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Our Curriculum

All pupils follow either an informal or semi-formal curriculum approach. All learning opportunities are built on each child’s personalised learning intentions, which are informed by their Education Health and Care Plan, strengths and needs analysis and your hopes and aspirations for your child.

Please see our curriculum videos page for more information on each of these approaches.

Underpinning both curriculum approaches are the Brackenfield Characters. These are at the heart of, not just our curriculum, but, our whole school.

Our timetables provides us with opportunities to develop our character attributes, to recognise and celebrate our personal successes.

What we Teach

The intent of Brackenfield’s curriculum is to prepare pupils for adulthood. Succeeding in life for our pupils means living as an independent life as possible and having agency over their own lives; not just having a voice but having the skills to make their own choices and have control over their lives. Our curriculum equips pupils with the essential lifeskills, knowledge and cultural capital that they will need to become the most independent and happy versions of themselves that they can be.


Our curriculum is separated into 4 broad subject areas:

Good Health
Friends Relationships and Community
Independent Living

Good Health

I am learning to understand and manage my own body.

I am learning to manage my own mental, physical and sexual health.

I am learning to manage and meet my own hygiene needs including toileting.

Friends, Relationships & Community

I am learning to develop and maintain relationships and friendships.

I am learning to access my community safely and confidently

Independent Living

I am learning to live independently and manage my own household.

I am learning to meet my own basic needs such as hunger, thirst etc. I am learning to make choices and discover my preferences


I am learning about the world of work, so I know what opportunities are available to me.

I am learning skills so I can enter the workforce.

Communication, Literacy and Mathematics are the foundations for learning in all of these areas.


I am learning to communicate my needs, wants, thoughts, preferences, opinions and experiences. I am learning to understand what people say to me and follow instructions. I am learning to participate in conversations


I am learning to comprehend language. I am learning to understand that print carries meaning. I am learning to pronounce and recognise words.  I am learning to compose and transcript


I am learning to understand numbers; shapes; patterns; sizes; and groups. I am learning to use my mathematical skills fluently to problem solve and reason

Informal Approach

Informal pupils are learning to be.

The informal approach enables informal pupils to engage and make choices. Staff use the engagement model to assess and recognise what pupils enjoy and structure the environment to extend engagement and widen preferences.

Engagement opportunities are provided to explore which supports pupils to notice and engage with the world around them, building upon their realisation. Routine and a total communication approach support pupils to develop their ability to anticipate familiar activities or events. Staff model and play alongside pupils enabling them to build upon their persistence and sustain attention. The approach used provides a structure for pupils to learn to initiate play, communication, and interaction.

Semi-Formal Approach

Semi-formal pupils are doing to learn.

The semi-formal approach enables pupils to develop independence and functional life skills. Pupils who are in the semi-formal pathways can engage in adult led learning and have the attention skills to attend to an activity.

The semi-formal approach uses real life experiences to develop life skills. Staff will model and repeat activities gradually withdrawing support until a pupil can do the skill independently. Once the skill has been mastered the teaching shifts to being able to generalise the skill – i.e. apply it in lots of different contexts. Pupils are taught to problem solve by adults “sabotaging” the activity once the initial skill is embedded. This might look like running out of bread to make toast for breakfast – pupils would be supported to solve this problem.  In shopping this might look like not having enough money to get everything on the list.

Through our semi-formal approach, pupils learn skills and strategies to self-regulate, access the community and interact, play and socialise with other people without high levels of anxiety. Pupils learn to make their own choices and develop preferences which can be fostered into lifelong hobbies and enriching activities.

Subject Specific Learning

Due to the significant learning needs of our population; we have no pupils that are suited to a completely formal approach. However, if pupils are at the developmental level that formal input would be effective to develop skills, then this is part of their curriculum offer. This is across all subject areas. For example: before pupils can write, they need to learn to use spoken language to communicate. Later they learn to write down the words they can say. Early mark-making is not the same as writing. It is a sensory and physical experience for young children, which they do not yet connect to forming symbols which can communicate meaning. Therefore, until a child can ascribe meaning to the marks that they make they will not be able to access formal approaches to teaching writing.

Use of Assessment to Inform Teaching and Track Progress

Progress is tracked and measured in several ways at Brackenfield in order to provide a holistic view of the child and to be able to focus on the needs and strengths of each individual. Our assessment method reflects the statutory reporting for children with SEND.

Engagement Model

For all pupils operating in the informal approach, we use the engagement model to assess progress. At the beginning of the academic year statements are written against the engagement descriptors and information is recorded about how a pupil best engages. For example, which resources; activities; environments, time and people best support a pupil’s engagement. This information is also used to support planning; resource and classroom set up. At the end of the year progress is reviewed against the statements written at the start.

Personalised Learning Intentions

Personalised Learning Intentions (PLIs) are used to assess progress through each child’s personalised curriculum. PLIs start in the present and look forward; they state what is we want the child to learn next considering what they want to learn and what we believe a pupil needs to learn next. Parents and associated professionals are consulted so that an accurate and effective PLIs can be set. To identify priorities staff, complete a Strengths and Needs analysis against each subject area. A sequence of learning is then set out for the coming MER, year and key stage. The key stage outcomes are the Long-Term Outcomes from their EHCPs which are both aspirational and realistic. See the Pupil Centred Planning Guide for more information.

In order to accurately assess a child’s progress towards their PLI we consider their acquisition in terms of independence, maintenance, generalisation and fluency. Brackenfield School use the MAPP Assessment Tool to measure progress. MAPP enables staff to take qualitative data, in the form of observations, and distil meaningful quantitative data from them. This is possible because any skill can be assessed as a whole by making judgements on the rating scale below in relation to the four aspects of independence, fluency, maintenance and generalisation (Sissons, 2018).

B Levels

We created Brackenfield Levels to assess stages of development and progress using neuro-typical age-equivalency development milestones as a basis. This is to be able to have a common language that all stakeholders can understand. B levels give information about a pupil that supports the design of their curriculum approach.

Learning objectives have been created from EYFS Outcomes and End of Year National Curriculum Expectations. These are arranged in Assessment Grids that enable effective assessment of stage of development and then tracking of pupil progress. Each pupil has an individual Assessment Grid which baselines and then tracks progress in Reading, Writing, Numeracy, Communication, Physical Development and PE, Personal and Emotional Development and Expressive Art and Design.

B Skills

B Levels tell us where a pupil is at in relation to their neurotypical peers or age-related expectations. B Skills allow us to track pupil progress through their functional PfA curriculum.

B skills are not necessarily hierarchal, and they may also not be sequential. They are taught when a pupil can access the teaching and shows an interest in the area. For example, a pupil that who can travel to a shop and choose an item to buy will be supported to do this even if they do not have the understanding of money exchange. They may never acquire skills or knowledge to do with money, but this does not mean we should not support them to access the elements of shopping that they can. Our curriculum is centred around an supporting an independent life as possible.

It may take several years to fully embed and teach a skill which is why a live tracking system that stays with the pupil throughout the school is required.

Evidencing Learning and Progress

To demonstrate learning and track progress of pupils, evidence is logged through BOOP- an app with access for pupils, teachers and parents.

Evidence can be tracked against PLI, the engagement scale, functional literacy and maths life skill, preparation for adulthood , EYFS and Brackenfield Characters.

Pupils will have a timeline of achievements , showing a chronology of development, with evidence in picture, video or narrative format.

BOOP also has a home school diary, including personal care log, whole school messages to parents, a class newsfeed and the opportunity to write a daily schedule for pupils, supporting parental understanding of the school day and to support parents in preparing pupils for any changes to the school day.

Here is the link to the website to see what the app is like: Limejar Software | Parents