Our informal learners need to learn to ‘be’ before they can learn to ‘do’. They need to learn who they are, gain self-confidence, self-esteem and how to self-regulate through child led, positive interactions and process based teaching and learning.
Our vision is that in every Informal classroom you will see a process based approach enriched by exploration and play. That each and every pupil will have control over the pace and nature of their own learning, facilitated by an experienced and ambitious staff team who understand the importance of providing repetition and offering variation in enabling learners to form new connections. We aim to challenge pupils to become as independent as possible. We aim for our pupils to form positive connections with staff, and through these positive connections we hope that pupils will continue to develop their preferred methods of communication- taking real ownership of their journey.
We recognise the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum and appreciate that this will look different for each pupil. Although the curriculum is based around the four areas of need-Communication and Interaction, Cognition and Learning, Physical and Sensory and Social and Emotional we adopt a cross curricular approach throughout the school day.
The timetable offers a rich and varied curriculum which includes:
These sessions will give the pupils opportunities to access learning outside of the classroom. Although it may be timetabled, it is encouraged to capitalise on good weather conditions to explore and engage in the outside environment. These sessions could include small animal care, horticulture, cycling, sensory exploration, play and proprioceptive activities.
Pupils will experience a wide range of different of foods with all of their senses, using their preferred methods to achieve the desired outcomes. This may be a repetitive experience that helps to establish confidence in this exploration. Sessions may be presented in the form of a story, song, free play, or skills based food preparation sessions.
Rebound is a specific methodology. The activities take place on specialist trampolines with trained rebound therapists. These provide opportunities for enhanced movement patterns, therapeutic positioning, exercise and recreation for pupils with a wide range of needs.
Music and Drama
Pupils are able to create sounds and access instruments and props in a motivating and engaging environment. Self-expression is encouraged through a variety of platforms. Different styles of music are used to provoke responses and emotions in an immersive environment. These sessions are delivered within the drama studio or other sensory space whenever possible.
Integrated within the timetable:
Sensology/ sensory integration provides opportunities for the senses to be activated through touch, movement, body position, vision, smell, taste, sound and the pull of gravity. The type of input is tailored to the pupils to help the process of the brain organising and interpreting sensory information- providing a crucial foundation for later, more complex learning and behaviour.
This partners concise text with strong sensory stimuli to convey a narrative that are motivating and engaging for all pupils. Pupils are provided time to listen and process the story, whilst being given the opportunity to explore related objects to aid their understanding, problem solving and promote communication.
These stories are repetitive allowing the pupils opportunities to predict, expect or associate a stimulus or activity with an event. All stories are personalised with known motivators to ensure the highest level of engagement.
For those pupils that show an interest in more conventional storybooks and reading materials, they will be given opportunities to explore these in discreet sessions throughout the day.
Explore and Discover
This creates opportunities to experience a range of sensory items using pupils preferred methods. Exploration, investigation and problem solving are encouraged throughout the session at the individuals personalised level.
This provides a context which allows children to make choices and initiate play or exploration with or without others. Play opportunities are created to scaffold the learning through adult modelling and personal motivators. Repetitive opportunities allow pupils the freedom to explore and make choices whilst revisiting what they have previously encountered both during structured session and during school break times.
This provides an opportunity for pupils to work on their specific learning intentions in ways that are motivating and purposeful, whilst remaining relevant to their needs in either small groups or a 1:1 basis. This is delivered using motivator boxes or by integrating personal motivators into small group activities.
The SEST team work in close partnership with classes to support targeted pupils using the visual and auditory hierarchy.
Where appropriate, some pupils will access individual or small group early phonics delivery in these sessions.
These sessions allow learners to develop the sense that we have of our own bodies. It gives them an understanding of the parts that make up one’s body, where they are located, how they feel and even what they can do. This promotes movement and positive touch as a way of providing opportunities for spatial awareness through the vestibular system. This also encourages an understanding of how their body parts are connected through the proprioceptive system.
This encourages pupils to build upon independent movement in a less physically supported environment. Sessions are tailored around individual, group and class needs.
“Holistic assessment focuses on the pupil as a whole, rather than only focusing on specific elements. A holistic assessment of pupils’ progress and development considers all aspects of their individual needs, including how they interrelate with each other and the factors that influence them, and how this affects how they learn. This allows the assessment to capture a fuller picture of pupils’ progress and development over a period of time” (Engagement Model 2020)
The Engagement Model
“Effective use of the engagement model is based on regular observational assessment and reflective pedagogy. Observational assessment is central to understanding what the pupil knows and what they can do. It is the most reliable way of building up an accurate picture of pupil’s progress” (The Engagement Model, 2020)
Practitioners are continually encouraged to reflect on observations which inform planning, assessment and helps us to set pupils’ next steps.
“Engagement is the single best predictor of successful learning for children with learning disabilities (Iovannone et al., 2003). Without engagement, there is no deep learning (Hargreaves, 2006), effective teaching, meaningful outcome, real attainment or quality progress (Carpenter, 2010)”
Pupil profiles document the personal approach needed to ensure engagement. Pupil profiles are updated as and when needed and are formally reviewed termly. Profiles are displayed in the classrooms; accessible to all practitioners. Profiles enable us to adapt the learning environment according to need. They should be reviewed in collaboration with the whole class team- taking into account reports and suggestions from other professionals such as SALT, SEST and Physiotherapy.
Our informal curriculum is pupil led, so pupils are free to develop and expand their learning journey in any direction that is relevant and engaging for them. This is then facilitated by staff and progress is retrospectively evaluated in next steps documents across the four areas of need: communication and interaction; cognition and learning; physical and sensory; social and emotional.
Teachers will use their knowledge of the pupil and the evaluation of their progress to write possible next steps for the following term; this will inform planning so it is scaffolded to help facilitate the development of the child’s chosen learning path.
Seesaw is a secure online portfolio that allows teachers to document and reflect on pupils’ engagement within school. Each student has their own individual journal where pictures, videos and messages can be shared between school and home. Keeping a journal of progress also allows practitioners to reflect on learning within the four key areas of need ensuring sessions are tailored to maximise engagement.
Holistic Assessment Meetings
Progress meetings are held termly with teaching staff to review engagement and to ensure that the curriculum offer is meeting needs. Pupil profiles, Seesaw and Next Steps are reviewed as part of this process. Regular classroom ‘drop ins’ also form part of this process.
All teachers meet termly to share a pupil progress journey over a term, clearly documenting where the pupil started to where they are now and commenting on the support and interventions in place to support their progression.
“Parents and carers also play a very important role in holding schools to account by asking questions about their children’s attainment and progress and by engaging in dialogue with the school about the aspirations and expectations for their children” (The Rochford Review, 2016)
Parents are very closely involved with their child’s learning and we maintain regular contact via seesaw, parents evening, annual review meetings, visits to school, phone conversations and end of year progress reports. These approaches all support partnership working and enable parents to support their own child’s learning at home, leading to the best outcomes. Parents often share home activities and motivators with us to aid our approach in school.