Our curriculum will encompass all that we say, teach and learn in the School, both formally and informally, and will support all to build bridges over barriers and to overcome difficulties in learning. Thus, it will be the primary method of provision delivery, enabling academic and social success for our pupils by maintaining a rigorous but flexible and adaptive approach, securing successful future pathways for all our pupils and preparing them for life after school.
We have developed the FARS approach, based on four key areas: Flexibility, Adaptability, Rigour and Success. These underpin all aspects of what we do as a school, driving forward our collective goal of achieving the very best social and academic success for our pupils. This definition of curriculum is as far reaching and relevant as possible, covering everything from: offering a focused and relevant academic curriculum enabling pupils to maximize progress and be prepared for life after school; meeting individual personal and developmental needs; developing skills such as communication, reflection, independence, innovation, compassion, resilience and problem solving; providing diverse, active and exciting learning environments; celebrating achievement; and working with and welcoming the local community within the school.
Under the four core ethos FARS areas we intend to deliver a cohesive and comprehensive curriculum. To help provide oversight of the principles under each of the FARS we have given examples for each of the areas below:
A flexible curriculum means that we can ensure that our pupils are offered the very best chance to succeed both academically and socially, and that they are ready for the real world not just through formal academic outcomes, but also with relevant social skills and with an understanding of their part in society and how to find their rightful place within it. This curriculum will empower our pupils to be socially mobile and not limited by their diagnosis. The core diagnosis of ASC/SEMH incorporates elements of communication difficulties, such as responding inappropriately in conversations, misreading nonverbal interactions, or having difficulty building friendships appropriate to their age. This curriculum flexibility enables us to build a curriculum to target these specific needs and ensure that these skills are explicitly taught. Within the curriculum section below there is specific detail over what this will look like at ACE Tiverton.
Flexibility within teaching styles and approaches
Flexibility will be especially important in the first three years of operation as we will initially combine some of the different year groups until we reach capacity. We will group pupils by need and their particular offer being similar. This may include academic stage and prior attainment, age, and/or specific SEN such as sensory difficulties requiring an adapted environment. This flexibility should not be confused with short term changes which bring uncertainty to staff and pupils. In an ASC/ESMH School this would not suit the needs of all of the pupils, many of whom will look for structure and consistency.
Flexibility of staff at all levels
We understand that initially we will have a core of staff who will have to be masters of a number of different roles until we reach full capacity and can recruit to all the roles required. ACE has a model of operation which allows our most skilled subject specialists to have a timetable enabling them to be deployed across Devon and Cornwall for some of every week. This will add capacity to a small growing School with a small core staff group. This small core staff will learn flexibility in roles, engendering that same sense of flexibility to share workload at times of high work load due to yearly stressors such as exams or transitions of pupils. Our experience of this ethos in practice has shown that it will help us to support individual and groups of pupils and to deal with unexpected staff absences, giving us the capacity to provide support when required both inside and outside our School.
Flexible curriculum space and the built environment
The design of the School will have a consistent approach, with an emphasis on creating light and spacious classrooms and shared areas, and with a calming colour scheme. It will be important to have low stimulus environment such as clutter free wall and floor spaces with areas to support internal regulation for pupils at key times.
The learning spaces will be used flexibly and reorganised according to the needs of the individuals and the learning activity. There will be spaces to help our learners minimize external stimulus but also to enable gradual adaptation to a busier environment, helping them prepare for a successful pathway after ACE Tiverton. Pupils will be encouraged to develop the understanding of self which will enable them to recognize the impact of environment on their capacity to behave appropriately and to learn effectively. These skills will be taught discreetly and included across the curriculum such as through Tutor time, PE, outdoor learning and within Successful Futures.
Flexible nutrition and sensory experiences
Each pupil will have a sensory profile on entry which will be regularly reviewed. This will enable a personalised sensory programme and sensory diet for those who need them. This will be based on a three-way triangulation between pupil, parent and previous School to ensure the correct sensory stimuli are used and a plan prepared to increase this to help prepare for adult life.
The latest research will be incorporated to enable our learners to gain the best advantage through properly balanced diets and experiencing new tastes and coping with this form of stimuli. Social skills will also be developed at this important whole school social time.
Adaptability will help us to create and direct what happens on a strategic as well as day to day level. This adaptability will be essential to help us create not just the structure of education for our pupils but also to recognise how this needs to change to meet the needs of particular cohorts at particular times. As a School we will not be afraid to evaluate, adapt and adjust what we do to make sure our pupils gain the most from their time at ACE Tiverton. Some examples of how this adaptability is embodied within the curriculum in the holistic sense are shown below.
An individualised approach
Pupils attending the school will experience an individualised approach to their learning. Each pupil will have a personalized and shared learning programme which will respond to their particular levels of learning and identify strategies to ensure progress. Pupils will be taught by fully qualified specialist teachers and support staff sensitive to their needs, giving them access to a high quality educational experience. We will be offering provision for children from KS3 through to KS4 and will focus on developing a sense of community which will enhance both learning and personal development over their time in School. The relatively small scale of the School (70 commissioned places) will ensure successful relationships built up over the long term between staff and pupils as well as with families. An example of this flexibility could be the different approach that the curriculum may be applied for a pupil who has Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). Whilst PDA falls under the diagnosis of ASC, the pupil may have significantly different flexibilities within the curriculum due to their level of need for negotiation and for learning styles such as role play. These would be difficult for many other ASC pupils to access due to their need for routines and stability for their learning environment.
Child-centred approach and partnership working
We will embrace an adaptable Person-Centred Approach, encouraging multi-agency involvement and will work in partnership with colleagues from health and social care, as well as other appropriate support services such as the Communication and Interaction Team (CIT) and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), thus creating effective teams around the child. We will encourage and support a holistic approach towards both the child and the family in order to best meet individual needs. ACE provides a holistic family support service for pupils and families at all our Schools to enable all children and families to cope with the difficult and complex task of education This support is based on the need of the children and can range from the support of individual family workers, to group sessions to support and build family networks, to linking with other specialist services and the LA services.
Regular meetings between staff, parents/carers and other professionals both on a formal and informal basis will help us review and hone the support required at that time at multiple levels. We will either work directly with the family or through agencies as required. This approach will be centred around the ECHP.
An inclusive and low stimulus environment
The organisation of the School will minimise change for all pupils during the school day by creating a calm, stable learning environment, in which, depending on the needs of the cohort, movement between lessons and changes of teaching staff may be minimised. Teaching groups will be sufficiently small to enable delivery of lessons to the whole class and thereby avoid the social exclusion sometimes seen in mainstream schools. The environment will be adaptive to the needs of the learners and will change with the cohorts needs according to their pathologies and diagnosis.
There will be the provision for smaller spaces, different acoustics and displays that are less cluttered. We will have the ability to be flexible in supporting our pupils, and allow the use of headphones as appropriate, different colours/types of paper or sectioning off parts of a classroom are some of the ways we support some sensory issues. Uniform is often an issue for this cohort of pupils at a mainstream school, as some are extremely uncomfortable wearing restrictive ties or specific shoes, preferring the comfort of trainers and open necked tops. Although we will have a uniform, it will be simple and flexible: white shirt or polo shirt, black trousers and black shoes/trainers. Where buttons are an issue, plain white T-Shirts will be acceptable and form part of an individualised plan.
We will take into account issues with lighting, noise, travel, size of corridors and so on, in order to reduce triggers of anxiety. Our curriculum and off-site activities will create exposure to particular triggers, without making it explicit, and, with the support of the staff members, the pupils will be able to manage their anxieties and develop strategies to enable them to function outside of ACE Tiverton.
RIGOUR is essential in ensuring that we achieve the best possible outcomes for our pupils throughout all stages of their School life at ACE Tiverton. Whilst we acknowledge that our pupils will have special needs we know that it is our purpose to ensure that we meet these needs and barriers to learning are removed as effectively as possible so that our pupils make rapid and sustained improvements to their progression and ultimately the qualifications they attain. We also believe that this progression is equally important in social areas in that we prepare our pupils to be as emotionally intelligent as possible and ready for the real world. We believe that a core part of this preparation will be around our pupils understanding what British Values are and the structure of modern society. This rigour will also be evident through specific socialisation programmes delivered across the curriculum. The ultimate aim is to ensure that our pupils grow in independence and understand how to be healthy leading to their successful participation in society and become socially mobile. All pupils on leaving school will enter employment, training, further or higher education.
A high-quality alternative
Our school will be a high-quality alternative to mainstream provision or specialist provision within a mainstream setting, thereby providing the best possible experience for all pupils, within a safe, caring and stimulating environment to reduce barriers to learning. There will be a rigorous expectation that pupils can achieve high level qualifications and rapid progress can be made with the right learning environment. Our pupils will have the opportunity to make rapid progress from their starting points with the aspiration of maximising outcomes and ensuring that pupils are prepared and qualified for their next steps in education/employment recognising that each individual and cohort will have different needs. Because the class sizes are so much smaller than mainstream School there will be a far more beneficial staff to pupil ratio, ensuring more specific targeted attention in their academic and social outcomes.
High expectations of both pupils and staff
We will expect all pupils to make rapid academic, social and emotional progress from an accurately assessed starting point, and thereafter will accurately monitor this for all our pupils to enable appropriate and timely action to be taken. Teaching approaches such as TEACCH will be used as appropriate, to give a structured and comprehensive framework in which to help develop independent study skills. Staff will be proactive in finding the most effective ways to support the needs and special interests of our pupils. This will be strongly rooted in research and pedagogy.
There will be an expectation that Action Research will inform practice and that staff will be engaged in post graduate study to enhance their skill level. Through our partnership work with the National Autistic Society (NAS) we will seek to gain the Autism Friendly School status and also secure have close links with both our local Universities in Plymouth and Exeter, the South West Teaching School Alliance and through course participation, action research and Masters level input.
Celebration of individual achievements
We will recognise and celebrate the achievements of each pupil, challenging them to extend and push themselves in all aspects. As much as academic success will be recognised, likewise social skills progress will be celebrated within the School and shared with families and other agencies as appropriate. Pupils will be part of the PiXL Edge scheme in which to develop social skills in adaptive environments to help pupils master essential Leadership, Organisational, Resilience, Independence and Communication (LORIC) skills towards successful pathways to independence and readiness for taking their place in society. This relates to our Star Skills programme which focuses on preparing pupils for Post-16 learning.
Star Skills is an assessment system which focuses on ten areas of personal development; attendance; organization; following rules; co-operative working; communication; managing emotions; safety and risk awareness; learning for life; behaviour; and commitment to learning. Each pupil will be individually assessed and scored in these areas, and target areas for development identified, breaking down the broader descriptors of assessment areas into smaller steps to ensure their relevance for each individual and for pupils from Year 7-11. Pupils will be aware of their targets and the behaviours needed to achieve them. Achievement will be regularly tracked and forms part of six weekly reviews and annual EHC reviews. This will enable the success of our pupils to be literally celebrated on a national stage as well as providing the structure and support to help recognise the success of our pupils as they take small steps towards their goals. We will also use the SeeSaw application to inform parents/carers of individuals’ achievements.
The proof that the other curriculum principles are working effectively is that we will be able to evidence academic and social success. On-going successes will be celebrated at all levels from a lesson to lesson basis as well as throughout the week and throughout the longer school calendar which will be structured to include regular opportunities to recognize and celebrate achievement. Celebration will be structured around the needs of our individual pupils and will help ensure that they receive both extrinsic reward and also develop an intrinsic reward mechanism in their preparation for independence and participation in society.
Success through holistic support
ACE family provides a holistic family support service. The range of support is based on the needs of the children and can range from individual family workers supporting and mentoring families to overcome problems presented by challenging behaviour, mental illness, school refusal and risk-taking behaviour. ACE family has great links with other specialist services and local authority services to be able to hold the family at the centre of a multi-agency group. We will provide support to families and parents/carers through various routes such as Support Groups, holiday play schemes, family events and reviews, taking into account that parents/carers are the experts on their child. We will provide social opportunities at which parents/carers can feel assured that their children are both safe and that their behaviours will not be considered an inconvenience to others. Such events also enable the networking of parents/carers who frequently feel isolated within their own neighbourhood due to the disability of their children.
The school will be outward looking and identify opportunities to engage with the local community of Tiverton including identifying opportunities to share the School facilities with the community. As aforementioned, we will look to establish a Bud Club in Tiverton to help support families with ASC children and siblings on a fortnightly basis. We will also work with the other local schools in the Tiverton area to enhance support packages for pupils with SEND.
We believe in providing a holistic approach when supporting the health and emotional wellbeing of children. We believe that children need to be in a stable emotional state so that they can learn, thrive and form healthy relationships with staff and one another. Therefore we will provide a range of therapeutic approaches to meet the needs of our children and young people.
Everybody communicates through behaviour. Adults and children are communicating something through their behaviour during every moment in every day, even if they are not aware of it. Challenging or inappropriate behaviour is therefore a form of communication. As a school which supports children identified as having communication and interactions difficulties and social emotional mental health difficulties, the children and young people will, at times, use challenging behaviour to communicate unmet needs. It is therefore crucial that our aims as a school are to understand and recognise behaviour as a communication to effectively support the children and enable them to develop communication strategies to empower them and remove self -esteem and behaviour as barrier to their learning.
The staff will be highly effective in supporting children with ADHD, ASC, Attachment Difficulties/Disorder, alcohol and drug related neurodevelopmental conditions, speech and language difficulties, sensory processing difficulties and a range of co-morbid medical conditions such as epilepsy and mental health conditions. This will be achieved by sharing the expertise of Courtlands Special Academy and ACE Schools Plymouth in long term and enduring SEMH and ASC needs, in a bespoke and shared staff training package.
Pupils prepared for a successful life in modern Britain
Pupils will be prepared for life through gaining qualifications and experiencing the working environment through carefully selected work placements with partner organisations who share our ethos and values. Pupils will also receive guidance on understanding the world around them and helping them to construct systems to help them decode situations and scenarios to help them make sense of expectations and appropriate responses in a wide variety of situations. We passionately believe that through developing resilience as part of this targeted curriculum we will help our pupils to become socially mobile and find their place in 21st Century Britain.
Targeted communication strategies
In addition to our own Occupational Therapist we will work closely with our professionals from speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and mental health through the Communication and Interaction Team (CIT). We will develop and use those techniques which will establish clear ways of communicating effectively with each pupil and help the pupils to communicate effectively with adults and other pupils.
Our Occupational Therapists and complementary therapies will prepare pupils to be able to communicate effectively with support techniques to enable them to engage with qualifications and with further education and learning opportunities, and ultimately with jobs where they can use their skills and talents.