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Continuous Provision in Key Stage One

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

What is continuous provision?

Traditionally, continuous provision has been associated with early years classrooms, however, more and more key stage-one teachers are using it each year. Continuous provision refers to all of the different provision areas (e.g. small world, water, maths, art, science, construction, role play and outdoors), learning opportunities and resources which are available for the children in your class to use. It should be linked to children's needs and interests and build on the learning happening in your class. Continuous provision should provoke learning, motivate and challenge children. It needs to be available at all times and shouldn't just be used as a time-filler, a reward or during wet playtimes.


continuous provision art area


Why should I have continuous provision in key stage one?

The transition from reception to year one has long been thought of as problematic. The EYFS environment is hands-on, play-based, active and fun. Conversely, the key stage one classroom is more formal, there are long periods of sitting down and children perceive there to be few or no play opportunities. Yet research has consistently shown that formal learning does not benefit children in key stage one. Countries such as Sweden and Finland perform better academically than the U.K., despite children not starting formal schooling until age 7.

According to Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, up to the age of 7 or 8, children learn better through active exploration than academic instruction. In a small survey on the No Worksheets Allowed Instagram page, I found that 53% of year one classrooms had continuous provision and just 25% of year two classrooms. Yet 86% of people who responded believed that there should be continuous provision in key stage one. Hardly surprising, as play helps to improve attention span, develops communication skills, teaches turn-taking and conflict resolution, and improves well-being. Not only does it develop a breadth of skills but if it is well planned it also helps children to meet the national curriculum attainment targets!


a key stage one classroom


What areas of continuous provision should I provide in key stage one?

When planning your continuous provision, you should ensure that you build on the children's EYFS experiences and don't simply repeat them, whilst also meeting the requirements of the national curriculum. You need to consider the children's interests and learning outcomes to provide areas of continuous provision that are going to be beneficial to your class. Use assessment to determine which skills children need to master and think about the areas that will help them to make the most progress. If children need to work on their fine motor skills, set up a fine motor area. If they need to work on communication, you might consider a role play area. You only need to set up areas of provision which will benefit your class!


a key stage one classroom


How do I set up continuous provision in my classroom?

  • Think about how you will arrange your classroom. What space do you have available? Do you have your own outdoor area or access to a shared area?

  • Try to have a clearly defined space for each area of your continuous provision. Can you move furniture to create cosy corners and quiet spots? Can you create interactive displays?

  • Additionally, you need to think about how you are going to resource your continuous provision. Which resources are going to be beneficial to your pupils' learning? Is there a classroom budget or will you need to use networks like Freecycle, ask parents for donations or approach local businesses?

a construction area in continuous provision, in a key stage one classroom


What are continuous provision challenges and enhancements?

  • Continuous provision challenges are independent learning challenges which you set up in your continuous provision. They are usually linked to academic achievement or a specific skill like turn-taking.

  • Enhancements are things which you add to an area of provision to promote interest and engagement. You might add resources which link to a book, the season, a celebration, a subject or a topic. Alternatively, you might add resources which develop a specific skill.

a continuous provision enhancement or challenge

How will I manage continuous provision in my classroom?


Lesson structure

  • At the beginning of each lesson, you will still probably want to do a whole class or group input.

  • Following this, you will most likely have one or more focus groups (working with an adult).

  • The rest of the children will work in the continuous provision (either independently or with an adult supporting, challenging and observing their learning). You might choose to rotate the groups so that you work with more than one focus group during a lesson.

Teaching children how to use the continuous provision

  • Children should already be used to using continuous provision, but you will still want to set your own rules and expectations.

  • Introduce the different areas and explain what they are for. Have signs for each area and talk about the rules and boundaries.

  • How will you ensure that children don't just visit one area and engage in low-level tasks? Do they need to record their learning?

  • Can specific areas only be used by a certain number of children? Is there a time limit on how long a child can stay there? What should the noise level be like?

  • Don't forget to explain what the continuous provision should look like when tidy. You can include photos of how you expect each area to look at the end of the lesson.

  • Model how to use the different areas, share good work and revisit expectations regularly.

Enhancements

  • Your continuous provision should be set up for the children to explore freely. Most of the provision will stay the same pretty much all year round.

  • Each half-term or from time to time, you might decide to enhance one or more areas of your provision. For example, at Christmas, you might make your construction area into an elves' workshop. When studying a certain book, you might add puppets or story props to your reading area. If an area is underused, you might think of resources to add to attract interest.

  • Enhancements need to be manageable - don't try to enhance every area every week!


a continuous provision enhancement in key stage one

Challenges

  • Each week, you will also want to plan differentiated challenges for your continuous provision. To begin with, this may just be a couple of challenges. This can gradually be increased to 4-6 challenges each week, depending on what needs to be developed.

  • Introduce the challenges to your class at the beginning of the week. Demonstrate how to do the activity and what your expectations are. You will probably need to revisit and address any misconceptions throughout the week.

  • Think about how you would like your class to complete the challenges. You might ask them to record what they have done in a book, on an iPad or on Seesaw. They could take a photo or use recordable talking pegs. Another option is to use a challenge book. Once the child has completed a challenge, they should take it to an adult to show them. If the work is of a good standard, the adult can then sign that challenge off.

  • Check at the end of the week that each child has completed their challenges.


a continuous provision challenge in a key stage one classroom


What next?










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