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 The Collett School Curriculum

  • Intent (what we want our pupils to achieve)  
  • Implementation (how we present the curriculum)
  • Impact (how we measure the effectiveness of our curriculum).

Accountability Structure for The Collett School's Curriculum

Executive Headteacher - Quality of Provision Analysis and Impact

The Blue Tangerine Federation Governors - Monitoring of Quality of Provision

Head of School - Development of Framework, Intent, Standards, Training Needs

Head of Curriculum (From September 2020) - Curriculum Leader of Teams: Strategy and Operation, Delivery and Training Needs, Analysis

Curriculum Area Leads (UPR Teachers as Area Leaders, with teams of teachers and TAs) - Curriculum Area Audit, Overview, Topic Coverage, Age-related content and Teaching Resources, Learning Sequencing and Analysis

Heads of Department - Coverage, Standards, Assessment, Implementation, Interventions, Action Planning, Analysis

Teachers - Triangulation of planning, assessment, teaching and learning. Feedback to pupils and parents, collaborative practices, reporting, termly pupil progress, contribution to curriculum area development and analysis

Teaching Assistants - Standards, consistency of delivery, adaptation to needs, contribution to curriculum area development and analysis

The Collett School's Curriculum Journey

When the National Curriculum Levels were disbanded in 2015, our school sought to create our own system of assessment, cross-referencing expectations of existing schemes and seeking to ensure the premise of the EYFS curriculum was embedded throughout the child's schooling. 

In the absence of better 'off-the shelf' systems, our Collett Assessing Pupil Progress Scheme (CAPPS) enabled teachers to have a framework of curriculum coverage from pre-national curriculum levels (P-Scales) through to GCSE.  At the time, we knew our cohort was changing from the typical MLD pupils to a more complex cohort and that we would be needing to adapt and amend our curriculum going forward to meet the new pupils' needs.  When we devised this system, we aligned our CAPPS attainment targets (a common and user-friendly system of 'I can' statements) to the GCSE, BTEC and Entry Level assessment objectives, in order to benchmark progress towards a range of outcomes our pupils were working towards.

In using the National Progression Materials - a government produced body of work that tracked achievements nationally from different starting points, we were able to address what typical progress of a child on different starting points would achieve through their schooling and, as such, what expected, good and outstanding progress would look like.

However, as special schools have often sought to create an adapted curriculum that supported the requirements of all schools (mainstream-focused) we have felt our curriculum has been a 'watered-down' mainstream curriculum at times.  Through our extensive fundraising with local and national companies as well as through our other community engagement work, we have first-hand knowledge of the workplaces in our area and the challenges faced for employers and employees with SEND.  Until recently, our pupils' destinations beyond college has been difficult to track as Youth Connexions were not routinely tracking SEND longer-term outcomes.   With GDPR and the challenges this brings to information holding, we have navigated our way through systems, supported by the aims of the Gatsby profile work to give credence to our information gathering.  We have known for a while that many of our pupils go through college, though continue to find it extremely challenging to both attain work placements and, sustain these when achieved.  Statistical data shows this to be a national problem.

In the creation of a curriculum that is bespoke to the school, the individuals and their futures, we have relished the confidence given by Ofsted in focusing on this.

Our curriculum design will remain fluid as our cohort of pupils continues to change.  The spiky profiles of some of our ASD and SEMH pupils will be catered for, along with our more SLD children even though we do not have the economies of scale that a mainstream school has - resources and teacher specialists working across all abilities from EYFS to GCSE level in all areas of the curriculum.  We will do this through working with the same teacher for most of the day, where older pupils will work with teachers who have specialisms in areas to support the individual achieve the desired outcomes their abilities will sustain.

Forensic Investigation Into Existing Practice


Age-related Learning and Abilities


Pathways CAPPS

BLUE - foundation (Personal Progress)

Green - (Entry Levels)

Yellow - (Levels 1 & 2)

Red - (GCSE accreditation)


The Collett School's Curriculum Rationale

  • To enable robust foundations for an impactful adulthood.

The Collett School Curriculum INTENT

  • To enable the individual's effective Communication skills
  • To develop the individual's Personal, Social and Emotional skills
  • To build the individual's Understanding of her/his world

To engage children with learning in order to successfully access our mainstream world with increasing independence.

Curriculum Area Overview - Intent

Pupil Progress and Assessment Cycle - Impact

Pupils will have access to a good range of nationally accredited courses in Key Stage 4, which can include Entry Level certificates of achievement, personal development and life skills courses, various vocational courses and GCSE courses. College Link courses in Key Stage 4 promote the development of independence and social skills, helping prepare pupils for moving on from school.

Curriculum - Implementation

Curriculum Content, Organisation and Delivery

All pupils are offered a broad and balanced curriculum that is differentiated according to their personal needs and strengths.  The curriculum focuses on the development of functional skills in literacy and numeracy, speech, language and communication, social interaction and independent living.

The curriculum includes a wealth of routes for learning, which may include lunch-time and after-school clubs, with high levels of skilled staff who continue to educate and support learners. There are planned integration experiences, for example with pupils from local mainstream schools, and educational outings as part of the curriculum.

Timetables at The Collett School follow a primary style manner of teaching, with pupils having a 'learning group' which most of their lessons are taught in.  However,  specialist teachers and/or teachers who developed expertise in a primary or secondary setting work with our children over the course of the week. School organisation is flexible to meet the changing pattern of pupil needs. 

Organisation is responsive to the needs of the pupils through the Key Stages. Small classes, and variable adult/pupil ratios depending on the needs of the group, ensure that learning can be tailored to a pupil’s individual needs. Included in this offer of a personalised approach is the assurance that intimate care and attention to all basic functions is guaranteed.

Teaching uses a wide variety of methods to teach key skills and abstract concepts through national curriculum subjects. Children learn in different ways so knowledge is delivered and skills taught using kinaesthetic, visual, practical and concrete approaches. Pupils are likely to require access to a high level of visual support, e.g. objects of reference, photographs, the use of symbols and appropriate signing strategies.

Pupils are given regular opportunities to learn new skills and to generalise those already learned through frequent repetition and the chance to practise skills in different situations.  This will include a large range of curriculum enrichment activities, such as visits to museums and subject-related facilities in the wider community.

We enable pupils with complex learning needs to access education and engage in learning in preparation for adult life. This is provided in a safe environment. All our pupils have learning difficulties and cognitive barriers to learning to differing degrees.  As such, our curriculum is created in Pathways that focus on the child's needs and progress through a relevant curriculum.


Cultural Capital

Ofsted added the term 'cultural capital' to their inspection handbook as part of its 2019 update.  It defines it as: the essential knowledge that pupils need to be educated citizens, introducing them to the best that has been thought and said, and helping to engender an appreciation of human creativity and achievement.

Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman explained: By 'cultural capital', we simply mean the essential knowledge, those standard reference points, that we want all children to have.  So for example, it’s about being able to learn about and name things that are, for many, outside their daily experience. 

It is for the school to decide what is 'essential knowledge' for our pupils and as such, our curriculum outlines the cultural capital we want our pupils and students to learn about; with due regard to relevance for their particular needs as young people with specific needs in our mainstream world.

It is crucial to our pupils that they develop their cultural capital so that they have equal opportunities for social mobility and to achieve success in society, diminishing the difference. With this in mind, our curriculum has a strong focus on PCSHE (Pastoral, Citizenship, Social, Health, and Economic) as well as growing in pupils a strong mental health by developing values such as compassion, resilience, teamwork, risk management and performance.

At The Collett school, we recognise that for pupils to aspire to be successful in our mainstream world, they need a curriculum that embraces the complexities of their changing needs. It needs to give pupils appropriate opportunities and experiences that in turn nurtures their self-esteem through engagement and learning the required skills and knowledge in order to survive and thrive.  


Our Curriculum Pathways

Our curriculum and subsequent planning is divided into three main sections, based on the differing needs of our pupils within the lower, middle and upper school - with relative and meaningful aspirations.  The learning intentions within the Curriculum Pathways are aligned to the National Curriculum, but topics are chosen that are relevant to the needs, skills and understanding, as well as interests of the pupils. We strive to ensure that the topics chosen reflect the ages of the pupils exploring them; otherwise, they are left vulnerable, particularly when out in the community. e.g. young adult with Thomas the Tank engine lunchbox. There are no perceived limitations to what pupils can achieve.


Functional Skills Learning

The curriculum has a focus on ‘functional’ so that pupils develop the skills necessary to thrive and live as independently as possible. Some topics are also chosen to excite and motivate our pupils e.g. myths and legends - we have a large group of pupils who enjoy playing with mythical figures at playtime. Links are made between elements of learning e.g. letter writing to a figure from history. Where possible, learning is linked to first hand experiences such as going to the shop for money handling. This puts the learning within a context, making it more meaningful and useful. Wider skills such as reading are also laid out across the subjects to build comprehension.


Measuring Progression

Assessment information feeds into curriculum planning which ensures that there is progress in concepts from year group to year group, department to department. One of our progress measurements is  CAPPS, a system designed by staff.  Staff are able to track next steps in learning and highlight pupils who need intervention and/or further challenge. They are also used to identify curriculum areas that need strengthening. CAPPS enables staff to pitch the curriculum at the correct level and to ensure topics are progressive across the school.  We use additional measures for assessment to judge standards against national measures including age-related expectations for neurotypical children.

Targets are set in collaboration with pupils, parents and other professionals and reviewed together on a regular basis. Assessment is moderated across the county and regionally. Information and data is held at school, local authority and national level. A range of assessment tools are used to provide a picture of attainment and progression. These tools include our bespoke system, CAPPS, the use of historical National Curriculum levels, new P Levels, visual assessment tools, Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS), Wide Range Intelligence Testing (WRIT), TOMAL2, reading and comprehension tests, receptive and expressive language tools and teacher assessment.


Challenge and Relevant Outcomes

The right pitch and challenge is ensured for pupils by a series of pathways, based on their starting points. There is the option to transfer to a more challenging pathway, should this be appropriate. These are aligned to National expectations and as a result, pupils have the option of sitting GCSE’s should these be appropriate.  Many other qualifications are chosen to support the individual's pathway and interests to support them accessing college and the world of work beyond.

Each Department has a different rationale for the structure of their curriculum although there are some key methods of teaching such as revisiting and reinforcing, building on prior knowledge and skills, teaching in a logical sequence building to an outcome that transfer across all.



Staff are the greatest resource in the school and they are expert in using strategies to overcome barriers to learning.  Learning difficulties schools provide expertise in a number of associated areas which impact on the education of the pupils.  Pupils have access to staff trained in alternative communication approaches, for example signing, symbols and IT-based alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) devices. Staff are trained in physical intervention as a matter of routine. 

Visual aids such as schedules and social stories support social communication and learning.

Facilities to support teaching and learning include, for example sensory resources, ICT, adventure play equipment, IT, library and minibuses.  Additionally pupils have access to swimming and appropriate outdoor spaces.


Trans-disciplinary Approach

A range of professionals works with the pupils, parents and staff of the schools to ensure that the best possible guidance is provided to encourage and support educational development. These professionals include Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Music and other therapists, School Nurses, Consultant Paediatrician, Educational Psychologists, Clinical Psychologists, Counsellors and Advisory Teachers for Autism, Hearing Impairment and Visual Impairment, Connexions Personal Advisers and FE College tutors.

Schools work with a variety of external professionals to provide for the holistic needs of children and young people.

Lower School 

The Lower School's curriculum focus is on developing classroom readiness, as many pupils come to school having been on a reduced timetable or only having attended a pre-school. Communication and language form the basis of their curriculum either through language, or communication supports such as PECS. Many of the pupils have significant sensory needs and time is built into planning to facilitate their sensory diet, including working towards O.T targets. Younger children often struggle to rationalise their emotions and as such, the curriculum has an emphasis upon developing emotional regulation. 

There begins a focus on understanding number such as counting and one to one correspondence so that the basic blocks are set up. Lessons around phonics and spelling strategies occur daily, which develop an understanding of the text and an excitement and love for reading. For many of our pupils, the art of writing begins with the ability to mark make, form letters and then basic sentences. Writing is cross curricula as repetition of skills is the key to progress. The pupils study history, geography and science as part of a series of topics, mainly centred on their own community. CAPPS ensures there is progression in skills. As with the other departments in school, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and values such as friendship, kindness, respect, happiness and respecting each other remain high on the agenda. 

Middle school

The skills within lower school continue, to be built upon. Communication and language becomes more functional, such as writing a list for shopping. Pupils are encouraged to question and form opinions. They begin to understand responsibility, democracy and tolerance and strategies are explored to teach empathy. Maths, has a stronger focus on time, money and number skills such as times tables. Strategies for problem solving are key and in particular, how these relate to the outside world e.g., How many rolls of wallpaper are needed. Writing takes on a more functional role. For instance, completing a form to join the library, sending an email. Basic spelling, punctuation and grammar remain as a focus so that the skills become embedded. Although staff still teach through topic, there is a greater emphasis upon specific subjects such as history and science. This way, the subjects can be explored at a deeper level. PCSHE and life skills is the area given the most curriculum time. There are so many skills that our pupils need to learn to be independent citizens that the focus has to increase in the middle school. As our pupils start to become more independent and start to use technology more readily, internet and social media safety is paramount to their well-being, so safety features highly in the curriculum.  There are more opportunities to engage with the community, develop leadership roles and engage in events to support local charities. Children continue to develop creative skills applying these to projects such as designing Christmas cards.

Upper school

The skills in Upper school build upon the skills from middle school. Whilst it is important to study for accreditation, there is a greater focus on the skills and knowledge needed to support our pupils when they leave to go on to the next stage. This includes drug education, protection from extremism, online safety and sex and relationship education. Functional maths and literacy remain high on the agenda. Communication is also a skill to be developed, particularly in relation to the world of work. E.g., Interview skills. As part of the curriculum pupils experience the world of work, volunteering, travel training, charity work, being a prefect and representing the school council. There are opportunities to experience competitive sport and to develop coaching skills. There is a focus on practising the skills that may be used in the place of work such as barista training and food preparation and safety. Pupils gain a greater understanding of themselves in relation to their community as well as the cultures that determine it.