8. Organisation of Curriculum (for Excellence) Areas for Children with Significant and Complex Needs
Staff then discussed and agreed how to organise the CfE curriculum areas in a way that guaranteed full entitlement and also ensured that the learning needs and learning levels of their children and young people were met. As a result, the curriculum in the school is organised through 4 curricular headings which consist of:
- Health and Wellbeing(3*); and
- Citizenship which includes social cultural studies (RME and Social studies) and Expressive Arts.
Special schools have struggled to come to terms with the way in which they meet the individual and special(ist) needs of each child or young person whilst also ensuring an entitled breadth and as appropriate, depth, of curriculum. The nature of individual education plans (IEPs) and the on-going debate about what they should contain has also added to the confusion. In addition, there are misconceptions that significant and complex needs can only ever be met through individualised (one-to-one) support. Staff wished to find a way forward which met both the individual needs of children and ensured broad curricular entitlement within small group settings.
In the first instance, the school embraced the CfE thinking that Literacy, Numeracy and Health & Wellbeing are the core areas for development of skills for all children and young people. As a result, along with their key partners who include therapists, the school nurse and parents, they continue to personalise targets for the development of skills in these areas within IEPs. IEP targets take account of each individual’s strengths and needs. Examples of IEPs are shown at Part 4.
Secondly the school used Citizenship as the overarching heading for planned learning contexts which ensured breadth and entitlement of experience for children and young people as well as providing the opportunity to develop the four capacities. In line with Vygotsky’s thinking and the importance of social group working – realising someone else is there, developing social skills and working co-operatively – the school’s approach to delivering citizenship promotes group and whole school learning. In best practice teachers are individualising group learning.
In order to ensure that all children and young people in nursery, primary and secondary classes have learning opportunities across all subjects areas in line with BtC3, the school has developed 3-year (thematic) Planning Cycles to deliver Citizenship across all stages. The 3-year Citizenship Planning Cycles provide a suitable range of learning contexts which ensure breadth, depth as appropriate, and progression. This careful organisation of the curriculum enables more precise recording and tracking of progress and skills development, as well as ensuring entitlement of the curriculum. Whole-school learning experiences such as ECO school activities, Health and Wellbeing focus, Rights Respecting Schools and real life learning situations such as community visits as well as specific challenges also ensure a broad and meaningful totality of curriculum. In addition, on two afternoons per week secondary young people choose (with some support) their activity from a range of relevant experiences. Importantly, the core skills of literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing are also embedded within the cross-curricular cycle of themes. The school has also carefully considered how it ensures that all four CfE Learning contexts – Ethos and life of the school as a community; Curriculum areas and subjects; Interdisciplinary learning; Opportunities for personal achievement – are embraced within its curriculum and learning environment.
Examples of the 3-year Planning Cycle of learning contexts are shown here
Each session each teacher uses one year of the Planning Cycle as their Annual Plan in order to ensure that there is breadth across the curriculum for all their pupils. In addition, there are Annual Plans for Art which take account of and enhance all the other planned activities in the school, whilst also promoting art skills at appropriate levels. From their Annual Plans, teachers then develop their planning sheet, known as their Curriculum Planner. These show the learning and teaching context for the group and provide an excellent starting point for teachers to create relevant, exciting and stimulating tasks and activities for learners with outcomes and experiences clarified. Teachers do not have to re-invent plans on a regular basis and more importantly the school is confident that during three years all children and young people are receiving the breadth of curriculum to which they are entitled. An example of a Curriculum Planner is shown here. An example of an Eco Curriculum Planner is shown at this link. The principles of CfE have guided practitioners to deliver a more coherent range of learning experiences in a way which absolutely meets the needs of the children and young people in this school. A ‘Fleshed out’ Curriculum Planner shown here shows the tasks and activities developed by one teacher.
Another key feature of the school’s Citizenship curriculum is the development of its Skills Framework which takes account of the development of skills at a level appropriate to the needs of their children and young people. Building the Curriculum 4 poses the question: “What do we mean by ‘skills for learning, life and work?” and goes on to say: “People use different terminology to refer to skills or attributes. Skills for Scotland set out a wide range of skills that might be included in any definition. It focused on a number of overlapping clusters of skills: Personal and learning skills that enable individuals to become effective lifelong /earners; literacy and numeracy; the five core skills of communication, numeracy, problem solving, information technology and working with others; Essential skills that include all of the above; Vocational skills that are specific to a particular occupation or sector …They are skills that can be developed by all learners, whenever and wherever they are learning.”
On the basis that the outcomes of CfE are written for children aged 3-18 of ‘typical development’, the school felt it necessary to develop an appropriate Skills Framework – supported by the Equals P-Scales – which reflected the fact that their children and young people’s development is generally at a level below 3 years. The skills contained within the school’s Skills Framework are therefore the necessary precursors or prerequisite skills to enable them to access and attain the skills which are specified within CfE outcomes. The Skills Framework is explained in the following links: Primary Skills; Secondary skills; skills bank 1, 2 & 3 and pupil skills profile. They are important in supporting the skills development work undertaken within IEPs in literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing since they are also practised and generalised within the broader citizenship learning contexts. During each term, there is a focus on the development specific skills so that accurate reporting on progress can be made. The school’s Skills Framework was developed from the skills underlying CfE outcomes which staff believed were relevant for their children.
The school has identified skills to be developed in PE and art. For example, in art, skills to be developed were agreed as:
- observation – looking, touching, handling;
- colour mixing;
- modelling 2D/modelling 3D;
- presenting and evaluating;
These skills ore shown here (art) and (PE). To ensure a personalised approach to the assessment of skills development it was agreed that pupils’ skills would be assessed at three levels in respect of working towards learning outcomes. These Levels of Learning are described as:
- learning about.
This practice is underpinned by Vygotsky’s idea of scaffolding for learners. Increasingly, staff believe the school population is at the encountering and experiencing levels and that most children who are at the ‘learn about’ stage of development, could be included within mainstream schools. This rigorous assessment approach is the key to evidencing progression, often using photographs and certainly where possible involving children.
In summary as far as the planning of the curriculum is concerned, the school operates a two-pronged approach which:
- provides a broad, motivating and challenging range of learning experiences within its 3-year Planning Cycle, to develop life skills, promote personal development and achievement, under the overarching curricular heading of citizenship which is clarified within small group Curriculum Planners and takes full account of each young person’s Skills Development Level.
In short, the school uses an individualised approach at all times and aims to generalise the specific skills of individuals and support them to use their skills in a range of different learning contexts.
3* Health and Wellbeing includes:
• specific areas of development for children and young people – targets in IEPs;
• cycle of topics for secondary classes;
• on going developments for individual children in nursery and primary classes;
• physical education programme;
• swimming, rebound therapy, choice afternoons ;
• residence placements and experiences.