Our curriculum is created to enable robust foundations for an impactful adulthood. As such, the focus is on:
Curriculum Areas of Learning
The terms 'Communication', 'Personal Development' and 'Understanding My World' form the headings of our curriculum areas of learning;
COMMUNICATION: To acquire and practise the skills to communicate effectively at their individual level and for their individual needs. This area of learning will include taught knowledge and skills in English; reading, writing and speaking skills. Using skills in the expressive arts to apply existing knowledge into individual thought, interpretation and creativity.
PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT: To be able to form positive relationships and manage their own emotions. To develop the physical skills to interact effectively with the world. As such, physical skills are developed as are practical skills to be proactive in our choices, safety and health. We examine and develop personal, spiritual and moral codes as well as the ability to explore what truth means in order to find fulfilment and self awareness.
UNDERSTANDING MY WORLD: To develop an awareness of the world around us, including all forms of diversity and how to stay safe and healthy. To be able to use mathematical skills functionally.Developing an ability to understand different contexts, express individual thoughts and appreciate others' views.
Though teaching discreet subjects happens, we seek to ensure learning is contextualised and translated to different situations. Our work leads to external and internal forms of accreditation that are relevant to the individual and their abilities/capacities - with high expectations of every child.
Our Curriculum Rationale
- To enable robust foundations for an impactful adulthood.
Our 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.
Our Assessment Cycle and Pupils' Progress
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 for the few who can access these, GCSE accreditation. College Link courses in Key Stage 4 promote the development of independence and social skills, helping prepare pupils for moving on from school.
Curriculum Content, Organisation and Delivery
All pupils are offered a broad and balanced curriculum that is differentiated according to their personal needs and strengths. These are formulated through Pathways that target teaching and experiences relevant to the child's needs. Every Pathway addresses the development of functional skills in literacy and numeracy, speech, language and communication, social interaction and independent living.
The wide school curriculum includes a wealth of routes for learning, which 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 as they develop in skills and age. 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. Some children benefit from SCERTS and TEACCH principles and these are deployed where relevant.
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.
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.
Pathway 1: Red - leading to Level 1 Outcomes
Pathway 2: Yellow - leading to Entry Level 3 Outcomes
Pathway 3: Green - Leading to Entry Level 2/Entry Level 1 Outcomes
Pathway 4: Blue - Leading to Personal Progress and school certification Outcomes
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.
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 appropriate external accreditations 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.
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.
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.
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. PCSHE and life skills are given prominence in the curriculum. 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. Where relevant, life skills are incorporated into broad thematic approaches though some need teaching discreetly. Topics help bring together subjects and thinking, whilst promoting creativity and individual approaches.
Our rolling programme of topics, generally last 1-2 weeks.
Examples of the topic themes are below:
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 including design for real-world contextualisation.
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.
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.
Children & their Families' Needs Were Central in Creating our Curriculum
Addressing The Wants & Needs of Our Children & Their Families
Children with SEND often aspire to the same sort of outcomes as non-disabled children. However, what these outcomes meant, the way they are prioritised, and the level of achievement expected, often differs from non-disabled children.
Outcomes in certain areas of children’s lives – physical and emotional well-being, communication and safety are seen as fundamental and need to be addressed before other outcomes can be achieved.
Being able to communicate is fundamental to meeting desired outcomes in other areas of life for
all groups. Children and parents highlight the importance of other people who have regular contact with the child (including parents and siblings, teachers, hospital staff, carers and peers) having the knowledge and skills to understand the child’s means of communication. Apart from giving the child a ‘voice’, having the ability to communicate is seen as opening doors to more opportunities, such as socialising, being active and becoming more independent, which in turn help promote a child’s feeling of security and self-esteem.
Keeping Children Safe from exploitation, abusive relationships or physical danger, and the difficulties this poses when children receive care from a number of people, cannot communicate well or lack any sense of danger, is emphasised by parents.. Staying safe is also talked about in terms of preventing the child having accidents. There were different reasons why children might be vulnerable to accidents including using inappropriate or unsafe equipment, living in unsuitable housing and/or requiring high levels of supervision.
Enjoying and achieving encompassed various inter-related areas: Socialising and having friends Having friends was a priority for many children and their parents. However parents of children with ASD recognise that to have friends their children would first need to have the desire to interact. The lack of contact with school friends out of school was seen as a barrier to achieving friendship, and is a source of considerable frustration for some children.
Activities and experiences: having interests and being able to participate in activities is something parents want for their child. Many are concerned that their child’s ‘world’ was restricted to home and school and they want their child to have greater variety and opportunities. Most parents express the desire for their children
to participate in mainstream activities in their local community. The exception was some parents of children with degenerative conditions who reported their children were no longer able to cope with such situations. Many children also express a desire to be ‘doing more’. The lack of accessible or appropriate facilities and/or the lack of support to assist the child mean that taking part in mainstream activities can often very difficult.
Education and learning: Parents’ aspirations for their child’s education varies according to the severity of the condition and associated learning difficulties. All parents want their child to fulfil their learning potential. For those with limited cognitive abilities, acquiring self-care and living skills and enjoying a stimulating environment is often prioritised over academic achievements. However, for children with greater cognitive abilities, parents want their child to at least achieve basic skills such as reading, writing and number skills. Children with complex health conditions do not want their schoolwork to be affected by having time off due to ill-health or for treatments.
Self-care and life skills: While for non-disabled children independence is often seen as the child being able to do something without help, for many disabled children, this is not achievable in certain areas of their lives. Managing self-care tasks as independently as possible, with or without support, was a key priority among many children and parents.
Independence is often seen in terms of children reaching their potential in carrying out life skills with or without support. The life skills children want to acquire include being able to make snacks, go out alone, handle money and manage unforeseen circumstances when out and about.
Feeling loved, valued and respected. Parents want their children to feel that they were loved and that what they wanted matters. Treating the child as an individual, involving the child in making decisions about his/her life, and respecting the child’s privacy (in a way appropriate to their age) were among things said to make children feel valued.
Identity and self-esteem. For many children feeling ‘normal’ can be important and this tends to be linked to being acceptedby their peer group. ‘Looking good’, wearing similar clothes to others and being able to use attractive equipment (boots, wheelchair etc.) contribute to how they feel about themselves. Parents want services to be more sensitive to the child’s identity and social integration when issuing with equipment, making sure that it is attractive whilst still offering appropriate support. They also stress the importance of the child experiencing success, and having their achievements recognised.
Being part of the local community: having the same access to opportunities and activities as non-disabled children and being part of the local community was important to many children and parents across all groups. However, for children who attend special school, the location of the child’s school and the inaccessibility of local facilities can often mean children do not participate in local community-based activities.
Feeling involved and having the opportunity to exercise choices: being involved in decisions that affect their lives was important for many children and their parents. This ranges from choices about what to wear, how and where they spend their time, planning for the future and decisions about their care and treatments.
Economic well-being; having a job and earning money in adulthood is seen as important by young people with good cognitive ability and their parents. Employment opportunities and support, and access to transport are seen as key factors in achieving these outcomes. Parents of young people with more limited understanding want them to be meaningfully occupied and be able to contribute something when they become adults.
Not all disabled children will be able to make an economic contribution and families with disabled children are more likely to be living in poverty than other families, so the presence of adequate levels of benefits is important.
The Collett School's Curriculum Journey
The Collett Curriculum Journey
Issues We Addressed Through Our Journey
- What the needs and wants are of our children and their families
- How the Curriculum is mapped over time (annually and across the years)
- The challenges of keeping NC schemes of work when some were not relevant
- Appropriateness of examinations
- Ability and Stages covered that are necessary, engaging and encourage enquiry
- How effectively we work with employers and colleges of FE leading to work
- Parents' engagement with their child's learning
- How well literacy, reading and comprehension were taught
- The impact of pupils' low working memory and strategies to support them retain information
- The impact of interventions - their successes and tracking this through their schooling
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 entry level (pre-GCSE) 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.
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