School Curriculum

Teaching and Learning is at the heart of school life and the key factor in school development. It is the means by which we offer and put into practice, a curriculum which is broad and balanced, following guidance from the National Curriculum. We provide access to the curriculum through clearly defined pathways – differentiated to match the learning styles and individual needs of our pupils. Teachers are highly creative in their approaches to remove barriers to learning and we work collaboratively, involving parents, multi-disciplinary professionals and the wider community, in a setting which promotes equal opportunity and respect, enabling children to apply and consolidate their learning.

Early Years
Our Early Years children learn through play and child-initiated activities with some adult directed activities. The main focus is on the three prime areas of Communication and Language, Physical Development and Personal, Social and Emotional development. The curriculum also encompasses Literacy, Mathematics, Understanding the World and Expressive Arts and Design. Our classrooms are adapted to suit the needs of the pupils; however, a huge amount of learning is carried out through outdoor learning spaces which enable children to learn in an active and enjoyable way.

Pre-formal & Semi-formal Curriculums
PMLD pupils work on the early stages of development and it is more appropriate for them to access a focused curriculum addressing the interplay between sensory impairment, motor disability and medical conditions. Emphasis is given to their individual needs creating a personalised path of development.
Our focused pre & semi formal curriculums have been developed and adapted from Dr Penny Lacey’s work – the main areas are:
•Physical Development
•Personal Care / Independence skills

As the Pre-formal Curriculum is non-subject specific, work is broken down to individual and group activities. The work that the pupils do is recorded and is about what happened during the work and how the pupils’ skills and understanding developed in relation to their targets.

We employ the following strategies:
•High level of adult support to enable as 1:1 work.
•Time before and after lessons to enable positioning of children to meet their physical needs.
•Input in lessons from OT, SALT, VI and physio to correctly meet the specific needs of each child.
The semi-formal curriculum builds on these core areas, via more themed and topic-based framework.
We employ the following strategies:
•High level of adult support to enable as 1:1 work.
•Time before and after lessons to regulate.
•Input in lessons from multi-disciplinaries to ensure holistic learning.
Lessons focus on repetition of particular skills to enable the child to generalise and retain their acquired skills
The achievements and progress of children are assessed via engagement steps, focusing on Communication and Cognition, on an assessment tool provided by B Squared.

National Curriculum
The majority of our pupils follow a curriculum based on the National Curriculum. We have utilised staff skills and expertise to expand and enhance the National Curriculum. We build upon the Early Years prime areas and the effective characteristics of learning, reflected in context statements in each unit of the Schemes of Work, to create appropriate progress-based learning objectives across all subjects, building on existing knowledge and delivered through motivating and challenging lessons. The Schemes of Work reflect various approaches within the different pathways; from exploratory, sensory based opportunities to skills and knowledge led learning in theoretical and practical activities – subject knowledge sheets attached to each unit act as a guide and resource for children and staff. Throughout there is a strong focus on providing opportunity to develop communication skills and encourage independence. They are reviewed regularly to ensure embedded long-term learning through confident staff knowledge and sequential progress steps. We also aim to promote and reinforce the British Values of democracy, individual liberty, mutual respect, tolerance and the rule of Law which have been outlined by the government and these values are an integral part of the curriculum.

At Gibside we develop children’s reading through various approaches and activities. We employ phonic and sight recognition strategies incorporating visual, pictorial & sensory support to meet the needs of individuals.
Our aims are to:
Enable children to read to the best of their ability
Ensure books are appropriate to the child’s approach to reading to promote success when reading
Provide children with a range of ‘tools’ to interpret text
Develop an interest in books and reading for pleasure, including enjoying a wide variety of texts such as fiction, non-fiction and poetry
Ensure children can read with confidence, accuracy, fluency and understanding
Support children to become independent readers, applying these skills across the curriculum
Use books as a source of inspiration for their own imagination and creativity
Enable children to engage in the next stage in their education
Liaise with families to ensure consistency between home and school

Children’s targets and objectives are set from our own Scheme of Work which is underpinned by the National Curriculum, but have been further broken down to reflect the smaller steps of learning with our population. These objectives are then embedded within whole class teaching, small group activities and 1:1 reading. Additionally, our Speech and Language therapists provide additional assistance and guidance to teachers and support some children in 1:1 sessions.
Phonics teaching is structured around the Phonic Bug Reading programme. We use specific resources matched to phases 1-6 to teach phonics at the appropriate stage for each child; these range from online resources to practical and sensory activities led in the classroom. Our highly creative staff have made sets of resources which are shared and used across school.
For those children, particularly with an ASC diagnosis, where sight recognition appears to be their approach to reading we use word fading, colourful semantics and reading recovery to support their Early Reading development.
Our sight readers use a range of reading schemes including See and Learn (an approach designed for children with Down Syndrome), Oxford Reading Tree, Collins Big Cats and Project X and a range of pre-reading visual resources to support the development of our children’s reading skills. For those with Visual Impairments we have sensory/tactile books and books from the VI team with larger font and less visual clutter. We also have books created in school which reflect children’s individual interests.

Fine motor development is taught across school via personalised targets for children. These can be identified by teaching staff or multidisciplinary staff such as OTs or Physios. Fine motor sessions include grip development, mark making and progress to letter formation and handwriting sessions in our most able pupils. We develop writing skills across a range of mediums in mark making to reflect the developmental stages and introduce letter formation using Read Write Inc guidance and materials, to support children with stories to help them remember to correctly form letters. We use Twinkl handwriting for those learning cursive handwriting.

Religious Education

Religious Education is part of a pupil’s entitlement from Reception through to the end of Sixth Form. All maintained schools are required to provide Religious Education for their pupils and headteachers must ensure that this is done. All local authorities are required to establish a Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education [SACRE] to provide advice to the local authority and to periodically review the Locally Agreed Syllabus. At Gibside we have created our RE scheme of work from the Gateshead Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education 2018. The agreed syllabus reflects that the religious traditions in Great Britain are principally Christian. Parents have the right to withdraw their children from all or part of religious education. Headteachers should refer to Section 386 of the Education Act 1996 and also to “Religious education in English schools: Non-statutory guidance 2010” for more information in relation to this right.


We use the SCERTS (Social Communication Emotional Regulation Transactional Support) framework to identify and develop skills in the areas that our children with ASC have particular difficulties with. This multi-disciplinary approach involving Speech and Language Therapy and Occupational Therapy, ensures that strategies to support Social Communication and Emotional Regulation benefit the children throughout the school day, as well as at home.

For more information on our curriculum overview please click on the link below.

curriculum overview 20-21