At Dee Banks we aim to provide every pupil with a curriculum that is varied, balanced, challenging, engaging, personalised and motivating to them as individuals. Staff provide a seamless blend of class topic work and specific teaching around personal goals (from pupils’ Education Health Care Plans and Personalised Learning Intention Maps) to support pupils to reach their full potential. The development of pupils’ cognitive skills is planned for in detail. However, we consider the work we do to develop communication, independence, confidence, emotional resilience and self-help skills as a vital part of our overall curriculum. This supports pupils to access both the school and wider community and to continue to learn.
In 2015, the Minister of State for Schools established a working group to review assessment arrangements for pupils who do not complete standard national curriculum tests. The outcome of this is that P levels are no longer statutory as:
‘existing arrangements for assessing pupils have come to be used as a curriculum, restricting the kind of creativity and innovation that should be used to engage these pupils and to tailor teaching and learning to their unique needs. Rather than following the letter of the P scales, it is much more important that knowledge, concepts and skills are acquired in a range of contexts and situations, according to a varied and stimulating curriculum.’
(The Rochford Review)
This review has prompted many special schools to review their practice and we have been carrying out our own research and staff training towards making positive changes. We would like achievable aspirations for transitioning to adult life to remain at the heart of our curriculum and for some pupils there will be a noticeable shift from making links with traditional National Curriculum subjects to skills-based work with a focus on communication, independence and problem solving. We now offer three different curriculum pathways (PMLD, Informal and Semi-formal) with an extension to more formal subject-specific learning for some pupils if this is appropriate. For more information about these different pathways, Early Years Foundation Stage and 14-19, please see these specific pages also found under Curriculum.
Whilst specific curriculum content in different classes will reflect the age and needs of each group, a multi-sensory approach to learning is evident across school. This includes a wide range of visual and tactile resources and equipment to promote engagement and enhance learning. Music and sound are used extensively as part of class routines/ lessons and to develop specific skills including communication and interaction. Work which engages a range of senses is carried out for many pupils as appropriate to their learning needs.
ASC and Sensory Needs
We have a significant number of pupils with a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Condition, many of whom are taught in designated, smaller class groups. These classes offer an environment which promotes communication, supports highly structured routines and minimises stimulation. There are now ASC specific classes for every key stage throughout school.
Many of these pupils and some in other class groups require sensory input in order to achieve an appropriate level of stimulation for learning. In some cases, this is provided through individualised programs (often known as sensory diets). These can include activities for visual, auditory, tactile, smell, taste, proprioceptive and vestibular input as required. This area of work is currently being developed across school to support a range of pupils.
We work closely with a range of different agencies including Speech and Language Therapy, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, CAHMS, our music therapist and school nurse. Where appropriate, joint working ensures that goals set for individual pupils by other agencies can be embedded into their school curriculum.