Practical and Formal Learning Approaches
Five Acre Wood pupils are grouped in well established Learning Approaches, in line with our core belief that to be fully inclusive is, in philosophical terms, to give learners the opportunity to access their full potential by engineering classroom environments that best meet their diverse needs. Within these groupings, pupils with severe or complex needs follow the practical or formal curriculum models, from Year 2 – Year 11, according to their needs and levels of achievement. These models favour a developmental approach in the sense that rather than allowing subjects or themes to determine (and conceivably hijack) what happens in the Practical and Formal classrooms, learning emanates from the perspective of the ‘core’ skills, knowledge and understanding which our pupils need, enabling ‘learning journeys’ to start from individual pupil’s current strengths and needs. Curriculum content (in the form of an infusion of either ‘themed’ or discrete areas) is then used to provide a rich, co-ordinated and meaningful context in which pupils can practise and embed these skills. This flexible approach, where skills ‘drive’ the curriculum using a combination of ‘vehicles’, ensures that personalised learning is fashioned in the fullest and most rounded of senses: pupils have extensive scope to build their skill, knowledge and understanding ‘base’, establish connections and apply their learning in different contexts, whilst simultaneously benefiting from intensive, discrete input to complement their needs, where necessary.
Pupils following our practical curriculum learn best when learning is related to their own experience. Some may learn through structured play; others will learn more effectively through functional activities, and yet others will respond well to a topic-based approach. The curriculum content echoes the ground covered by the Early Years Foundation Stage (2013) since this framework is not confined to those below the age 5, but rather, extends right across the school where pupils are functioning at pre-level 1. However, the teaching approach reflects the age and learning style of the pupils concerned.
Pupils experiencing our formal curriculum (those operating at Level 1 and above) access the range of National Curriculum subjects for their Key Stage, modified in the light of their developmental level and special educational needs. Specialist areas (the ‘additional curriculum’) are covered both within National Curriculum subjects and in discrete lessons (e.g. a pupil may be withdrawn to work on visual perceptual skills or independent mobility). As the term ‘formal’ implies, there is a high level of structure. We nevertheless avoid making the formal curriculum too abstract; teachers ensure that learning is linked to practical activities and consolidated and applied in practical sessions. Older pupils working at the formal level may pursue accreditation pathways (e.g. Entry Level exams, or in a few cases, GCSEs); they follow the appropriate syllabus in each exam subject.