Our pupils come with complex layered needs including Severe Learning Difficulties, Moderate Learning Difficulties, Communication Disorders, Sensory Needs, Physical Needs, and/or Social, Emotional Mental Health Needs. Attainment on entry of all pupils is well below those expected of pupils of a similar age nationally and the majority of our intake is on the Autistic Spectrum; hence a curriculum adapted from the Autism Education Trust framework, which is more geared towards meeting the needs of this lifelong neurodevelopmental condition that affects how people perceive, communicate and interact with the world. However even our cohort of young people is not a homogeneous group. Like all children and young people, our pupils as individuals vary in terms of their intellectual ability, their personality, their profile of strengths and needs, and the presence of other conditions (e.g. learning disability, ADHD, epilepsy, visual/hearing impairment) and their life experiences; and even those of the same apparent developmental age may not necessarily progress through the stages of development at the same rate.
Thus a curriculum which aims to provide a developmentally sequenced framework that ensures quality first education for all our pupils, with a specific focus on promoting spontaneous communication and emotional regulation in everyday activities and across different settings such as school, home and community. Our curriculum is above all the reflection of our school vision which fosters the belief that learning should enable all pupils to thrive and develop with the ambition to lead a fulfilled, happy, rewarding and as far as possible independent life, integrated into the society they choose to leave in. This is our commitment to all our pupils regardless of gender, needs, ability, ethnicity, religion or culture.
Our curricular framework concentrates on four core Principles of Development, which have been linked to the SEND Code of Practice and the Teacher Standards to facilitate support the planning, the delivery, the monitoring and the assessment of our curriculum.
Understanding the Individual – every child/young person is a unique pupil.
Positive and Effective Relationships – pupils learn to be resilient and independent through positive relationships.
Enabling Environments – pupils develop in the context of the environments around them, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and where strong partnerships between teachers, external professionals and parents/carers are paramount.
Learning and Development – pupils learn in different ways, which is the reason why our practitioners provide engaging and challenging opportunities across the prime (personal, social and emotional development, Communication and Language and Physical Development) and specific (Literacy, Cognition) areas of learning and development.
It is not the responsibility of the child to change to meet the demands of the curriculum; it is the responsibility of those writing the curriculum to ensure that it is flexible enough and adaptable enough to meet the needs of each child, which we do through careful consideration of each pupil’s learning styles and needs leading to distinct pathways which strive to be responsive to each learner, build on individual strengths and interests and enable every pupil to shine. Through a mix of behavioural, developmental and educational approaches, with the goal of enhancing cognitive, communication and social skills whilst minimising behaviours that challenge, we offer all our pupils a unique and well-structured curriculum that is broad and balanced and designed to give them the knowledge, skills and cultural capital they individually need to succeed in life; meet all their needs; and address potential social disadvantages.
Our curriculum model is delivered into three broad pathways: informal – Seeds & Roots; semi-formal – Branch & Leaf; formal – Accreditation. This allows us to offer a means of making subtle distinctions between not only groups of learners but also the degree of curriculum formalisation they will experience in either building the prerequisites for, or working within, a more ‘conventional’ National Curriculum type approach. Our curriculum allows pupils to reinforce continuously prior learning and it increases in cognitive complexity, widening out as pupils move through the pathways, revisiting concepts in greater depth. These pathways are not defined by age, but by need and achievement. Pupils are identified on entry or baselined at the beginning of each year through their Individualised Development Profile as to which curriculum pathway is better suited to meet their needs and thereafter they are able to move flexibly between pathways at any point during their school career. Some pupils may even be able to access a more ‘fluid’ curriculum, meaning that they may benefit from aspects of two from the three possible pathways, all based on individual needs which are reviewed regularly.
We believe our three distinct and differentiated pathways offer the best way for:
achievement to be maximised;
each pupil to have a personalised curriculum appropriate to their needs;
teachers to deliver lessons at an appropriate pace;
expectations and targets to be set and reinforced;
pupils to be challenged and supported at the right level;
a positive learning environment to be nurtured and maintained;
pupils to develop confidence and self-esteem through appropriately differentiated pastoral programmes.
Based on a thematic cycle, each pathway covers knowledge, skills and understanding across the four core Principles of Development, which are at the centre of our progression framework, so as to facilitate a ‘learning flow’ between the three pathways. We understand that it is much more important that the knowledge and skills taught to pupils through varied, motivating and stimulating curricular experiences are acquired in a range of contexts and situations, ensuring greater depth of understanding and practical application of knowledge, that will enable them to transfer these learned skills to support them in their lifelong learning journey.
Having adapted the National Curriculum as appropriate to meet the needs of our pupils, we recognise that a more developmental approach focussed on transferable Life Skills spans the entirety of our curriculum which enables pupils to progress through the six Areas of Development (broken down into Stems of Development) so that they are able to go as independently as possible into the world with the knowledge, skills, cultural capital and understanding of what being a successful young adult and a responsible citizen in a modern day society is.
This also means that our curriculum allows both lateral and linear progress to be made by our pupils. For our lateral learners, our curriculum recognises the need of these pupils to learn through repetition which will improve the depth of their understanding. It is widely recognised that this cohort of learners have greater difficulty retaining key skills and need continued opportunities to practise these, so that they are able to transfer these skills and use them in a range of different situations.
Adapted National Curriculum
Although we make reference to the National Curriculum and adapt as appropriate to meet the needs of our pupils, for our pupils there needed to be a more developmental perspective, with communication and cognition being the principal areas of development. For a majority of our pupils with severe learning difficulties, subjects such as geography, history, art and music should provide a context for learning communication and cognition rather than represent the focus of learning. As the extent to which our pupils engage with the National Curriculum vary, according to their attainment levels and nature of their needs; hence our curriculum model based on three pathways which enable our pupils to access the full national curriculum, in contexts where it is best placed to meet their needs.
Whilst the learning opportunities will change and progress throughout the school, the principle of delivering at a level appropriate to the pupils’ level of development is of paramount importance. To ensure progression of content, it would be expected that the content of the lessons would reflect this difference. For example, sorting coloured teddy bears in Roots classes could be replaced by categorising numbers in Leaf classes.
Our curriculum aspires to be meaningful to each pupil’s personal development as a unique individual and foremost to be one in which every pupil can succeed and thrive and become an assertive, independent and confident citizen who is equipped to live safe, healthy and happy lives and who will be able to engage and make positive contribution to their community. For this to happen, this curriculum is implemented using a range of learning approaches, appropriate to the needs of our pupils. These will include sensory and practical activities, which enable pupils to use the skills learned in a functional manner, alongside differentiated and structured tasks that give them opportunities for developing collaborative and problem solving skills.
Our literacy program focusses on supporting teachers in developing the functional literacy skills needed by our pupils to cope at an adult level in everyday situations whilst our work-related program focusses on ensuring pupils apply the transferable skills learned in the classroom in a real-life context, develop an understanding of work and its related responsibilities and broaden their awareness of the world of work.
The uniqueness of each of our pupils makes it paramount to provide an individualised curricular development framework. Each pupil has their own Development Profile which identifies individual progress and priorities based on an assessment of need.
Each aspect of the school life is expected to be a planned learning experience and we are able to gauge rigorously the impact of our curriculum on each pupil’s development and put in place intervention, where necessary so that all pupils make outstanding progress.
Through a mix of behavioural, developmental and educational approaches, with the goal of enhancing cognitive, communication and social skills whilst minimising behaviours that challenge, we offer all our pupils a unique and well-structured curriculum that is broad and balanced and designed to give them the knowledge, skills and cultural capital they individually need to succeed in life; to support them to make outstanding progress in all areas of their learning so they can continue their learning journeys into adult life; to meet all their individual needs; and address potential social disadvantages.
If you require any more information about our Curriculum, please contact Mr A. Chaplin for Roots and Branch classes or Mrs H. Clark for Leaf and Accreditation classes on the school contact number.