At The Stour Academy Trust we passionately believe that young children learn best through play and exploration. These play-based experiences enable the children to consolidate their skills, knowledge and understanding and enable them to be become independent and resilient learners. Throughout the environment, both inside and outside, you will see children actively engaged in a wide range of activities that they have either themselves chosen or are adult initiated/directed. An enabling environment plays a key role in supporting children ‘s learning and development. It is well recognised that children learn and develop best in caring, supportive environments which respond to their individual needs, allowing them to play and explore.
Our continuous provision has a belief in inclusion for all at its heart. Equal opportunities are promoted through ensuring an equitable approach to teaching and learning. Wherever possible barriers to learning are pre-empted and any new barriers which may arise are rapidly identified. A rigorous approach is taken to ensure barriers are overcome. Every classroom is fully equipped with inclusion resources which support both specific needs as well as being freely available to all the children. Continuous provision is carefully and purposefully planned to ensure access and challenge for all.
Continuous provision supports and encourages our children and staff to have a lifelong love of learning. Across all our year groups, we are transforming our schools from passive forms of learning focused on direct instruction and memorisation, by moving towards interactive methods that promote the critical and individual thinking needed in today’s innovation-driven economy.
Continuous Provision in Action in Early Years
These pictures show some examples of children directing their own learning through continuous provision, as well as working with our practitioners on adult directed tasks. Our Early Years children are provided with large chunks of child initiated learning throughout the day. This allows them to use what they know in ways that interest them. The role of the adults in this time is to support and question the children; making observations and pushing the learning on further. There is a focus on the Prime Areas of learning as these are the building blocks for all future learning. As well as this reading and writing are promoted throughout all areas of provision. This ensures that the children’s learning is purposeful and interests them.
Early Years Classrooms
These photos show some of the areas in our Nursery and Reception classrooms. Where possible, resources are displayed on open shelves so the children have free and easy access, developing their independence. The labelling of resources is used as a way to reinforce maths skills such as containers with five objects and a label with the digit and the word ‘five’.. There are silhouettes underneath containers and wooden block with photos so that children can easily and independently tidy up resources when they have finished using them.
The outdoor environment offers opportunities for doing things in different ways and on different scales than when indoors. Playing outside gives children first-hand contact with weather, seasons, and the natural world, and outdoor environments offer children freedom to explore, use their senses, and be physically active and curious.
Continuous Provision in Action in Key Stage 1
These pictures show some examples of children directing their own learning through continuous provision. After learning about Florence Nightingale a group of children recreated a hospital ward in the outside area, whilst others where busy making medicine in the mud kitchen and another group of children created a model of a hospital using the resources from the block and small world area. Writing is promoted in all areas, for example after creating the model hospital some children wrote a set of instructions about how to do this others labelled a photograph of their model to clearly show the different parts. This means that children’s writing is purposeful. When using the art area children plan what they are going to make and after it is completed they evaluate the end product.
Children will often practise maths concepts they have been taught and they will often use the outside area to make up games that encourage counting, taking turns and teamwork.
Year 1 Classrooms
These photographs show some of the different areas the children can access during continuous provision. The resources are labelled to ensure that learning opportunities are maximised even when children are tidying away e.g. the labels encourage the children to read numbers, place the correct number of objects into a pot, identify the properties of shapes etc. Labelling differs in the Year 1 classroom compared to the Year 2 classroom as labels are linked to the expectations for these year groups e.g. in Year 2 it may say 3 x 2 on a pot for the number of scissors needed whereas in Year 1 this may be written as 3 + 3 = 6. Enhancements are added in each area to supplement different topics and the children’s interests.
Throughout Early Years and Year One the children have daily opportunities to use continuous provision to enhance their learning opportunities and to develop their own ideas and interests. Opportunities are carefully planned to ensure progression from Nursery to Year 1 and staff are developing continuous provision plans for each area of learning.
Our Year One children are introduced to weekly challenges where they can independently apply skills which have previously been taught. This allows children to demonstrate their understanding which in turn allows staff to plan the next steps in the children’s learning journey.
After reading the story ‘Not a stick’ the children’s challenge was to collect their own stick and use their imagination like the character in the book to turn it into something else. The children turned sticks into boats, a digger, cars, a wand and even a lipstick. The children followed the pattern in the story to write their own sentences based on their pictures. Take a look at the children’s independent work.
The adult’s role in Continuous Provision
Even with continuous provision, the adults’ role is crucial. It’s important that they provide a high-quality environment but also support childrens’ ability to interact with the resources. When children engage with continuous provision, adults will take the opportunity to make careful observations. This is especially important, as observations should then determine how the environment is enhanced at a later stage. Creating a well-oiled environment also means that adults need to establish rules, boundaries and behavioral and learning expectations. Once children are clear about the rules and what’s expected, they will then be able to carry out their explorations with an increased sense of confidence. If children do not know their boundaries, then they will often return to ‘familiar’ play, which is less challenging. Hence, there should be at least one free-flow adult available. One of the most enjoyable things an adult can do is play alongside the children. This helps to model language and ideas and will strengthen your relationship with the children you teach. It also gives you the opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions, extending the childrens’ learning even further. It’s also one of the best methods, we have found, to able to understand why certain aspects of the environment are not working.
Documenting the learning journey
We use ‘Tapestry’ online learning journals to document children’s learning. ‘Tapestry’ is an exciting way of building a strong link between home and school. Families can login to view their child’s observations and also add their own observations from home.
One parent said,“It’s great being able to see what Albert has been up to throughout the day. We look through his pictures together in the evening and he tells me all about the photos/activities that he has been doing. It helps me to praise him at home for his great work. He doesn’t give too much away, when I ask how his day has been, but prompting him with photos that have been posted, reminds him and gets him chatting away!”
We have found that sharing learning with families in this way has helped to develop their understanding and appreciation of the potential of child led learning opportunities. Many parents look at the observations with their children at home and this can lead to further learning opportunities where the children talk about their learning, consolidating and reflecting on their activities.