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Quality Provision - Continuous And Focused


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Hello everyone. I'm very new to EYFS (taught in top end KS2 for 13 years and volunteered to teach nursery class in FSU last September), and need some guidance on improving learning bays. We currently have these areas: Writing, Home Corner, ICT, Maths, Construction, Water, Sand, Malleable, Creative (art and junk), Music, Role PLay and Outdoors. We have our Continuous Provision PLans up in each area, but I have been worried about the amount of learning that goes on here and the fact that we rarely seem to change some areas (e.g. sand, water). We had begun to assign members to staff to a learning bay each week to play at a focused activity in the hope of encouraging children to come and join in, which worked well, apart from the fact that I then worried about health and safety, as adults were engaged in activities and therefore not able to oversee all of the children. We then divided the unit into 3 areas and provided staff with ideas of activities they could 'play' in a variety of learning bays in each area. I asked my bosses wife, who's an Ofsted Inspector, to observe our unit 'at work' and give some pointers on how to improve. She said it seemed a little 'loose' and that we had to give careful thought to what we wanted the children to learn in each area as well as saying that there should be focused activities relating to our topic in more areas than we currently enhanced. I'm looking for advice on:

How do I ensure that children learn from independent play in continuous provision? (Sometimes, if children are left to their own devices, they tend to play the same things over and over, and the quality of their play seems 'poor' - if I can say that)

How do I keep it stimulating?

How often do I need to change continuous provision and are there any basics that need to be out at all times?

Best ways of long term planning to ensure all objectives of EYFS are covered?

If we need to change areas more often to extend continuous provision and also provide enhancements, how do you do this without running around all Friday (when there is a change of topic for Monday) and not getting it all done?

What is the best way to use adults within the provision to enhance children;s learning?


I know there are no magic wands and that what works in one unit might not work in another, but any advice would be helpful.


Our unit currently holds 14 reception, 25 nursery ( some am, some pm, some 3 full days on different days) and a group of about 12 rising 3's.

There is a reception teacher, nursery teacher, one TA for 1:1 with a child with cerebral palsy and 2 part time TAs, one for am, one for pm


Thank you for reading - please help!

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I work in a preschool and also have had these concerns - and I must admit I still set out with great intentions and ideas at the beginning of the week and find at the end of the week I have not been able to implement them - with planning designed to change and meet a childs needs from one week to the next it is a struggle and yes, on a friday I feel the need to find or make resources that will extend and enhance...but thats because Ive done that for so long and its hard to let go of that feeling that you HAVE to...in really you probably dont. Its like a security blanket :o


If you do it on a friday you often find that on monday the children arent interested in what you have got ready for them anymore! Very frustrating...and then the children quite often change everything themselves - moving resources from one area to another and mixing things up (this is for the most part encouraged) so it seems we need not set anything up at all - the children will decide what they want and where..and this in itself is stimulating new ideas and questions.


I have found that being really involved, watching, listening and planning literally 'on the go' from minute to minute is essential with children in my key group.

A simple example - Last week a child was playing with water - we have a trolley of containers, spoons, brushes etc nearby. As the child played I placed objects nearby or modelled using some when I sensed the child was ready for something new to explore. I chose ones that I considered would challenge the child to think and investigate and just to take a look and think 'this is something different ..how can I use this?' I believe the child remained at the water tray far longer than they would if left to their own devices and the investigations they were carrying out took them forward.


I think you have to show them what can be done, show them the possibilities and then they will gradually begin to seek out more and more things and use them in more complex ways and generally become more creative in their play. Even with blocks...build with them yourself and show them and children will realise that theres more to them than scattering them around the floor and knocking them down!


Quality play can be encouraged if adults are truly tuned into the childrens needs and interests...talking with children as they play is I think the main thing in achieving higher involvement and better outcomes...open questions not interrogation and testing though...just having conversations, introducing vocabulary, ideas, what if's etc. Its that elusive but essential 'sustained shared thinking'.!


On our continuous provision sheets I have highlighed the absolute basics that must be available in the setting at all times to serve that area (though not necessarily in a specific area of the room!)

This helps us to ensure these resources are always available and I have drawn up potential learning outcomes for the cont prov areas that are based on if we just had these items and nothing else. Other resources whether added by children or staff serve as enhancements.


We plan for the areas of learning by focusing on one per week and plan how activities / resources / areas can be provided / changed to ensure they offer opportunites to explore those aspects.

Our writing ,creative and malleable areas are combined into one due to space limititations and we dont have a maths area - we dont consider this necessary as it comes into all areas.


We would probably be classed as 'loose' too as we dont have many focused activities going on - like you say it does confine you and remove you from the rest of the group. I like to 'float' and get involved more freely! xD

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We have an enhancement basket in each basic provision area which is change weekly/fortnightly and sometime daily if child led. This seems to move play forward.

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We have very similar areas to you -in sand /water/playdough etc we have 2 shelves of resources that arepermanently available and one that has baskets on for enhancements. The baskets have laminated blank labelson themso these can be changed each time newresources are addedwith picture or word labels. Someother areas are set up linkeddirectly to a theme and stay the same for 5 or six weeks eg mini sand area linked to gardening or small world dog area. Other areas are not changed each week but we try to stagger changes so there is always something new and something familiar - it also means we can keep up to changes. My staff are assigned zones to work in each session and are expected to do a rangeof focus tasks and free play in the areas. The planning specifies what activities each adult should do and if it is a focus task who they should work with. I do more focus tasks than lots of people - approx 2/3 CD/PD and 2/3 KUW/PSE per week - I think this still leaves lots of time for child initiated play as we do not have carpet time register, playtimes etc. Hope this helps - just ask if there is anything else you would like to know. x

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We have an enhancement basket in each basic provision area which is change weekly/fortnightly and sometime daily if child led. This seems to move play forward.

Ooh this sounds interesting biccy (and why not a bag, I wonder? :o ). What sorts of things go into your basket? Are the choices of items based on your observations of children as they access each area?


Went on some Sally Thomas training a while back and she was saying that we should try to provide children with the right mix of familiar/new experiences: 80% familiar and 20% new. Your baskets sound like a really good way of adding in the 20% new!



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