3. Background to Curriculum Development for Children and Young People with Significant and Complex Needs in Scotland
In 1994 the HMI Report ‘Effective Provision for Special educational Needs’ (EPSEN) described ten distinctive features of effective provision for children with special educational needs. Much of the practical advice in EPSEN is still relevant albeit the national context has changed and professional and parental expectations have significantly increased.
The EPSEN Report stated “For children and young persons with special educational needs, education is of immense importance – often the most critical factor contributing to the quality of their lives in childhood and in adulthood. Special educational needs may be expressed in statements about what has to be done to assist the individual to make progress. These statements should be written in such a way as to allow teachers to derive learning and teaching targets which are the central focus of an action plan covering:
- the planning of educational programmes;
- the content of the curriculum;
- learning and teaching strategies;
- the most suitable contexts for learning and teaching;
- the nature of intervention by school staff;
- the nature ofintervention by support services, such as therapists;
- the advice and guidance to enable school staff to be effective;
- the materials and equipment required;
- approaches to assessment; and
- special arrangements for liaison with parents and other establishments.”
The Report continued: “For pupils who require additional or alternative programmes to meet their special educational needs, fragmentation is avoided by adjusting the balance of the curriculum to emphasise those subjects which are most relevant to their interests and needs, while at the same time retaining breadth in the curriculum. For example, many pupils respond with enthusiasm to a programme which is built around personal and social development and vocational skills, but without neglecting other important subjects, such as English language, mathematics, science, social subjects, technology, religious education and creative and aesthetic courses.”
It is remarkable how these sentiments remain in accord with current thinking.
The Education 5-14 Guidelines suitably adapted or elaborated and SQA Access courses helped to shape suitable curriculum opportunities for children with significant and complex needs. However, since the EPSEN report there has been little national practical guidance for schools to develop a suitable curriculum model which can be delivered within a mainstream or specialist setting and still effectively meets the needs of children with significant and complex needs. One school believed CfE has provided this opportunity. Prior to CfE the school already had in place very good curricular opportunities and some excellent teaching and learning. The difference now is that this good practice can now sit within a nationally accepted framework which takes account of CfE experiences and outcomes as they pertain to children with significant and complex needs.
It is believed that this presentation of this school’s curricular development will help to dispel the notion that the curriculum in this (special) school is less worthy than that in a mainstream school, or that the (personalised) learning opportunities for each child are not sufficiently challenging, or that teaching and learning is not of the highest quality. This is not a watered down version of a mainstream curriculum.
The school is not simply entertaining the children and keeping them safe! This school’s curriculum is a sophisticated range of developments which effectively uses tried and tested resources and pedagogy set within the framework of CfE and which is tailored to meet the needs of its learners. It is believed that the curriculum model can also be used in specialist provisions within mainstream schools.