I originally wrote a post on this back in January 2016. At that time I was working in my first school, in the Nursery and my approach was a little different to how mine is now. Now, in Reception, I am a little more child-led and more 'natural' and 'real' instead of plastic. But the message still makes sense. Also when I use 'basic' to mean 'continuous';)
So, provision. For those who don't know, provision is simply the collective name for resources which we provide for children to help them learn. They are toys, creative/messy resources, books, paper etc. We often place linked or similar provision on one set of shelves or within a contained space and call this a 'provision area.'
In September, most Early years settings will have basic provision established.
Basic provision works to adjust children to their environment (new settlers etc.) and to reacclimatise children who are returning to the setting from a holiday. However as the term progresses you can begin to 'enhance' your provision based on interests, topics, themes, holidays, events or just about anything you think the children need to continue their learning.
We recently began to enhance our provisions properly since our SEN children had their own provision in place which supported their needs better. We have gone from quite a drab set of areas to far more exciting and engaging provision that is purposeful and excites the children to learn more.
Building your basic:
Basic provision is a difficult thing to get right if you're not used to it. Its important to have an idea of what skills you want the children to be working on. For our sand area, filling and emptying always come at the beginning of our year because it develops their fine motor control but satisfies schema which many of our children are still engaging in. So in order to achieve this we provision buckets, spaces, rakes, scoops and moulds. We provide other toys such as small trucks and a sand/water wheel which enhance the basic provision whilst remaining on the original skill track.
In the role play area we will have a home corner which is styled (as best we can) in a way similar to the homes of our children. Traditional cookware as well as familiar towels, nappies, cutlery etc.
When the basic is established and is being used well you need to continuously evaluate whether or not the children are developing the desired skills. Tweaks made to develop those skills further are fantastic but eventually you're going to want to move onto enhancements. These enhancements begin to take the learning deeper and draw in a wider range of skills and knowledge whilst anchoring them in their interests or the topic you've selected.
An example would be the sand area here. I decided to bring pirate play into our sand area. Its something I've done before very successfully and the children had reached a good skill level with filling and emptying, and more importantly, they love pirates! So I introduced a treasure chest, doubloons (coins, for the surprisingly large number of people who don't know what these are!!) chunky keys, jolly rogers, eye patches, vests, shells and Jake and the Neverland pirate small world figurines.
Now I want to begin to draw in the deeper learning. The children can begin to role play. They can count, order, match, compare. They can hunt for treasure, share experiences. However I have kept a lot of the 'basic' provision there because this is the familiar aspect (the anchor) which they're used to and which needs to stay present.
Its also worth remembering that for continuous entry nurseries, some of your new children will still need a lot of this basic provision.
Sometimes enhancing provision takes a completely fresh approach. Sometimes we completely strip out all of the basic resources and start with new things. An example of this was last year when we removed our home corner and introduced a garden centre.
It's tricky to introduce something that hasn't even been used before. It takes modelling (as do all new resources) as well as a lot of roleplaying to get the children to participate the way you want them to. In our garden centre we had a till and money and we quickly realised that we hadn't actually had any kind of money role play before. All of the pennies just kept disappearing! We had to scale back and focus on introducing money, what is it for? What did they know?
Pitfalls and perils:
Style over substance- Too many people want their areas to look fabulous but when you begin to play in them you realise its all for show. The children will highlight this by not engaging and fall back on the basic provision.
Too basic: If you're in reception don't have a home corner with very basic homewares. Ensure the resources are age appropriate and are more advanced than you'd see in Nursery. Consider real life machines (toasters, kettles) which have been rendered safe (I'd just hack the plug off..) Equally if you're in a nursery for toddlers or babies you need to focus far more on matching cups to saucers, or even just playing with the textures from a kitchen such as rolled oats, syrup, rice, pasta etc.
Adult led: Most provision areas are established by adults and consequently the activities you have from this are influenced by yourselves. For those who want more child-led/initiated activities you could construct provision areas alongside your children. Sometimes you will get great ideas. One of my colleagues ended up with a superhero area filled with old tat (aka mobile phones, remote controls, cd players) and the children went nuts!
This is a section which I have taken out from the original post. It was our planning format which demonstrated how to plan in a simple 'skill-centred' way. I still think this is a good way to plan but I now believe planning should be a personal decision made within your own team. Ofsted do not wish to see planning. SLT SHOULD NOT be using planning as part of observations etc. They SHOULD be having conversations with you about your teaching rather than assessing you against something you've written.
There are lots of examples of planning out there but my advice is to keep planning on provision to the most simple form you can. Alternatively, don't record planning! Write interests down in some kind of collective way on display in your provision and make enchancements based on this.