Continuous Provision in the Early Years: How to plan provision to make a positive impact on children's learning (2013)
by Alistair Bryce-Clegg
Book Review by Sarah Gilmore
All teachers, but especially early years teachers, face an increasing tension between the external pressure to prepare students to achieve ‘readiness’ and meet benchmarks, and the very real pedagogical need to provide students with age-appropriate learning and play-based experiences. As Dr Jo Fahey put it, there is a dichotomy between the ‘rise of play’ and the ‘rise of accountability’.
For early years educators faced with this dilemma, Alistair Bryce-Clegg presents ‘continuous provision’. “What”, you might ask, “is continuous provision?”
“Mainly, I think continuous provision is greatly misunderstood. Once we get the definition of what continuous provision should be right, then quality and attainment will follow. Continuous provision is not just the resources that you have out all of the time. The purpose of continuous provision is to continue the provision of learning in the absence of an adult.” (p. 4)
Areas of provision, like sand and water, construction, imaginative play and small world areas are very common in the early years setting, and as an educator you might wonder how continuous provision differs from free-time or stations activities, or independent working time.
“What we also do in early years settings in mistake compliance with engagement and attainment. You will get lots of children who are very happy to stay in an area of the provision for sustained periods of time. They will comply to the agreed behaviour code and will often be prolific in their output. But if we look at what they have produced and then ask ourselves if it shows challenge and learning, or just low level consolidation of a skill that they already had, then we are far more likely to see that it is the latter.” (p.5)
The differences, as Bryce-Clegg lays out in his book, lie in the central roles that ongoing assessment, extension, engagement and attainment play in determining what areas of provision are in your classroom, and how those areas of provision are resourced and planned for. Continuous provision involves assessing the ongoing needs of your class, and adding, removing or enhancing areas of provision accordingly to meet those needs and provide sufficient challenge. As he put in when he spoke to us on Professional Learning Conversations, it’s about creating a learning environment where provision provides a balance of “thrill, will and skill”.
Continuous Provision in the Early Years explains how this can be achieved, and it is very much a book written with teachers in mind: it balances the conceptual explanation of continuous provision with a wide, well-illustrated variety of approaches and strategies for planning and implementation. Filled with photos of children at work, guiding questions, checklists and case-studies, the book is visually appealing, well-laid out and accessible.
The book is divided into chapters that cover how to set up, plan for and timetable continuous provision, and goes into detail about skill development, objective-led planning and the role of the adult, and in the appendix, educators will find practical and helpful planning formats. Continuous Provision in the Early Years makes the process of developing a continuous approach to provision transparent, manageable and practical, and offers early educators a toolbox to elevate and enhance their approach to areas of provision and independent learning in their classrooms.
Bryce-Clegg, Alistair. (2013). Continuous Provision In The Early Years. Published by Featherstone, an imprint of Bloomsbury, London/New York. ISBN 978-1408175828.
Dr. Jo Fahey podcast with Sarah Gilmore, on Professional Learning Conversations. "Inquiry and Assessment in the Early Years." February, 2018. https://www.professionallearninginternational.com/professional-learning-conversations-jo-fahey-podcast/.
Alistair Bryce-Clegg podcast with Sarah Gilmore, on Professional Learning Conversations. "Early Years Learning." February, 2018. https://www.professionallearninginternational.com/early-years-learning-alistair-bryce-clegg/.