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Castle School

Castle School


How we organise learning

Our curriculum aims to make the child’s learning stimulating, creative, fun and successful whilst setting high expectations for every child. It is delivered through high quality teaching based on sound knowledge and understanding of each child’s needs. This will mean shaping teaching around the way different pupils learn and taking care to nurture the unique talents of every pupil. We have developed a coherent curriculum based on a range of compelling learning experiences, which excite and inspire our learners. We aim to develop in each pupil aspirations to succeed and achieve their best, while providing a foundation for lifelong learning. We believe that children learn best when they are happy and secure, so we strive to foster fun and an enjoyment of learning.



Our learners follow one of three learning strands, with the possibility for flexibility and movement between them: pre-formal, semi-formal and formal. These are all described in detail below.

  • The overall goal in each strand is to make progress against learners’ EHCP outcomes, which are co-produced with learners, families and other supporting professionals, in line with our therapeutic ethos.
  • Strands become progressively more subject-specific, but a high level of cross-curricular integration remains throughout
  • Learners in each strand follow a sequence of topic themes to provide rich, motivating experiences. 
  • Class teachers can choose from a wide range of interventions and pedagogical approaches to deliver the curriculum themes and work towards EHCP outcomes.

Learning approaches 

The curriculum experiences offered at Castle school are based on National Curriculum principles adapted to individual need. Our therapeutic approach allows for variation in, pace, content, level and the method of presentation to ensure that learning experiences are appropriate for all children. We work closely with the Multi Agency Teams, our school based therapists and parents to develop personalised learning programmes for students. Strong emphasis is placed on the development of life and independence skills to enable pupils to become independent learners, confident communicators, resilient explorers, and be well-prepared for life after school.  

Our core curriculum focuses on developing the four areas of the Education Health and Care plan. These are Cognition and Learning, Social Emotional and Mental Health, Sensory, Physical and Life Skills and Communication and Interaction. These are underpinned by our therapeutic approach.

We have identified six key areas of learning: Maths, English, PSHE, Physical, Creativity, and Our World. These are further explained here. We strongly believe in contextualised learning and taught curriculum is enhanced by a range of opportunities in and out of school. The six areas of learning each have a half-term when there is a deeper focus. During the half-term there will be key events and staff training linked to that area of learning.

The principles of Fundamental British Values are focused on across all curriculum areas.

Breadth, progression and stretch 

All children, particularly those with additional needs, develop in different ways. Development is not a linear or automatic process. It depends on each unique child having opportunities to interact in positive relationships and enabling environments, which encourage their engagement and recognise their strengths. All children have agency and curiosity to learn, and will interact with other people and the world around them in different ways. Understanding these different ways of knowing about the world is central to understanding who children are and how best to support their development. 

Our overarching aim is to prepare our pupils for adulthood and the progression, breath and stretch within our curriculum is designed to do this.  

For our pre-formal learners, The Engagement Model is used as a tool for reflection and discussion, to identify gaps and develop teaching approaches. Staff regularly reflect on their practice and ensure up-to-date research is used to plan their curriculum. As pupils move through the school we ensure age-appropriate resources and experiences are utilised so that pupils can generalise and consolidate their skills and knowledge.  

For semi-formal and formal learners, we encourage learning to take place in context and aim for pupils to consolidate and generalise skills and knowledge at home and within the community.  

In Early Years and Key Stage 1 we use the Birth To 5 Matters documentation to support the development of our curriculum. The Learning and Development guidance within it supports our understanding of development and learning and the adult’s contribution to the process. Teachers use this to plan creatively for each child.  

As pupils move into Key Stage 2 and beyond, we use a number of progression frameworks and published materials to ensure that teachers deliver a broad and progressive curriculum that stretches each of our pupils. Each area is linked and “back-tracked“ to accreditation opportunities and the Preparation for Adulthood Agenda. 

In maths we use the National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Maths progression materials. In PSHE we use the PSHE Association Programme of Study. 

 Pre-formal strand

The pre-formal curriculum is:

  • for all learners (primary and secondary) who are working below the pre-Key Stage 1 standards.
  • planned by class teachers.
  • sequenced according to a scheme of storybooks, linked to themes, to expose students to a rich variety of stimuli and provide opportunities for lateral progress and over-learning (see topic map below).
  • delivered through a blend of specialist interventions and engaging and motivating experiences, adapted and enriched through the story and theme.
  • assessed using individual EHCP targets and a bespoke combination of frameworks chosen to best reflect the progress of each learner, including Routes for Learning, the Castle Flower levels, the early Castle Rainbow levels, and SCERTS.
  • accredited through EQUALS Moving On at 16 and 19.


Topics in Key Stages 1-3 provide a wide range of exciting stimuli to develop all 4 EHCP areas and develop curiosity, awareness of the wider world, and the fundamentals of listening and attention. Topics in Key Stage 4 and 5 build on these foundations and are taken from the 5-year Moving On accreditation cycle. Moving On topics focus on skills for post-19 transition and adulthood. See long term planning grids for more detail on each topic.

 Semi-formal strand

The semi-formal curriculum is...

  • for all Primary learners working above the pre Key Stage 1 standards
  • for all Secondary learners working above the pre Key Stage 1 standards, but below the pathway to Entry Level.
  • planned by class teachers, with support and input from subject specialists
  • sequenced according to a scheme of storybooks, linked to themes, to expose students to a rich variety of stimuli and offer ‘hooks’ for academic learning. In Key Stage 5, PSHE themes are used. See topic map below.
  • delivered through a blend of targeted subject-specific learning (maths and English), engaging and motivating experiences, and specialist interventions, adapted and enriched through the story and theme.
  • assessed using individual EHCP targets, supplemented with the Castle Rainbow levels and SCERTS.
  • accredited via EQUALS Moving On or OCR Live and Living Skills (which may include units in Communication, Maths, ICT, PSHE, Drama, Art, Music, Work Related Learning, Home Management and Leisure).


Topics may last a half-term or a term. Topics will be revisited on a cyclical basis within a key stage, using a wide range of different stories to provide opportunities for broadening familiarity with a topic area. Primary topics provide a wide range of exciting stimuli to develop all 4 EHCP areas and inspire a love of learning. As students progress through the school, topics become more focused on life skills and preparation for adulthood, while still encouraging plenty of fun and creativity. See long term planning grids for more detail on each topic. 

Formal strand 

The formal curriculum is: 

  • for secondary learners working towards Entry Level.
  • planned by class teachers and subject specialists.
  • sequenced to build towards accreditation, while developing students’ knowledge of their surroundings and the wider world
  • delivered through subject-specific sessions, cross-curricular opportunities, and work-related learning.
  • assessed using individual EHCP targets, Castle Gemstone levels and PSHE frameworks, and supported by self-assessment from the learners themselves
  • accredited via Entry level or higher level qualifications if appropriate.


The formal learning pathway begins at Key Stage 3.  Long-term plans are determined by the accreditation pathways students are following, with skills developed and re-visited through a variety of context. Students continue to experience a wide range of exciting, engaging activities to contextualise their learning. See long term planning grids for more detail on each area of learning.


In Key Stage 4 and 6th form, pupils follow flexible learning programmes according to their needs and aspirations. These follow 3 main pathways but are flexible to allow for individual needs to be met.

Pathway 1: Equals Moving On: for learners within Entry 1

This is a modular curriculum focusing on the following areas:

  • Communication
  • Numeracy
  • ICT
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Creativity
  • PSHE
  • Leisure and Recreation
  • Daily Living Skills
  • Work Related Learning

Pathway 2: Life and Living Skills: for learners within Entry 1 and 2

This offers a range of units which can be selected to suit the particular needs and interests of the learner, these may focus on the following areas:

  • Communication
  • Maths
  • ICT
  • PSHE
  • Drama
  • Art
  • Music
  • Work Related Learning
  • Home Management and Leisure

Pathway 3: Entry level and Functional Skills for learners within Entry 1 to 3 and beyond.

A range of qualifications in academic and vocational areas which may include:

  • Functional skills English and Maths
  • Entry Level in a range of subject areas
  • GCSE Art
  • Young Leaders
  • First Aid
  • Aspects of Life and Living skills

These are supplemented with link courses with local colleges, a programme of work related learning, development of independent travel skills, and use of community facilities.  A range of pupil groupings based on ability, age and friendship will be used to maximise learning.

Extending opportunities 

We recognise that we cannot work alone in supporting the needs of each individual student. We therefore work in partnership with a range of agencies and with our local community. We believe that learning where possible should take place within context and students should have as many opportunities to explore the functionality and application of what they have learnt in real life situations.

Our curriculum provides a range of opportunities to motivate, support and teach children to develop effective learning skills. This will be enhanced opportunities to learn and consolidate skills outside the classroom. We have extensive school grounds with areas linked to the curriculum. Regular visits to places of interest and expertise from a wide range of professionals are integrated into the schemes of work.

Additional opportunities to explore themes in greater depth will be covered in half-termly themes that link to the six areas of learning. These will include celebration events, visits and visitors.

An extensive range of lunchtime and after-school clubs enhance the development of personal and social skills and raise the self-esteem of pupils.

Residential opportunities are provided throughout the school.

Developing experiences linked to nationally recognised schemes such as, Young Enterprise, Duke of Edinburgh, National Citizenship Service and the Arts award also enrich and extend the learning opportunities for Pupils as they progress through the school.

Developing communication skills 

The development and use of communication and language are at the heart of our curriculum based on the principles of SCERTS.  Augmentative and alternative forms of communication such as signing or visual strategies are used to supplement enhance and reinforce learning.

Proven strategies and interventions are also interwoven within the curriculum, and used to formulate individual learning plans and timetables. 

The multidisciplinary team and a variety of outside agencies are involved in developing a “team around the child” and ensuring that all aspects of personal development are met.

We provide an environment that enables us to offer a wide range of multi-sensory activities, both indoors and outdoors, that encourage the pupils to explore, develop their curiosity and take risks which will help them make sense of the world.

We have a particular focus on developing personal, social and emotional skills as this gives the children the best opportunity for success in all other areas of learning. A programme of social and life skills is delivered across the curriculum. Emotional literacy will be used to supplement and support the curriculum, enabling pupils to develop skills of self awareness which will support them in making and maintaining positive relationships.

  Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural

All subjects provide opportunities to promote SMSC. A significant contribution is also made by school ethos and effective relationships throughout the school.  Explicit opportunities to promote pupils' development in these areas are provided in Religious Education which covered via the area of Our World, PSHE, PE, collective worship, Thought for the Week, School Council and other curriculum and extra-curricular activities.


Curriculum development and review 

Curriculum delivery is under constant and rigorous review, with each member of teaching staff responsible for one of the six areas of learning. Their role includes developing schemes of work which are accessible motivating and relevant for all pupils. These are monitored regularly by the Leadership team, ensuring that they are vibrant and meet the needs of our diverse pupil population. An annual curriculum audit and Deep Dive is led by each team, which enables them to decide on priorities for strengthening their work and improve standards in their area.

Assessment, recording and reporting 

Assessment is the range of activities through which we come to know about the unique abilities and achievements of our pupils.  It also provides an overview of the knowledge, skills and understanding that has developed. It is the vehicle by which we can advise pupils, parents and carers of their targets and their progress towards them. It is at the heart of effective planning, teaching and personalised learning.

We recognise that assessment should be at the heart of the curriculum and that it should be continuous and multilayered.

A range of assessment techniques both formative and summative are built into curriculum delivery. Assessment for learning strategies are applied in each lesson and summative assessments are completed at the end of each unit of work.

For more details on assessing pupil progress click here.

All statutory assessments are completed at the end of Key stage 1 and 2.

Assessment for Learning  

Formal learners are encouraged to be actively involved in their learning and be able to state what they are doing to improve. Semi-formal and pre-formal learners will have clearly defined programmes where teaching assistants clearly understand the next steps in learning.

Within each lesson there is an expectation that the following principles will be applied

  • Sharing criteria and expectations
  • High quality interactions
  • Using feedback to inform the next steps of learning
  • Peer and self assessment
  • Reflection
  • Using a range of evidence to inform planning