All students at St. Joseph’s have complex or severe learning disabilities. As one aspect of providing equal opportunities the school believes that the students ought to be treated according to the principle ‘person first, disability second’; that is: the student ought not to be defined or described simply in terms of their disability but is to be treated as a unique human being with individual needs, desires, interests and aspirations.
The school respects the students’ disabilities and does not seek to ‘cure’ or change its manifestation by coercive or confrontational methods. The school seeks to use a variety of teaching approaches in order to help each individual to overcome or cope with difficulties associated with their disabilities and to acquire skills and knowledge which are useful for all children and young people. The school, therefore, believes that the students have an entitlement to the education available to all, together with intervention which specifically addresses their disabilities. Therapies are not only delivered individually but are embedded into the planning and delivery of the curriculum. Teachers and Therapists work together on the weekly lesson planning and each lead on the delivery of classes through the day.
The Whole Curriculum Intent
This curriculum reflects the need to provide access to the culture and education generally available to children and young people in society by helping each student overcome or cope with the difficulties posed by their disabilities. For students with ASD the impairments of socialisation, communication and flexibility of thought need addressing ‘specifically’.
The curriculum builds on individual strengths, interests and experiences which will be reflected in the schemes of work and individual education plans. Through this process, the school will develop, implement and review a developmental curriculum which addresses the specific impairments of the students’ disabilities and provide access to the National Curriculum as appropriate to the developmental level of each student. For students with ASD this curriculum will be in part remedial, in helping students to overcome deficits and in part compensatory. Curriculum delivery will reflect the need for structure and repetition within subject areas which, in turn, will provide access to learning. The spiral curriculum revisits previous learning and knowledge and cements and builds upon what has been learned and experienced.
Students with learning difficulties require a ‘small steps’ approach in order to facilitate learning. Throughout the pathways, students may need to continue to access multi-sensory approaches. Multi-sensory approaches support our students to challenge and overcome their barriers to learning.
Our curriculum intent is for our students to achieve the greatest possible level of independence relative to their complex needs. For some this is about making daily choices that demonstrates their independence of mind and for others this may be achieving independent living as they go forward into adulthood. Everyone will be able to access work related learning and some will achieve external work placements which will allow them to access their community and hold down a paid or voluntary occupation.
Implementation of the Curriculum
Based on their conditions and future, our students enter one of our three vertical curriculum pathways. Pupils are placed in both school and college by ability and to meet their social needs, rather than by Key Stage. This allows focused teaching to meet the individual developmental needs of the young people, and not restricting access to accreditations.
The curriculum delivered in School is based on the IPC (International Primary Curriculum) which in turn is based on the National Curriculum Framework; EYFS goals for Literacy and Maths and then progress into OCR Life and Living Skills. Students will then study Functional Literacy and Numeracy at Entry Levels 1, 2 and 3 with a view to taking the OCR Functional Literacy and Numeracy tests. OCR Life & Living Skills at Entry 1 through 3, are a suite of modular areas of study focussing on practical skills and preparation for work. We also offer courses in arts, crafts and workshop skills accredited by WJEC, and students may also access GCSE courses, taught either in-house or at linked mainstream schools with our support. Weekly lessons are jointly planned by Teachers and Therapists to maximise engagement and progress for our students, as they strive for an independent future.
At St. Joseph’s, students are divided into Explorers, Discoverers and Adventurers; while the opportunities of the wider curriculum remain accessible to all. The Pathways are best described as ‘Stages before Ages’ and are closely aligned to the aspirational future Outcomes of the students in their adult lives.
Impact of the Curriculum
We measure our success by the life changing progress made by pupils in our setting; whether moving onto a future care setting, supporting living with an occupation or onto continued education. We work with future destinations to ensure that our courses can be continued into further education and that those who make exceptional progress can transition early onto schools and colleges. Early transitions are often done as a gradual progress in partnerships with these future destinations.
When progressing to these outcome we adapt our teaching and therapy strategies to meet the needs of our pupils, as they progress through puberty and adolescence to ensure that they are engaged and progress towards or to achieve their intended outcomes.
The Wider Curriculum
Beyond the core curriculum our pupils take part in a Sports Carousel that provides opportunities; to swim in the community (and on site in the Summer), Team sports, the Duke of Edinburgh Award, Sporting Events with other special schools and mainstream pupils from the Roman Catholic Deanery, and ever popular Dance and Drama.
As a Gold Level Arts Mark Award Centre we offer a wide range of Arts opportunities which include Pottery, Animation and Film Making, Radio Broadcasting and Music Recording, Photography and an opportunity to exhibit at our annual Art Exhibition in Cranleigh Arts Centre. We also are an accredited Royal Horticulture Society Centre and offer level one RHS qualifications to our pupils. Our DT workshop offers opportunities for carpentry, electronics and basic programming.
Our school year is packed with celebratory events such as History Day, The Oscars Film making event, the Talent Show, Feeling Good Week, Block Enterprise Fortnight and Work Experience, and our Annual Nativity. We have an inclusive culture where everyone can take part.
St Joe’s Café
The pupils have the opportunity to develop work related learning skills, OCR qualifications, social skills, food production skills, customer skills, business skills, all while enjoying the delights of our onsite training café. Classes take turns to be producers and consumers under the expert guidance of our work related team. This is jewel in the crown of our drive for independence outside the classroom and as a pre-cursor to external work experiences and possible employment. It represents the end product for some of our cohort and a stepping stone for others. Its shabby chic furnishings are produced by our pupils in our DT workshop. With work related learning, St Joe’s café, pulls together all our independence work into a meaningful, functional outcome. Pupils are given purpose, building up their self-esteem and preparing them for the future.