Lisa Atkinson – Continuous Provision Vs. Enhancements – Understanding the Third Teacher

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Continuous Provision Vs. Enhancements –

Understanding the Third Teacher


By Lisa Atkinson 

“What does your provision look like? Do you change it every week to fit your theme?”


This is one of the most common questions, via my Twitter or Instagram accounts, from new EYFS practitioners. Some have been teaching for years and have now been plunged into the magical world that is Early Years. They are feeling apprehensive, unprepared and bewildered about how to set up an environment for a whole new curriculum. Early Years is so distinctive from every other year group. Others are trainee or newly-qualified practitioners who, at this difficult time, have had little time to observe and explore a ‘real-life’ Early Years environment.





So, what is Continuous Provision?

Continuous Provision is your environment and the resources that are available, all year long. It is your ‘third teacher’ and should enable children to learn and progress, alongside your teaching.  Young children are naturally curious and learn well through their own discovery. However, your pupils also need you to be a learning partner, scaffolding the learning, teaching new skills, and modelling how to play with the resources.

If you get your continuous provision right, it can lead to high levels of learning, engagement, consolidation and development.


“The way you set-out and organise the resources in each area is of utmost importance, not only to encourage independence and for ease of tidying but to allow children the autonomy to start their own projects and investigations without the support of an adult.” -Sophie @ Mrs Mactivity.

Ideally your provision will mainly stay the same all year except for the addition of more challenging resources as the children progress through their learning. For example, you might not expect children to use Japanese pull saws in the Autumn Term: you would train the children gradually to use other tools so that they build up their skills. An excellent book on this area is ‘Continuous Provision: The Skills’ by Alistair Bryce-Clegg.

“When it comes to any Early Years environment, ambiguity is an essential. Ambiguous, open-ended resources and experiences encourage children to think, investigate and explore. To interpret what they are experiencing and handling in a way that is meaningful to them.” -Alistair Bryce-Clegg.


Some children will rely on the continuous provision being the same all year. They will need to know what they have to play with before they enter your setting, in order to meticulously pre-plan their play. We need to provide some consistency and a safe space, especially for those who might not have consistency at home. It doesn’t mean don’t change it, but before you do, think about the purpose of your changes. We only need to change the enhancements on a more regular basis.


“So, when I put out the Supertato story telling props in the tuff tray, the characters from the story in the small world and themed paper on my writing table, that’s my provision?”


In a word, no. These are your enhancements. An enhancement is something you add to your provision to fit a particular theme/topic or to meet a specific skill you would like the children to address. These can also be labelled as a provocation or an invitation to play.


For example, here is an image of our ‘Message Centre’ or writing area, inspired by the book ‘Can I Go and Play Now?’ The author, Greg Bottrill is inspirational and you can find him on twitter or Instagram @canigoandplay or at if you would like to learn more about ‘The Message Centre’.

The resources we provide continually are:


  • Paper (Various sizes, colours, lined, unlined, squared, graph, card, etc)
  • Post-it notes (Various sizes and colours)
  • Clipboards
  • Sticky tape
  • Stapler
  • Hole-punch
  • Treasury Tags
  • Paperclips
  • Scissors
  • Pencil Sharpeners, Erasers and Rulers
  • Glue sticks
  • A sound mat
  • Secret symbols (Another ‘Message Centre’ special)
  • Various dictionaries in various languages and a Maths dictionary too
  • Pens, pencils, felt tips (thin, thick and chunky markers), wax crayons, biros, highlighters etc.


Sometimes, we might add some topic themed paper, some key words or some interesting images and these are to enhance our continuous provision so they could change daily, weekly, monthly, half-termly depending on our children’s interests or skills we’d like to develop.

“If I enhance my Creative Area this week with printing resources so that I can build my children’s skills and experiences in printing, then once I am confident that they are secure with the idea of printing, the resources become part of what I offer them all of the time.”- Alistair Bryce-Clegg



When you are designing your provision, consider  your ethos and your cohort’s needs. Every teacher and setting is different: what is your philosophy?

In our setting, our ethos is the Curiosity Approach, (a mixture of natural, open-ended resources), the joy of play (inspired by Greg Bottrill), and a skills based environment (inspired by Alistair Bryce-Clegg). Find out more about the Curiosity Approach here:

My colleagues and I love to get inspiration from other settings on social media but we always stop and think about the purpose of what we will put in place and how it will benefit our children. We ‘magpie’ ideas we feel will enhance our setting but we recognise that some ideas would simply not be right for our cohort.



Your ethos is probably totally different to ours and that is absolutely fine. EYFS environments shouldn’t all look the same or provide the same opportunities because every cohort has different needs and interests. Early Years teachers are skilled at putting children’s learning, development and wellbeing at the heart of their continuous provision.


Take a moment to step back and watch your children: this is just as valuable as working with a group. Continuous Provision needs to be linked to your ongoing assessment and observation. What are the children drawn to? What are their needs? Plan and review on a regular basis to ensure your learning environment continually meets the needs of your cohort and allows them to consolidate, rehearse and practise skills you have taught.


That is what’s important.

For more provision and enhancement ideas follow me on Instagram @MrsAEYFS, Twitter @MrsAEYFS and check out @Martongate_Sch for some in progress learning!



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