West Gate School

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Learning for Life


Curriculum overview

Introduction / Rationale

Our school caters for learners from 5-19 years old, with a wide range of SEND (PMLD, SLD, ASC, MLD) and as our pupils take part in their journey through the phases of the school, we plan for our developing pathways model to ensure the most beneficial and meaningful learning opportunities are provided to them. Our curriculum is designed to be engaging and fun but also provide our pupils with experiences that will allow them to make links in their learning to real life contexts. We put a great emphasis on the importance of independence and life skills in our curriculum offers, as we see the below figures as an example of an overarching issue that must be addressed in the curriculum design of a school like West Gate.

  • Disabled people are less likely to be in employment. In January 2016, the UK employment rate among working age disabled people was 46.5% (4.1 million), compared to 84%% of non-disabled people (The Annual Population Survey March 2013, retrieved from NOMIS: www.nomisweb.co.uk).
  • The 2 most common barriers to work amongst adults with impairments are a lack of job opportunities (43%) and difficulty with transport (29%) (Office for Disability Issues, 2011, ODI Life Opportunities Survey Wave One results, p10 (online), available at: https://www.gov.uk/ government/statistics/life-opportunitiessurvey-wave-one-results-2009-to-2011).
  • The majority of people with a learning disability (76%) either live with family and friends, or in a registered care home or supported accommodation (Mencap, Housing for people with a learning disability, p5, (online), available at: http://www.mencap.org.uk/sites/default/ files/documents/2012.108%20Housing%20 report_V7.pdf)
  • The North East, Wales, the North West and East Midlands have the highest rates of disability in the UK (25%, 24%, 22% and 22% respectively) (Office for Disability Issues, 2011, ODI Life Opportunities Survey Wave One results, p50 (online), available at: https://www.gov.uk/ government/statistics/life-opportunitiessurvey-wave-one-results-2009-to-2011).


The challenge we face is how to provide learning opportunities through our curriculum, which will best prepare our young people for their adult life. In considering this we have taken guidance from the Preparing for Adulthood programme funded by the DfE. Our aim is to implement meaningful learning that will benefit our young people in their future, from the earliest possible age. In doing this we recognise that each of our learners has a unique set of learning and development needs and all curriculum offers must be personalised by teachers to meet these individual needs. This is supported on several levels which are outlined below, including the use of Education and Health care plans (EHCP) implementation plans and the use of our own Wider Learning curriculum and assessment.


Thematic approach

At West Gate we use a thematic approach to mapping our curriculum, right across the different phases and departments of the school. A thematic approach sets an overarching topic for the term, for example ‘Volcanoes’, ‘Olympics’ or ‘All About Me’. These are taught in a discrete way through geography/history/PSHCE lessons and/or as a vehicle to deliver cross-curricula learning and create a common link between literacy and communication and the other subject areas taught in individual classes. We use this approach for several reasons;

  • It allows all areas of the curriculum to be connected and integrated within a theme.
  • It helps our pupils to put their learning into a real life context that has meaning.
  • We can integrate all subjects and use literacy within those subjects.
  • It can help to make learning fun and engaging and teachers must be creative in their planning.
  • It allows teachers to build on prior learning through the course of a topic.
  • A thematic approach to our PMLD curriculum allows us to personalise teaching and learning around the pupils’ understanding of themselves and their world, using high interest activities to engage under a relevant theme i.e. ‘Senses’ ‘My local area’

Example of a topic web used by primary teachers to support planning.


Wider Learning curriculum

Running alongside our thematic curriculum, we have our newly introduced Wider Learning Curriculum. The purpose of this is to provide a set of foci for teachers and teaching assistants, which are based on areas that we consider to be hugely important in the development of our young people, both now and in their future lives. These areas in the main body of the school are as follows; Social Interaction, Social Communication, Social Imagination and Flexibility, Emotional Understanding and Self-Awareness, Independence and Community Participation, Learning and Sensory Processing. During a half-term each key stage shares a wider learning focus i.e. Road Safety and Travel (Independence and Community Participation). This focus can be addressed during circle time activities, break times, lunch times, reward times, educational outings etc. or can be taught in discrete lessons. Teachers are then able to capture progress using the Wider Learning Assessment framework, assessing pupils’ development in that area during that half-term. Over the course of a pupil’s journey through the different phases of the school, a picture is created of strengths and areas for development, which is centred around abilities and understanding that are of much greater value in ensuring better life outcomes in their future. Although there is a single focus for each half-termly period, teaching staff understand that the key areas of communication, social skills and independence are still embedded in every day teaching and learning. The Wider Learning curriculum is a way of focusing ourselves as educators during every moment of the school day, so we are addressing and capturing the really important aspects of our pupils’ development.

The Wider Learning Curriculum has been adapted for our pupils with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) and complex learning difficulties and disabilities (CLDD) but follows the same model. The PMLD/CLDD areas of focus are as follows; Body Awareness and Proprioception, Fine Motor Movement- Reaching, Grasping, Releasing, Manipulating, Gross Motor Skills- Standing, Walking, Mobility- Indoor, Outdoor, Personal Care and Independence- Eating and Drinking, Undressing and Dressing, Using the Toilet and Washing and Showering.   

See below an example of a Key Stage Wider Learning Curriculum map.

Maths curriculum

At West Gate we believe that Mathematics is a hugely important subject that should be tailored to meet each pupils needs. The purpose of our Maths curriculum is again to ensure that teaching and learning is meaningful to pupils’ lives both now and in their future.  

A new generation of children with learning difficulties, described by Barry Carpenter as having CLDD (Carpenter, 2010; Carpenter et al, 2010), are presenting with more diverse, fractured and complex difficulties. They are apparent across all sectors, both in mainstream and special schools. Comorbidity is commonplace, especially in the areas of ASD and ADHD, but also in children who present with extremely spiky profiles, often with particular difficulties in mathematics.

Maths is often represented as a process of linear progression, so that specific skills are learned in a set order – counting first, then addition, then subtraction, then multiplication, then division.

Because maths skills are based on establishing building blocks of learning we can't move on until the first block is learned. But those pupils with SLD have problems with abstract concepts and may never learn even the first block.

Therefore, we often end up teaching the same thing throughout the whole of a learner's education! We therefore need to look further than number and recognise that a large percentage of learners with SLD may never get the concept.

For pupils up to the age of 11, we should try to establish as many basic skills as possible. Developmental age is closer to chronological age and, therefore, more age-appropriate resources are available. After 11, we can establish a base line and stretch children's ability laterally.

Our teaching should be relevant for pupils but they may need to spend a long time within each area. For some, maintaining their mathematical skill level should be described as progress.

Mathematics can be taught more practically, more contextually, more concretely, and with much more motivation if it is taught as part of the process of shopping, art, dance, playing games, travel training, cooking, drama, or any part of life being lived.

Learning mathematical concepts is a different prospect for those with SLD/PMLD/CLDD. For this group of learners, mathematics is best studied through 'careful and thoughtful adaptation of both the curriculum and the environment in which it is delivered' (Longhorn, 2000).


The above map represents the maths progression pathways available to our learners as they move through the phases of the school. In the EYFS/Key Stage 1 phase of the school, pupils follow the EYFS curriculum which by its nature has the conceptual nature of maths routed in real life contexts. As they move through lower Key Stage 2 pupils follow a backtracked national curriculum which is personalised to their current abilities and needs, for example they may be in year 4 but be working at a national curriculum year 1. This continues as pupils move into upper key stage 2, however for our most able learners there is the opportunity now to join the maths ability sets with other UKS2 pupils and also key stage 3 pupils. There are currently three ability maths groups, split by ability rather than age to allow for the greatest amount of challenge. At Key Stage 3 pupils are assessed and differentiated according to outcome. Those working within level 2 and beyond will continue with the formal curriculum, those who have plateaued or whose learning is progressing at a much slower rate will work within the semi-formal life skills maths curriculum. Expectations for Number and Shape Space and Measure within the semi-formal curriculum delivery, P4 – P8 (level 1 at Key Stage 3) have differentiated objectives which link to everyday life. These are challenging but appropriate targets which may show lateral as well as linear progress which consider consolidating and generalising learning. The semi-formal maths curriculum is thematic and centred on learning maths skills in a life skills context. The themes for topics encourage teachers to get out of the classroom and practice maths skills around the school building or out in the wider community.

 Key Stage 3 semi-formal maths overview

This model of formal and semi-formal grouping continue into Key Stage 4. At this point our most able pupils will begin to take part in preparations for entry level accreditation in maths. Pupils following the semi-formal pathway will continue with life skills maths topics, now with a greater emphasis on maths skills required in adulthood. Some pupils may also begin to access the functional skills maths scheme at this point and this continues as they move into Key Stage 5. We currently use a functional skills tracker to monitor and assess progress for pre-entry level and entry level 1, 2 and 3. However from the start of the next academic year, we plan to have in place the AQA functional skills awards for Maths (and Literacy). This will allow for a greater proportion of our Key Stage 5 students to achieve a formally accredited award in mathematics to leave the school with.

Pathways model

We are currently in the process of defining and developing our curriculum pathways. Our Futures and Horizons pathways are clearly defined by class groupings. The Futures pathway has been launched at the start of the summer term (2017-18), led by the KS4 teaching and learning lead. The topic themes have been carefully considered to be meaningful but be flexible enough to be personalised. Lessons are described in a non-subject specific way and therefore a further development within this pathway would be a move away from subject based assessment, possibly utilising The Wider Learning Assessment. This is under consultation.  

Futures pathway

The pathway is designed to explicitly meet the needs of our pupils whose main barrier to learning is not solely a specific learning delay. The pupils who are following this pathway will have been identified to have profound need in the areas of Independence, Physical – Motor – Sensory processing, Cognitive processes, and Communication. The pathway focuses on these core areas, as they have been identified as the main barriers to learning for these pupils. This enhanced approach towards these areas means less time is spent on academic targets, but far greater focus and emphasis is placed on learning which is directly relevant and meaningful to the children and young people, and may prepare them for potentially accessing more academic learning at a later point.          

Using pupils’ termly targets, taken from their EHCP implementation plans, we are able to effectively personalise our approach in each of the key areas.

The thematic approach for the pathway continues to run using the same topic themes as the rest of the key stage for that class, however it is used in a way which keeps the individualised work on the four key areas fresh and motivating for the students, not as a way to directly dictate the content of what is being taught. The key focus and vision for the Futures pathway is to ensure work and expectations are meaningful and relevant to the students and their future success.

The four key areas to Futures  


There are a multitude of reasons why pupils following this pathway may struggle to live their lives with independence. This may be rooted in social anxiety, sensory processing or communication delays. Specified independence sessions focus around, primarily, the students identified need from their EHCP review and subsequent implementation plan.

Physical Motor Sensory

This core element focuses on the difficulties many students face in areas of physical need, motor skills, and sensory processing. These sessions may be identified as P.E, swimming, cooking, soft play, sensory room, immersive room etc. but the core elements of these sessions are very much developing the students motor skills, awareness and ability to co-ordinate their body due to a proprioceptive processing difficulty, and introduction to new sensory stimuli, or developing through de-sensitisation the ability to enhance the coping mechanisms required to manage a stimuli which causes anxiety.


Behaviour is driven by the need, or inability, to communicate and can be broken down into expressive and receptive. Students may be able to express but not receive, receive but not express, or be able to do both but require extensive time to process information. Students may process too quickly and pre-empt, or process slowly and react accordingly at a later time. How staff directly interact with the students greatly influences how students directly interact with staff, again expressive and receptive communication can both be broken down further into verbal and non-verbal communication, and each further broken down into voluntary and involuntary communication, including the sensory processing of the communication itself. Therefore communication has to be highly personalised in its approach towards each student, and is crucial to any student’s ability to access school and beyond. Its impact on relationships, curriculum work, and self-worth is substantial, so any progress which can be achieved, no matter how small a step, will have a profound impact on all these areas and the individuals own mental health.


Cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. Therefore, Cognition sessions are a key point on the informal pathway where impact can be assessed. Whilst reduced time is identified on the timetable as being spent on “cognition“ sessions, whereby students will not be working on developing any individual skills but combining all current skills, we can successfully judge the impact that the more specified foci in other sessions is having. This will further demonstrate the impact and effectiveness of the sessions in giving students the ability to take their improved skills and apply them into a new situation, measuring how embedded/secure they are.

 Preparations and Destinations pathways

The Preparations and Destinations pathways are not mutually exclusive and often require differentiation within class groups, to tailor the thematic curriculum to the individual needs. The Preparations and Destination pathways also play a diagnostic role in establishing what accreditation pupils will undertake in post 16. For a perfect model, these pathways would be used as a way of streaming pupils into different classes, which follow a single model based on ability. However creating class groups takes account of multiple factors including age, relationships, behaviour, barriers to learning. The onus therefore is on the teacher of groups with pupils on both preparations and Destinations pathways to ensure;

  • 1) An emphasis on life skills, social skills and independence learning within lessons, to meet the needs of pupils to whom this will have greatest benefit to their future.
  • 2) Planning for academic challenge, to meet the needs of pupils who have demonstrated less barriers to learning and to whom academic success will positively impact on their future.

 EHCP implementation plans

To support the personalised nature of all of our curriculum offers, teachers are responsible for creating EHCP implementation plans. During person centred reviews involving teachers, parents and other agencies (e.g. SALT, social workers, connextions), a yearly target is set for each of the Education and Health care plan outcomes. Teachers are then responsible for setting termly SMART targets to address the annual target and ultimately the end of key stage outcomes. Teachers use these termly targets to inform planning and record evidence of progress in the individual pupil learning journeys.


Qualifications supporting learning in employability, independent living, personal and social development, community involvement and development of skills in English, maths and ICT.


Core Unit offer

AQA Unit Award Scheme

Inclusive Entry 1

(10 hr and 20 hr units)

AIM Awards: Independent Living

Entry 1, 2, 3


AIM Awards:

Developing Skills for the Workplace Entry 1, 2, 3


AIM Awards: SEFL (Skills for Employment and Further Learning)

Entry 3, Level 1

Stress management

Fashion and personal appearance

Sex education

Importance of healthy eating and exercise

Awareness of personal hygiene

Different types of relationships

Politeness and etiquette in social situations

Awareness of the availability of health services

Dealing with feelings and emotions

Independent living

Working in a team

Elections, voting and making a choice

My rights and the rights of others

What’s in the news?

Contributing towards a recycling project

Understanding crime

Britain as a diverse society

Participating in an event in school for the local community

Selecting and preparing a meal

Safe behaviour around busy roads

Food hygiene

Pursuing a hobby

Using a café

Basic skills when shopping in a supermarket

Home skills

Personal finances

Basic first aid

Leisure and sport in the local community

Applying for a job

Participating in the running of a small enterprise

Visiting local work environments

Exploring careers

Holding a simple interview

Health and safety in the workplace

Fit and healthy (3)

Personal safety (3)

Outdoor pursuits (3)

Looking after yourself and your home (1)

Accessing the countryside (3)

Everyday food and drink preparation (3)

Knowing your local area (3)

Personal care and hygiene (3)

Choosing clothing and footwear (2)

Accessing financial services (3)

Understanding relationships (2)

Eating out (3)

Independent living (1)

Participating in team activities (3)

Understanding rights and responsibilities (3)

Living in diverse society (2)

Recycling, managing waste (2)

Law and order (2)

Household shopping (3)

Making a simple meal (3)

Hobbies (2)

Eating a balanced diet (3)

Using domestic appliances (3)

Drug and alcohol awareness (2)

Exploring the world of work (3)

Travel training (3)

Looking for work (2)

Undertaking an interview (2)

Exploring occupational areas (2)

Developing skills for the workplace : Health and safety (2)

Learning from work placement (2)

Completing tasks at work (3)


Living in the Community (3)

Voting in UK General Elections (2)

Sex and Relationships Education (3)

Basic Cooking (3)

Career Planning (3)

Individual Rights and Responsibilities (1)

Personal Hygiene


Planning a Healthy Diet (2)

Skills for Shopping (3)

Recognising Employment Opportunities (1)

Criminal and Youth Justice (3)

Diversity in Society (3)

Employment Skills (3)

Preparation for Work Experience (1)

Work Experience (3)

Hygiene Skills for Oral Health (1)

Take Part in an Activity (1)

Stress Management (3)

Personal Finances(3)

Alcohol Misuse Awareness (3)

Kitchen Equipment (1)


Additional offer (based on individual student pathways)

AQA Unit Award Scheme

Inclusive Entry 1

(10 hr and 20 hr units)

AIM Awards: Step-Up

Entry 3, Level 1

Contributing to a project which benefits the local community

Using a public bus service

Completing a work experience placement

Signs and places in college

Having a meal in college

People in college

Eating and drinking places in college

College services

Units to support vocational learning in the following areas:

Health and social care

Child development and wellbeing


Horticulture and forestry

Animal care and veterinary science

Environmental conservation


Transport, operations and maintenance

Building and construction

IT for users

Retailing and wholesaling

Service enterprises

Hospitality and catering

Sport, leisure and recreation

Travel and tourism

Performing arts

Crafts, creative arts and design


Business management

 In addition the school offers:

 Level 1 and Level 2 Award in Sports Leadership

Employability learning Programme

Travel Training

GCSE courses by arrangement with New College