At Downland School, we offer a curriculum which is broad and balanced and which builds on the knowledge, understanding and skills of all children, whatever their starting point. The curriculum incorporates the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum at each Key Stage and those of external examination bodies. It also provides opportunities for other experiences which best meet the learning and developmental needs of the pupils in our school.
The aim of our curriculum is for pupils to have the requisite skills to be successful, independent and motivated learners in readiness for their next stage of education or employment.
Our philosophy is to provide a holistic and individualised approach, designed and tailored to support pupils to fulfil their potential. Staff place high expectations and aspiration at the heart of their delivery and are consistently challenging both pupils and themselves in order to overcome barriers to success and provide pupils with the tools they require to thrive in all areas of development.
We have a shared vision: to embed a nurturing strategy throughout the school; we realise that effective learning will take place when lessons are engaging, staff are confident and pupils have high personal resilience and feel safe in their learning environment.
Our aim is to be an invaluable resource within our community and to build our reputation as an exceptional provider of specialist education.
Our school motto is: Aspire, Achieve, Thrive
The fundamental principles that underpin the work carried out at Downland School are:
- Engagement – our core purpose is to re-engage pupils in learning thus allowing them to develop both emotionally and academically.
- Literacy development with a focus on reading: our aim is to ensure all pupils leave with a minimum of functional level literacy.
- Emotional development with a focus on: self-regulation; managing and sustaining relationships; building self-esteem; resilience and communication.
- Creating lifelong-learners: pupils who enjoy learning and make accelerated progress, both academically and emotionally.
- Increasing and developing cultural capital – giving pupils access to opportunities which they would not usually have; increasing their knowledge and understanding of other groups of people they will encounter.
We offer a broad curriculum for pupils starting at Year 6 through to Year 11.
In Year 6, we give our pupils a bridge between their initial Primary education and their future Key Stage 3 curriculum, by providing a core of literacy, numeracy and Science, supplemented by Topic (encompassing History, Geography and Religious Studies), PE, Personal, Social, Health Economic Education (PSHEE), Art, Food (Cookery), Drama and Forest Schools. The curriculum is based on National Curriculum (NC) requirements and uses key principles from Primary delivery to ensure pupils are making accelerated progress, for example numeracy and literacy are taught in the morning. Long-term mapping allows a secure and purposeful flow of skill development and acquisition of knowledge including closing the attainment gap. In many instances, a pupil entering the school in Key Stage 2 will have significant gaps in learning, reduced prior engagement and be joining us from a ‘bespoke’ Primary experience and programme. This will be taken into account when planning transitions and will inform a pupil’s individual year 6 programme to support and secure successful integration and full engagement.
In Key Stage 2 (and rarely in Key Stage 3) pupils may transition who are already accessing therapeutic or alternative education provisions; often this is continued throughout a transition period. If, at the end of this period, the intervention is deemed necessary to continue then this is explored.
Pupils who transition to, or start within the Key Stage 3 curriculum in Year 7, 8 or 9 are provided a core of English, Maths and Science alongside the foundation subjects of Cooking, Art, Design, PE, Topic (encompassing History, Geography and Religious Studies), PSHEE, Performing Arts and Forest School. Our offer is supported by through assessment data processes which underpin planning and sequencing of delivery and personalisation. The design of the KS3 curriculum is carefully considered and the knowledge and skills to be acquired are mapped in each subject area to maximise engagement and diminish gaps in learning. In all curriculum areas, leaders have made careful choices regarding the content of their subject and the implementation of the curriculum.
The transition between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 is carefully mapped; this is echoed between Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4. This ensures that all pupils are experiencing a broad and balanced curriculum which has a holistic approach and encompasses their special educational learning needs.
If a young person, in Key Stage 3, has difficulty engaging with the more traditional curriculum offer, however it is clear that there is a more apt vocational option which would be suitable for them, the school work closely with other providers to help this happen. We have close links with additional provisions which offer therapeutic interventions such as, Wiltshire Equine Assisted Learning(WEAL), Spiritus Equis and Caen Hill Farm. We are also able to access additional outside learning providers. Pupils can attend across provisions to ensure that they are engaged with their learning and it provides the outcomes most suited to their needs.
Basic entitlement for all young people in Key Stage 4, is access to core English Language, Maths and one of the Sciences. For pupils who are able to access these at a higher level there are further options available, including English Literature, Statistics and further Sciences. If the young person is not ‘GCSE ready’ they will take Entry-Level qualifications across the three core subjects.
The additional subjects within the Key Stage 4 curriculum are: Art, 3D Art, Food Technology, Performing Arts; GCSE PE and PSHEE. GCSE pathways are chosen in Year 9 and allow pupils to focus on their areas of interest. Pupils commonly leave school with an average of five GCSEs.
If a young person, in Key Stage 4, has difficulty engaging with the more traditional curriculum offer, however it is clear that there is a more apt vocational option which would be suitable for them, the school work closely with other providers to help this happen. We have close links with KANDU Arts, Wiltshire College and other local providers. Pupils can attend across provisions to ensure that they are engaged with their learning and it provides the outcomes most suited to their needs.
PSHEE is a vital component of the curriculum and has heightened importance to our pupils owing to their special educational needs. The subject is delivered by the pupil’s form tutor as they are best placed to personalise the delivery of the content taking into consideration the content of the EHCP and the individual’s desired outcomes. Specialist training is given to staff in relation to more sensitive topics which are covered by the RSE curriculum or are pertinent to a young person’s needs, such as attachment disorder.
The Careers and Work-related learning programme is underpinned by the SEND Gatsby Benchmark and has been created by liaising with the Careers and Enterprise company. Downland School is committed to delivering the National Careers strategy which allows us to offer all of our young people access to a ‘well-developed career development journey’. (See further detail within the Careers curriculum page/school strategy document.)
At Downland School, we are providing all of our pupils with literacy skills which allow them to access the curriculum, whatever their starting point. Being able to read fluently, write and speak and listen at an age appropriate level is fundamental in allowing our pupils to grow and thrive and is a key component in our curriculum commitment to learners. Every member of staff is a Teacher of Literacy and this is a fundamental thread in our development of teaching and learning.
Key skills of literacy are delivered throughout English (and literacy and Phonics at Key Stage 2); we also offer a range of interventions based on a pupil’s individual needs. All pupils are WRAT tested and those who are identified as having areas of significant need access a bespoke literacy intervention programme which diminishes the gaps in learning.
The Social, Emotional and Mental Health development.
The school provides for a range of SEND pupils. Most commonly our young people are experiencing difficulties with: self-regulation; managing and sustaining relationships; building self-esteem; resilience and communication. Therefore, our pupils remain within their small tutor group for a majority of the day (with the exception of Key Stage 4 where pupils are mixed in certain areas). There is a considerable investment of time for tutors to engage with their groups in AM and PM registration; all staff interact for 30 minutes to develop communication skills over the lunch period. AM tutor time (25 minutes) is structured to facilitate well-being checks; increase engagement in the curriculum and learning and to raise the profile of key literacy skills, such as reading for pleasure. It allows pupils to develop their relationships within the group, resolve any issues and to deepen understanding of key themes from PSHEE which may have been mis-conceived or require further exploration.
The school invests heavily in additional pastoral support to ensure there is an extra layer of expertise and skill to effectively engage pupils in all aspects of our curriculum throughout the day. (See Pastoral Support curriculum page for further details).
All staff receive specific training to develop their ability and increase their range of strategies in respect of developing emotional literacy and de-escalating conflict. The school promotes this through ‘The Downland Way’ and ensures there is a commitment to continued professional development and learning in mental health interventions; all teaching and pastoral staff hold a Mental Health First Aid certificate. ELSA training is either held by, or is being pursued by, support staff. The school ensures that current best practice around trauma-informed pedagogy is utilised and underpins school developments.
Our aspiration is that all of our young people make accelerated progress against their individual starting points: academically, socially and against all aspects of their identified personal needs. This progress is achieved through a high quality curriculum, excellent teaching, a robust annual review process, good parental engagement and outstanding multi-disciplinary work. We strive to ensure our pupils leave us as confident people, happy, secure and ready for a life of continued learning leading to becoming a successful member of society.