Exploration Strand

Who is it for?

Our Exploration Curriculum Strand is a unique curriculum, based on our in-house Foundation Curriculum, designed to meet the specific needs of all pupils aged two to seven years. It overlaps with our Enrichment and Engagement Curriculum Strands in their early stages, for those pupils for whom it is appropriate to continue work on the skills required to access learning further up the school.

Built on the fundamental principle of active learning, our curriculum is focused on addressing pupils' individual barriers to learning and on developing the skills needed to engage, communicate, learn, and be independent. It was created to support all pupils to progress through five identified layers of development whilst incorporating the areas of learning within the Early Years Foundation Stage. It provides content that is designed to effectively engage our pupils in order to address their individual needs.

Our Foundation Curriculum aims to reduce the barriers to learning caused by moderate, severe and profound learning disability by nurturing true engagement, encouraging the meeting of and dealing with challenge, and providing increased competency in the early fundamentals of communication and interaction. (For those with the most profound learning difficulties please also see our Enrichment curriculum strand).

How will the curriculum be taught?

Our curriculum is delivered through a series of flexible themed modules and a variety of personalised approaches, namely: play, sensory processing and integration, supported exploration, REACh (Relationship Education for the Autistic Child) and Intensive Interaction.

To create a highly differentiated personalised learning environment, pupils have daily opportunities to engage in all physical and curricula areas within the Key Stage. This is called Explore Time which runs from 10-11.30am each day and has similarities with the child-led approach seen in nurseries. Each day, pupils will have access to a wide range of activities set out across different rooms as well as outside areas, designed to enable the pupils to acquire, develop and apply the skills they need to become independent learners. We have tailored the environment to meet the needs of all pupils in conjunction with our Therapy Services, including our Sensory Processing Consultant and Speech and Language Therapy team. One of the differences from the system seen in nurseries is the level of scaffolding and differentiation provided for our cohorts: the intrinsic motivation to engage to begin with is often one of the primary barriers to learning that needs addressing.

The four main learning areas are:

  • Cognition
  • Sensorimotor and Outdoor Learning
  • Creativity
  • Imaginative and Small world play

The whole system is designed to encourage actively engaged, interdependent learners. Pupils' access to learning opportunities will start with their own motivation: they can explore and play with what they want from what is available, and the planning and outcomes can be adapted to their own individual drive. The balance between child-led and adult-supported will of course depend on the developmental level and engagement level of each individual, as well as their barriers to learning. As such, Explore Time has a thorough and focused multi-layered approach behind what pupils (and some visitors!) may see as free play.

Our Foundation Curriculum is structured around Five Layers of development across two strands: Physical and Emotional competency. It incorporates and focuses on the steps required as prerequisites to learning that will be the key to future engagement and progress. Core skills such as toileting, self-help, problem-solving and communication will be prioritised and are central to our vision of developing independence and autonomy for our pupils.

Meaningful boundaries always consistently applied is a motto in our Exploration Curriculum Strand! Pupils need to understand that adults set the boundaries but within a respectful relationship. Boundaries are there for safety not convenience, but once determined will always be adhered to. We help our pupils understand this through quiet consistent insistence on the boundaries we apply, enabling our pupils to develop a sense of safety and belonging through shared practice.

Key to the approach is a focus on enabling pupils to regulate through supported regulation, co-regulation and then self-regulation. Without this pupils will always be dependent on carefully attuned adult support to enable them to access the world which is not always available to them. This is often the biggest inhibitor to learning and so experiencing frustration and distress and learning, through supported and shared experience, that we all have the ability to cope with it within a supportive relationship, is key to our pupils' learning.

From Year 3 our Exploration pupils go onto the Engagement, Enrichment or Enquiry Strands, each taking their own pathway as appropriate to their needs at the time of transition.