessment and see which areas of skill development are a priority for your children
Next look at your outdoor space and see if those areas are explicitly represented and also consider where there might be opportunities to enhance other areas with more discreet resources to consolidate or expand the skill you are focusing on.
Then ask yourself the big question...
What makes this activity outdoor play and not just indoor play taken outside?
If you take your Duplo out onto a mat on a sunny day, that is not outdoor play. It is playing with indoor resources outside.
If you have a water tray outdoors that is filled with the same equipment that you would have indoors then that is not outdoor water play it is indoor water taken outside.
The same rule applies to all areas of provision.
I am not saying that you shouldn't do that. There are occasions when you might want to develop the 'indoor skills' but the children you are targeting want to be outside. So, rather than pull them in from their area of engagement you would take those resources out.
What I am saying is that you can't really call this 'outdoor play' in the sense of developing the skills that are unique to the outdoor environment.
Often I will work with settings that have huge wooden sand pits outdoors, but there is only 4 inches of sand in them and they are filled with exactly the same equipment as the indoor sand tray - we are back to indoor play outside again.
In lots of outdoor play experiences there will be elements of indoor resourcing. These often act as a familiar 'bridge' that allow children to initially access familiar equipment that will lead them into other types of skill development.
In an outdoor painting area you might have regular sized bushes and sponges to use if you are targeting indoor skills with the outdoor children or as a link to what the children know to help them to initially access the space, but what have you got in it that makes it 'outdoor provision', have you acknowledged the skill development that that area can offer and are you promoting it?
If I am doing an outdoor project with a setting, I will get them to go around each of their outdoor areas, look at their resources and ask the question 'what makes this outdoor?'
There are of course lots of indoor enhancements that you can make to your outdoor provision like books, mark making material etc. But, you are placing them in your outdoor provision to capitalise on children's interest and engagement in the outdoors. This engagement and interest will help with the job of developing basic skills like reading and writing . However, in theory (and still in some settings) those skills could be mastered in the classroom, without taking a step into the outside world!
So, to sum up BRIEFLY...
- Start with assessment to identify need
- Reflect the need identified in the provision you offer
- Link 'bridging skills' to indoor provision
- Be clear and explicit about why you have put indoor privision outside (like your water tray)
- Be clear and explicit about how you are planning for the development of outdoor skills
- Enhance your explicit outdoor provision with indoor provision (eg mark making, reading, numeracy) for added engagement and basic skill development.
Take the time to work with your team to really ensure that everyone has an understanding of skill development in children and how effective use of the indoor outdoor environment can have a significant impact on their attainment.