Who is it for?
The learners accessing the Engagement Curriculum Strand are those who generally speaking have Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD) or Moderate Learning difficulties (MLD) but with additional problems in working memory and metacognition. Therefore they need a different learning pedagogy. They have begun to work on subject-specific content but as detailed below, this is through a curriculum that is both fully accessible to and relevant for each individual pupil. As mentioned above, some pupils will have more Moderate Learning Difficulties (MLD) but still require additional processing time and support to apply knowledge and skills learnt, and so require a curriculum that gives plenty of opportunity for this to take place. This does not mean that they won't be challenged!
Defining characteristics of these learners are:
- Communication difficulties with more sophisticated concepts
- Difficulties with abstract concepts
- Difficulties with working memory
- Difficulties with concentration and attention
- Poor general knowledge
- Difficulties with sequencing
- Difficulties with thinking and problem-solving
Imray and Hinchcliffe (2014)
This cohort tends to learn best when learning is related to their own experiences, is concrete and practical and, above all, engaging. Emphasis is placed on teaching the pupil to communicate effectively and interact with those around them, firstly to make their needs known and secondly, to use language to comment on the environment, solve problems and make relationships. An age-appropriate Total Communication approach is embedded in this curriculum alongside collaborative work with our Multi-Disciplinary team. Sensory regulation and managing emotions and behaviour is also a key learning component for this cohort.
How is this Strand organised?
The Curriculum is organised into five main learning areas:
- My thinking and problem solving (Learn it/Apply it)
Developing pupils' cognition skills and their ability to apply learnt knowledge to overcome new problems
- My wellbeing (Feel it!)
Ensuring pupils are developing sustainable strategies to maintain good mental and physical health
- My independence (Live it!)
Promoting pupils' ability to make autonomous choices and to carry out tasks with reduced support, commensurate with their needs
- My communication and interaction (Learn it/Apply it!)
Equipping students with the necessary skills, to become effective communicators to an increasing range of people
- My creativity (Create it!)
This encompasses Drama, Art, Music and PE but also topic work where thinking creatively is encouraged and facilitated
Pupils working within this Strand will be working at different levels and where appropriate, may spend time accessing a different Strand for particular elements of the curriculum. This will be determined by the Individual Education (IEP) targets set at Annual Reviews of each pupil's Education, Health and Care Plan, (EHCP), and created collaboratively with parents/carers. This is referred to as the individual pupils 'Pathway'.
How will the curriculum be taught?
- Study of fewer things in greater depth (Oates 2013)
- Wellbeing as a core curriculum strand
- Skills taught daily in Learn it sessions and then opportunities for application and independent generalisation in regular Apply it! sessions
- Use of TASC wheel approach to aid generalisation of skills and encourage meta-cognition
- Learning to learn and learning to learn tools are fundamental and will need to be taught out of context with an emphasis on repetition.
- Cross curricular delivery/thematic delivery
- Process based learning activities rather than subject lessons (cognitive skills practised and developed through real life application as opposed to standalone Mathematics)
- An increased emphasis on generalisation
- Effective interdependence
- Class level curriculum delivery flexibility and co-production of ideas with pupils
- Work experience internally or supported placements externally
At all times we are thinking about what the individual needs from the curriculum to enable them to achieve the best possible outcomes once they leave education.
We envisage that many learners working within the Engagement Strand will be able to find employment and/or go on to college. Systematic Learning approaches have been found to suit this cohort of learners and they often thrive in well-structured life situations where their ability to work methodically is a real asset.