Skip to content ↓

Curriculum framework

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.

For our youngest pupils we use the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Curriculum as a guide to our planning. Beyond the EYFS the curriculum offer follows three pathways; pre-formal, semi-formal or formal:

  • The pre-formal curriculum is for pupils who have complex and profound learning difficulties; children whose learning is best met through a personalised learning approach based on the principles of communication, cognition, social and emotional development and sensory processing support. At the heart of the curriculum is learning through play.
  • The semi-formal curriculum recognises that many of our pupils have a range of complex obstacles to learning as well as learning difficulties. We meet each pupil’s needs through a personalised approach delivered through a bespoke curriculum offer appropriate for pupils identified as having a severe learning difficulty.
  • The formal curriculum is for pupils who are working at levels that can be related to National Curriculum performance expectations. This group of pupils is largely taught through individual subjects such as Maths, English and Science. At Key Stage 2 and 3 these may be grouped into thematic modules.

Our oldest students will be undertaking relevant learning from a wide range of accredited courses during Years 10 and 11 which are relevant to their needs and abilities. For those who then stay onto our sixth form, there will be additional accreditation opportunities with an emphasis upon preparation for life beyond school.

Further information about each of these pathways can be found later in this document.

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.

Attachment Theory

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:·        

  • Awareness
  • Curiosity
  • Investigation
  • Discovery
  • Anticipation
  • Persistence
  • Initiation

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.

Curriculum Principles

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. Three parent meetings are held each year at which there is an opportunity to review progress and discuss aspirations for learning.

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.

Curriculum Organisation

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.

The Early Years Curriculum

Our ethos within the Foundation Stage can be described as ‘Learning to play and playing to learn.’

We work to the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Curriculum. The EYFS Curriculum is organised into seven areas:

  • Personal, Social and Emotional Development
  • Communication and Language
  • Mathematics
  • Understanding the World
  • Physical Development
  • Expressive Arts and Design
  • Literacy

We are sensitive to the individual development of each child to ensure that the activities they undertake are suitable for the stage that they have reached and we make use of the Bristol Differentiated Early Years Outcomes (DEYO) to support our work in this regard. We aim to stretch our children but not push them beyond their capabilities so that they always continue to enjoy learning.

Children’s earliest experiences help to build a secure foundation for learning throughout their school years. Therefore all our activities are planned to ensure maximum learning takes place throughout the day, whilst ongoing observations are completed to assess the learning and respond accordingly.

We enjoy a wide variety of activities throughout the week embedded within a familiar structure. This approach supports engagement and is designed to help the children learn new skills, gain confidence and form good relationships with both staff and other children.

The Pre-Formal Curriculum

The pre-formal curriculum is for pupils who have complex and profound learning difficulties; children whose learning is best met through a personalised learning approach based on the principles of communication, cognition, social and emotional development and sensory processing support. At the heart of the curriculum is learning through play.

Pupils for whom the pre-formal curriculum is relevant will have a range of profound and complex needs linked to a combination of other profound difficulties such as cognitive processing and sensory needs. Many of these pupils will rely on facial expressions, vocal sounds, body language and exhibit a range of behaviours to communicate. Some may use a small range of formal communications; others may not have reached the stage of using intentional communication. All are unique individuals.

The pre-formal curriculum is one which:

  • Takes a holistic view of the pupils by focussing on how they best learn.
  • Acknowledges and celebrates the different abilities and achievements of learners with the most complex needs.
  • Recognises the importance of play in a pupil’s development and the need for sensory and multi-sensory approaches to learning.
  • Focusses on the early communication, social, emotional and cognitive skills that are the foundation of learning.
  • Supports development by employing approaches which take account of their emotional well-being.
  • Recognises atypical patterns of development which impact on learners’ ability to process new information and stimuli; a curriculum that recognises that some pupils have difficulties in forming attachments or interacting socially. Furthermore, it recognises the value of the fundamental principles of Intensive Interaction as described by Nind and Hewitt, (see the Kingsweston Communication in Context document).
  • Provides a medium for learning; we will ensure that it is flexible and adaptable enough to meet the individual needs of each of the pre-formal learners.
  • Recognises that it is the main vehicle through which the targets for learning priorities arising from a pupil’s EHCP will be achieved.
  • Recognises that many of our pupils have a range of complex obstacles to learning as well as learning difficulties. We meet each pupil’s needs through a personalised approach delivered through a bespoke curriculum offer. 

The pre-formal curriculum is for learners largely working between P1 and P3.

The Semi-Formal Curriculum

The semi-formal curriculum recognises that many of our pupils have a range of complex obstacles to learning as well as learning difficulties. We meet each pupil’s needs through a personalised approach delivered through a bespoke curriculum offer appropriate for pupils with a severe learning difficulty.

It is an approach based on the pupil developing their core learning skills and becoming a literate communicator and a mathematical thinker. This approach encompasses the development of thinking skills, creative learning, sensory processing and transition skills and is designed to be developmentally appropriate. It enables all pupils to take part in activities that are engaging, meaningful to them and provide relevant and challenging goals.

It is a curriculum for pupils who learn best when learning is related to their own experiences. Some pupils may learn through structured play whilst others will learn more effectively through functional activities or through topic-based approaches.

 Older pupils will be expected to achieve accreditation in awards and certificates that make use of formal accreditation schemes which are carefully matched to learning needs. There are opportunities for learning that focus upon the development of independence skills and preparation for their next stage beyond school.

The semi-formal curriculum is for learners largely working between P4 and P8.


The Formal Curriculum

The formal curriculum is for pupils who are working at levels that can be related to National Curriculum performance expectations. This group of pupils, who at Kingsweston have a primary need of ASC and are based at either Shirehampton, Brightstowe or Ashley Down, are largely taught through individual subjects such as Maths, English and Science. At KS2 and KS3 these may be grouped into thematic modules.

Pupils at Key Stages 2–3 will follow National Curriculum subjects and the core subjects at Key Stage 4. All pupils  within the 14-19 age range will undertake accreditation routes through awards or examinations, including Entry Level and Functional Skills. A small cohort of pupils may undertake GCSEs. This group of pupils benefits from structures that support personalised learning. Older pupils will undertake work related learning including, for most, opportunities for work experience. The formal curriculum recognises that many of the pupils have a range of needs and may require access to further specialist interventions. This is made available through specifically designed arrangements, for example access to members of The Team around the Child for emotional health and wellbeing support.

The formal curriculum recognises that many of our pupils have a range of complex obstacles to learning that need to be addressed in order to support their engagement and progress. Social communication skills, sensory processing difficulties and complex attachments needs feature within the formal curriculum pupil profile. We meet each of these pupil’s needs through a personalised approach delivered through a bespoke curriculum offer. 

The Post 16 Curriculum

Kingsweston has two Post 16 provisions which operate independently of one another and at two different sites. At our Napier Miles site there is a curriculum offer suitable for young adults whose needs are aligned with a pre or semi-formal curriculum offer adapted to the needs of learners within this age group. At our Ashley Down provision there is an equivalent offer for young people able to engage with a formal curriculum offer.

In Post 16 the curriculum changes to reflect the change in emphasis in preparing our young people for life beyond school. We want them to be confident, independent and responsible individuals who feel equipped to make informed choices about their futures. We consolidate students’ prior study and aim to broaden and develop previous skills.

We strive to ensure learners progress and leave as young adults who are as independent as possible, at home, in the community and potentially in the work place. In providing content over concept based learning we aim to enable learners to participate actively and make meaningful contributions to their local communities and wider society.

Every learner has a bespoke learning plan with focused targets providing milestones towards aspirational goals and post school destinations. Staff are passionate about and committed to providing a broad and balanced vocational curriculum, ensuring that previous learning is built upon in a way that is functional, vocational and promotes further independence.

Support for transition is extensive and we work with an employability advisor and hold transition and employability events to support pupil and family understanding and engagement with post school destinations. Other links include with the Job Centre who support interview practice and CV writing.

Access to Post 16 provision is determined by the Local Authority on the basis of the needs identified within each pupils EHCP. 

The curriculum offer for each pupil, whatever its title, draws its content from a range of sources relevant to each pupil:

  • The Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum framework.
  • The pre-formal curriculum framework.
  • The semi-formal curriculum framework.
  • The formal curriculum framework.
  • The Post 16 curriculum framework.
  • Short term priorities derived from the end of key stage aspirations identified within each pupil’s Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).
  • Support for engagement and learning orientated behaviours. This will be provided in a way that is appropriate to the individual pupil. Amongst the ways in which we promote engagement are: approaches informed by mindfulness; understanding of ‘self’ (especially the impact of ASC); and trying to understand the world from the perspective of the pupil and supporting them accordingly.
  • Progression planners. These are themed around dimensions of life skills, health and wellbeing and are used to support learning in those areas of the curriculum which lie outside of the National Curriculum, for example behaviour in social settings, managing money, etc. We may also make reference to structures such as that from the Autism Education Trust (AET).
  • Emotional health and wellbeing. We draw upon a number of frameworks to inform our practice. Key amongst them are systems theory, attachment theory and PLACE (Playfulness, Loving attitude, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy).

Developmental pathways

Whilst we recognise that pupils with special educational needs do not necessarily follow a typical developmental pathway, the curriculum needs to provide a framework which can support those that learn in both a ‘typical’ and an ‘atypical’ manner – often the same pupil at different times or in different contexts. For many of our learners the often applied concept of developmental delay is a misnomer. Instead we should be aware of the likelihood of ‘difference’ rather than ‘delay’.

In general terms most of our teachers are well grounded in conventional skills-based pedagogical methodologies; this having been provided in their mainstream school orientated Initial Teacher Training. The focus of our Continuing Professional Development strategy is therefore typically orientated towards ‘atypical’ process based strategies underpinned by the theoretical frameworks cited at the beginning of this document.

Hewett has described the learning process for pupils with significant SEN as being markedly different from a more typical ‘mainstream’ learning profile in which broadly linear profiles of sequential learning steps can be predicted and provided for. He contrasts these learning profiles in the following way:

This broadly linear and predictably sequential nature of learning is contrasted with that of the pupil with significant and complex learning needs, represented in a contrasting diagram:

Hewett’s views are reflected in the Progression Guidance 2010 -11 which states ‘It is noted that some children do not learn in a linear way. They have uneven attainment profiles and will be making good progress even if they remain within the lower quartile’ (page 17). We need to sustain an approach informed by very high expectations, reflecting our ambition for the pupils and the belief we have in their capacity to learn. However we also need to recognise that assessment tools based solely upon concepts of linear progression will fail to recognise the diversity of achievements made by many. There is a need to ensure that our approaches to both teaching and assessment reflect the learning characteristics of our pupils.

Lawson, Byers, Rayner, Aird and Pease usefully capture the issue and a way forward: ‘A linear curriculum is rarely appropriate for learners with SLD/PMLD as they tend to have spiky learning profiles. However if ‘developmental’ is interpreted not as a linear pathway but instead as being in opposition to a step-by-step skills-based curriculum with pre-designed outcomes, a different position is possible. In this way a developmental curriculum may alternatively be regarded as creating the best conditions for a learner’s development through appropriate relationships, activities, scaffolding and stimuli so that learning takes place in a way that reflects the individual.’

Supporting our staff through both appropriate systems and strategically targeted CPD is essential if we are to enable them to draw upon both traditional and process based pedagogical approaches, with the ability to interpret, assess and identify a broad repertoire of progress and attainment as well as plan for process based learning… the ability to act with people rather than on them.

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:
  • Tasklessness;
  • 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:

  • PECS
  • Makaton
  • Intensive Interaction
  • Sensory diets
  • Sensory integration circuits
  • Using tablets
  • Interactive music e.g. Tacpac
  • Multi-sensory approaches
  • Sensory stories
  • Colourful Semantics
  • Sherborne movement

This is not a comprehensive list and will evolve as we learn with the pupils we support.