Curriculum and Assessment
Our curriculum consists of all the activities and experiences designed and developed to promote the intellectual, physical, personal development of the pupils and meet their social needs, preparing them for meaningful and satisfying adult lives.
The curriculum at Kingsweston is subject to regular evaluation, development and improvement over time. It is eclectic in nature as it has to meet a number of diverse requirements including integrated working with other professionals and additional factors both internal and external. These include:
- Our school vision and values
- The changing role of the special school
- The diversity of cultures, ages, abilities and needs of our pupils
- Individual pupil statements and Education, Health and Care Plans
- The strengths, training and expertise of staff
- The wishes of parents/carers and the needs of the wider community
- The Foundation Stage and National Curriculum
- British values
- The teaching of key skills, attitudes and attributes alongside knowledge and understanding.
- The designated role of the school as provider of special education on behalf of Bristol City Council
- DfE curriculum policy, legislation and guidance
- Accreditation routes
- The role it plays guiding and supporting appropriate achievement and progress
Our starting point for the design of the learning opportunities we make for a pupil is based upon an understanding of them, their abilities and their needs and the fundamental necessity of securing their engagement (see later). Consequently we are committed to a curriculum model which provides our pupils with a foundation of understanding and engagement which enable future access to learning referenced by (but not constrained to) the National Curriculum.
Our curriculum has a pupil-centred approach in which every pupil is encouraged to enjoy learning, make progress
and achieve. We recognise that pupils at Kingsweston have specific, diverse and individual needs and abilities and our curriculum aims to reflect these. Our ultimate goal is that the pupils are enabled to be active learners who are moving towards independence, autonomy, empowerment and are learning to effectively communicate their needs, wants, and opinions.
Learning in context
We endeavour to arrive at a context for learning which references as complete an understanding of each pupil as possible and which draws upon a number of frameworks to inform practice. These include the following:
Specialised knowledge This is especially in relation to Autism and severe learning difficulties.
Systems theory We strive to be an open environment (system) which enables transitions of people and ideas in and out of it. We are all organised by our external and internal worlds, experiences, understandings and attributed meanings of our lives so far, and we bring all these aspects of ourselves into the relationships we have within school. Kingsweston is created as a context for learning and development and within that context one of the prime objectives will be using these and other systemic ideas to enable us to hold the pupils and their needs central and striving to understand them as unique individuals.
We see relationships between adults and children and young people as being fundamental to
all that follows. The pupil’s own experience of relationships within their family and life so far will have shaped the way they manage meaningful relationships in school. We use an understanding of Attachment Theory to hypothesise how to be with the child, and what is most likely to feel safest for them, as a starting point. We try always to understand the world from behind the pupil’s eyes - at the same time as never being sure we do understand. Using these ideas we create a pathway to a relationship with the child.
Social Learning Theory This contextualises the relationship between learning leaders and pupils as one which includes listening, watching and experiencing as prime components of a learning context.
PLACE This is the framework of the therapeutic approach described and developed by Dan Hughes which aims to create relationships which are the context for emotional and relational development and healing. Its components are Playfulness, Love, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy. We value this framework, manifest in a way appropriate for our context and the relationships we have, for the support it gives us in developing approaches for use in schools with pupils whose early lives have not, for whatever reason, met all their developmental needs.
Functional Analysis This approach relies upon an understanding of antecedent - behaviour - consequence contingency to establish the triggers for behaviour. It is predicated on the assumption that behaviour is never random, is in itself communicative, and in all cases serves some kind of function. Functional Analysis can be a tool to identify the function of behaviours into one of four main categories: attention, escape/avoidance, self-stimulation or tangible rewards, although the outcomes of this analysis will always need to be considered within the context of understanding derived from preceding approaches.
These contributory fields of study describe the central emphasis we put upon relationships and ways in which they can be combined are provided later. They reflect the diversity of abilities and needs of our school community and all have a part to play in the first and fundamental necessity of a successful school career, that of engagement. Sustainable learning can only occur when there are successful relationships which support meaningful engagement. The process of engagement is a journey which connects a pupil and their environment (including people, ideas, materials and concepts) to enable learning and achievement.Engagement is the single best predictor of successful learning for children with learning disabilities. Without engagement, there is no deep learning, effective teaching, meaningful outcome, real attainment or quality progress. It is multi-dimensional, and encompasses:·
By focusing on these seven indicators of engagement, we can ask ourselves questions such as: ‘How can I change the learning activity to stimulate Robert’s curiosity?’ ‘What can I change about this experience to encourage Shannon to persist?’ More information about engagement can be found in the ‘Communication in Context at Kingsweston School’ document.
We recognise the challenges the needs of our pupils can bring to engaging in learning behaviours. A small number of pupils have characteristics of Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). We recognise that this is distinct from autism but falls under the spectrum and note that strategies which are helpful for learners with autism may not be useful in instances of PDA.
The Vision and Values of Kingsweston School
Our vision is to be a school where:
- All pupils are of equal value, are individuals and have the capacity to learn and to contribute to the school, to their home setting and to their community;
- All pupils are entitled to an outstanding education with the highest quality teaching and consistent nurturing;
- Pupils learn and thrive in an environment of high expectations and positive attitudes in which their communication and sensory needs are met and their achievements are recognised and valued;
- The best provision is delivered by highly motivated and well trained staff who are driven to assist our pupils in attaining self-confidence and to acquire skills that will help sustain them through life;
- We value a wide range of learning outcomes with literacy and numeracy at their heart; we recognise that a broad, balanced and engaging curriculum is essential for all learners and we will bring creativity and diversity to our curriculum offer; technology will be used to promote learning as well as being a tool through which to meet our obligations of accountability and reporting;
- We operate within a set of equalities-informed values. We celebrate the diversity of our school population and seek to promote a sense of community, positive engagement and participation;
- We work in a way that recognises the fundamental role of the family in promoting positive outcomes for our pupils and we will seek to work in partnership for the benefit of all.
- Our values are the core beliefs that underpin the way we think and act:
- We have high expectations of ourselves and each other.
- We treat each other with respect, openness and integrity.
- We appreciate the individual and unique contribution that each pupil makes to the life of the school.
- We are all positive about learning. We recognise that we all continue learning throughout our lives.
- We recognise the achievements, no matter how large or small, of individual pupils.
- We celebrate the ethnic and cultural diversity of the school community.
- We offer equality of opportunity to all.
Kingsweston School Overview
The Kingsweston curriculum recognises that children and young people with severe, profound and complex learning difficulties face particular challenges with learning which demand particular solutions. We are a special school which provides for pupils with complex autism and those with profound and severe learning difficulties.
Pathways through Kingsweston:
Please note: The matching of children and young people to a particular curriculum model is often difficult and complex so the pathways above will always be individually negotiated and a best fit model discussed and agreed.
The Kingsweston curriculum is organised in ways that reflect the diversity of pathways identified above. Whilst there are differences between the ASC and the SLD strands (and indeed different curricular routes within strands) there is a common core reflecting the school vision and values, the theoretical frameworks referenced above and the range of influences that are cited earlier in this document.
We regard all of our pupils as capable of making significant progress over their school lives and have very high expectations of them which we moderate both internally and externally. To maximise our chances of enabling this personal development to happen we adhere to some fundamental principles which underpin the curriculum.
1. The curriculum is broad, balanced and relevant
We accept the absolute necessity of providing a broad and balanced and relevant curriculum, which is wholly appropriate to the needs of the child.
The curriculum developed by Kingsweston provides a content map of what might be taught. It gives a framework for how learning can be scaffolded for groups of pupils, and makes suggestions for content.
The curriculum offer of The KEEP is bespoke to the individuals within it. It is constructed entirely around each pupil and the priority of securing their engagement and participation. This provokes reflection upon the challenge of prioritising individual relevance to the curriculum whilst maintaining breadth and balance in a more typical classroom setting at Kingsweston. There is a tension in reconciling these aspirations. As special needs professionals it is our role to negotiate a pupil orientated pathway through the competing demands of statutory entitlement and a needs-led curriculum offer. This has to be refined locally for a class whilst at the same time needing to maintain relevance for each individual.
Underpinning and supporting classroom level curriculum design are our aims and values; our reference to the theoretical frameworks articulated above; our understanding of the abilities and needs of the pupils; and our school culture, especially with regard to SEN and disability.
Alongside the curricular content, the progress and expectations of each pupil are regularly and formally reviewed and evaluated by the class teacher and Assistant Head. This provides us with an opportunity to evaluate engagement and learning within the context of the curricular offer and consider whether any adjustments are necessary. Each review and the associated outcomes will describe a range of provision that should be made for individual pupils. The commentaries in this Academic Review process will reference barriers to learning and any means by which these can be ameliorated. The priorities for comments will include provision that promotes engagement, strategies to address expressive and receptive communication, literacy and numeracy, attention, sensory regulation and emotional literacy/regulation/self-management.
We recognise that many pupils may find it difficult to make links between different learning experiences. For this reason we teach themes through other curriculum areas, for example maths skills are often specifically practised in the community, using money and time in real situations.
2. The curriculum should be individualised and flexible
The curriculum as well as providing a framework for learning opportunities also provides life skills opportunities.
The centrality of the need to engage learners at an individual level has already been referenced above. This must be at the heart of our curriculum offer. Successful engagement must take into account an individual pupil’s preferred learning style and their level of motivation and readiness to learn, as well as the suitability of any resources required.
The individual requirements of each pupil are determined through observation and assessment, discussion with the pupil themselves where possible, parents/carers and with other agencies. Our annual meetings to review the EHCP adopt a Person Centred Planning approach.
3. The curriculum recognises the essential creativity of teaching
We are a community of highly skilled professionals for whom a curriculum needs to provide ideas rather than instruction.
We do not need a curriculum to dictate to teachers the what, when and how of teaching. We support existing staff and appoint new staff who are skilled facilitators and evaluators of learning, adapting their own communication, scaffolding learning for individual pupils, adjusting the environment and using visual and other cues to engagement and learning where required. It is the responsibility of teachers as the leaders in the classroom to draw from the relevant curriculum those aspects that ensure breadth, balance and relevance, which address individual needs and promote learning and progress. Assistant Headteachers ensure that staff are given the support they each need to deliver the curriculum.
Furthermore, the theoretical frameworks referenced earlier are utilised by our staff to create learning contexts in which the most relevant models of provision can be drawn upon to inform practice. Aspects of the therapeutic philosophy have connections with the reward systems and with functional analysis. Each informs and complements the other;
- Each approach is dependent on the relationship between the educator and the pupil. The use of PLACE illustrates this well. By using the components of Playfulness, Love, Acceptance (of the person, not necessarily the behaviour) Curiosity and Empathy, the emerging relationship between adult and child is fed. Pupils may not have experienced a consistent relationship which has clear expectations but which holds central the possibility of change, development, success and respect. These relationship characteristics provide a fertile context for learning which begins to be experienced as safe and non-punitive, the opportunity to ‘be more’. For example, the child may experience having power safely and appropriately. This is because there is a link, clearly articulated to them, between their behaviour and what happens next - the pupil has the power (and the support) to decide to try something different, and to achieve a reward. This is achievable because of the care taken in building relationship and because PLACE implies that there will always be a new opportunity to behave differently and to practise doing so. Even when there is a temporary break in the relationship because of behaviour, repair and reconnection takes place as soon as possible. There is a new beginning with nothing carried over.
- Functional analysis describes four functions of behaviour. The use of curiosity (as in PLACE) aids the analysis of behaviours without ever assuming a certainty that we know what is happening and thus shutting down other potentially useful ideas which may emerge in respect of both behaviour and response. Acknowledging the pupil as a unique individual, who is organised in part by ‘life so far’ adds further context to functional analysis. For example, rageful behaviour expressed in a classroom may be an expression of shame, so often seen in children who have been abused, neglected, humiliated or misunderstood. The origin of the shame is likely to be outside school, and may have begun years before. To be curious about the child's internal world, their attachment and relationship experience and the effects of trauma, adds colour and texture to a process of analysing behaviour.
- The co-existence of relationship and engagement is a pillar which further builds the structure of the overall approach. Engagement is a two way process, dependent on the expression (in whatever manner) of humanity and a willingness to "be present" with another. It is indicated by the presence of awareness, curiosity, investigation, discovery, anticipation, persistence and initiation and overall engagement provides the place where the range of human experience can take place, safely, sensitively and respectfully. A therapeutically informed approach requires us to notice what impact we have upon what is happening between ourselves and the pupil. The need for self-reflection and understanding is thus key in the process of engagement both in enabling it to happen, and in modelling reflection to the pupil, in whatever way is appropriate and understandable to them. It is always work in progress!
The significance of the demands that this multi-faceted approach makes upon colleagues is not to be underestimated and at Kingsweston School we are careful to ensure that we invest well in both the professional development of our staff and in making specialist professional advice and guidance available to them.
Staff face the challenge of combining the above requirements of a bespoke curriculum (breadth, balance, relevance, individually designed, flexible and inherently creative), and delivering these within their classroom contexts. Our strand-based organisation for learning recognises the diversity of needs we meet as a school community and endeavours to match this with the EYFS, pre-formal, semi-formal and formal curriculum structures referenced above.
Process based learning
Process based teaching and learning posits that teaching understanding and knowledge together requires a holistic approach, where the process of the lesson becomes the objective. As such there may in some circumstances be no specific individual (SMART) objectives or targets;
- We are open to progress of any description;
- Pupils take the lead where they can;
- Adults ‘ladder’ and ‘scaffold’;
- We record regularly, analyse and moderate assiduously; Intensive Interaction (see the Communication in Context document) is an example of process based teaching where the key elements are:
- Teachers follow, celebrate and extend;
- Teachers act as facilitators to learning by “tuning in” to the learner and looking for “communicative moments”;
- Creating the communicative flow is the objective of the session.
- This model also holds that
- A solely ‘target set’ curriculum has a tendency to drive us to teach to targets;
- These targets are largely based on a pattern of conventional and normative development;
- They are academic in principle;
- They may not allow other learning to take place, or may not attribute value to it, in that the teachers’ drive is towards achieving the target;
- They can compartmentalise and close the notion of learning, rather than adopting an open ended approach.
The open-ended nature of process based teaching and learning not only allows for, but positively encourages, all learners to stretch and be stretched. It ensures that teachers are facilitators of learning rather than trainers. Because the learner is to a large degree in control of their own learning, it naturally lends itself to seeking out motivating activities for each individual learner which in turn increases levels of engagement. High levels of engagement themselves ensure that the learner is stretched and so the upward spiral of progress continues.
Skills Based Teaching and Learning
There is also a place for skills based teaching and learning within our curriculum. Skills based teaching and
learning is anything that might be taught and learned by rote, where complete understanding is not an absolute essential to learning. It is of course desirable and explanations appropriate to the pupil would be a component part of the teaching process, but it is not essential to the outcome. One may for example, teach a pupil how to make a slice of toast without requiring him or her to understand what happens to the bread to turn it into toast. Similarly, we can teach the steps required to wash one’s hands without requiring the learner to understand exactly why washing one’s hands is necessary. Though we may use behavioural task analysis techniques such as chaining, backward chaining, shaping and fading to teach these specific skills, they should always be taught in context and generalised so that knowledge-content (the skills) can at least be related to an understanding of the event, for example, washing hands after using the toilet and before engaging in cooking etc.
Examples of skills based teaching and learning might be:
- Self-help and independence – dressing and undressing, teeth cleaning, washing, using the shower, hair washing and brushing, using the toilet, personal hygiene, eating etc.;
- Some early literacy and numeracy skills – counting to 10, gaining attention etc.
- Counterintuitively, for some, the rote learning of social skills prior to a focus upon generalisation.
- Overlearning of a skill that goes beyond mastery to a point where it becomes automatic.
- There might also be specific skills within various activities:
- Travel training, such as knowing the sequence for crossing at a zebra crossing;
- Shopping and money handling, such as knowing where to put one’s money before going to the shops;
- Cooking and the kitchen, such as knowing how to use a kettle safely;
- Independent living, such as how to make a bed;
- ICT, especially in using a qwerty key board, the sequence necessary for successful texting, how to capture and play back still and moving images on a phone, how to log onto the internet, how to bring up favoured apps on a tablet etc.
This list is not exhaustive and there are many other skills that should be taught by rote, but teachers must beware that this method of teaching can be highly inappropriate in certain areas. For example, pupils may not be secure in their use of number. That is, they may have learned to rote count, but as they cannot detect simple counting errors their ability to use number effectively is largely negated.
In practice, our curriculum will be taught using elements of both process and skills based teaching and staff need to be skilled teachers using both pedagogical approaches.
Specific teaching approaches
When educating pupils with learning difficulties, and specifically pupils with ASC, some educationalists advocate for one or two specific approaches to be used across a school. The argument for this is that it provides a consistency to everything that the pupil experiences and presents less of a challenge when supporting staff development as they need to learn to operate within only a single framework.
At Kingsweston we see the purpose of the curriculum as being about providing a broad and wide ranging educational experience which promotes the development of the young person in the widest possible sense and helps them develop the skills and knowledge necessary to operate within our wider society. We do not subscribe to the use of one specific approach to teaching as we recognise that all our pupils are very different and what works for one young person will not necessarily work for another, given the individual differences in experiences and predispositions that will impact upon learning. Furthermore, we believe that a singular approach cannot serve the learning needs of any individual.
A multi-faceted approach could be perceived as a more difficult path to follow as this requires ensuring all of our staff are conversant with a wide range of teaching approaches and are able to match and evaluate appropriate approaches to and for individual children, making teaching and learning truly person centred. We are, however, committed to this approach from a values informed standpoint and have developed and continue to develop the in-house training and support mechanisms to assist our staff in working this way.
Some of the approaches we use are listed below:
- Intensive Interaction
- Sensory diets
- Sensory integration circuits
- Using tablets
- Interactive music e.g. Tacpac
- Multi-sensory approaches
- Sensory stories
- Colourful Semantics
This is not a comprehensive list and will evolve as we learn with the pupils we support.