Please be vigilant about symptoms of Coronavirus. If your child has a persistent cough, a temperature or a loss/change of taste or smell, do not send them in to school..
Home Page

Oaklands School

Making Learning Fun

Home Page

Oaklands School

Making Learning Fun

Oaklands Curriculum

Oaklands – the ‘Inside-Outside’ school


Oaklands School is a very special place; from the majestic oak tree outside the school building to the spinney at the back, it is full of nature, open spaces, and opportunities to learn. Our school building is unusual: built in a square with a garden and playground at the centre. All of our classrooms have outside space and look out onto trees and play areas. This ‘inside-outside’ aspect of the school building perfectly reflects the ‘inside-outside‘ way of living and learning at Oaklands for every member of our community, whether staff, parent or child.


At Oaklands School, we believe that our curriculum should be rich, creative and challenging in order to engage and motivate our children. The Oaklands curriculum offer comprises all learning and other experiences that we plan for our pupils and is both explicitly taught and embedded in our practices and environment. We strive to provide the highest quality opportunities for all of our unique children to achieve meaningful progress in a broad range of skills from their own starting points. The majority of pupils have a diagnosis of ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) and all have communication and interaction difficulties, which can mean the wider world is a very over-stimulating, confusing and challenging place to be. Our classrooms and whole school fabric are therefore controlled and calm, a low-arousal space to enable our children to relax and become more open to learning. In order to ensure that our children have firm foundations in learning when they leave us, we have developed a rigorous approach to planning and sequencing learning, supported and informed by our own ipsative assessment system OPAL (Oaklands Progressive Assessment Ladders). 


The National Curriculum forms one part of the school curriculum in any school, but is not the whole curriculum. Schools that follow the National Curriculum are free to develop a curriculum relevant to their pupils that teaches this content, as well as elements of SMSC, PSHE and other core learning relevant to their context. The majority of our pupils at Oaklands are working below the National Curriculum so whilst we consult it and Early Years frameworks to inform content for classes, a bespoke Oaklands curriculum necessarily will focus more on foundational learning and communication and social skills development.


Our curriculum reflects the needs and learning styles of our pupils and has been developed in response to our current pupil population, and after listening to the pupils themselves, their families, staff and other professionalsIt is structured through learning opportunities in eight Areas of Learning and assessed through eight progressive assessment ladders to ensure all children have broad, challenging, and relevant lessons in their time at Oaklands. Our longer term plans are differentiated at the point of teaching: by pathway, by class within a pathway, and ultimately to individual level through TEACCH and other ASD- friendly strategies, 1:1 interventions, and pedagogies. 


Our ’inside-outside‘ curriculum: We want all of our pupils to be confident happy children who know they have value and who have a sense of their own abilities, so a core aspect of all learning is for self awareness and awareness of others. From this self ‘inside’ knowledge, we want to engage children with the wider world outside of themselves and within our school and local community. We want our pupils to be able to communicate in whatever way or ways they are comfortable with; to have a voice and be listened to; to know that they have rights and responsibilities, and that they are entitled to learning that is fun, challenging and meaningful whatever their abilities or starting points. 


The ‘outside’ aspect of our curriculum is an extensive and progressive set of ‘Independence & life skills’ learning units. These practical skills are complemented by ‘Out and About’ trips, which are 

highly valued by parents and carers as we take children to parks, shops, businesses and public places on a regular basis on foot and on public transport. These are not ‘one-off’ visits but well planned outings that are repeated several times so that our children can become better acclimatised to the social and sensory challenges of particular places and activities. They are prepared for these outside events and outings through visuals, roleplay and language building inside the school so that they get the most from the experiences and develop skills that they will need in their lives.


Another ’outside‘ aspect of the Oaklands curriculum is our Spinney Sessions run in the woodland area behind the main building and in 2021-22 this will be complemented by a new programme of growing herbs, fruit and vegetables as part of our Food for Life award project.


Our ‘inside-outside’ staff team: At Oaklands we are very keen to share our expertise and to keep learning new things that we can use with our children. We share good practice and teaching & learning ideas inside the school through regular class meetings and in-house CPD. We also look outside school for inspiration and work very closely with CLASS (the City of Leicester Association of Special Schools), the local authority, the National Autistic Society (NAS) and partner schools in our Inclusion Quality Mark Centres of Excellence network. We are active members of the Challenge Partners network which is a pioneering school-led school-improvement organisation. Each year we both invite reviewers to evaluate our school and send our reviewers to assess other schools, an inside-outside system that ensures best practice is always flowing in and out of Oaklands.


We also support many schools in the city and wider a field who have autistic children in their settings. We try to include as many staff as possible in these school partnership and activities so that we are all learning all the time. On our staff, we also have a Specialist Leader in Education (SLE) Vicky Bland who was recruited by the local authority, because of her extensive expertise, to be an advisor to city schools about SEND matters.


We also work to support parents and families, both inside the school (through regular parent workshops, our Parent governor-led programme of talks, and more informally on a day-to-day basis) and outside the school through running Early Bird Plus parent courses for the local authority.


Our Areas of Learning from Autumn 2021 and related assessment frameworks are as follows: 

Areas of Learning  

Related assessment including OPAL ladders 


Emotional Regulation & Wellbeing 

  • Emotional Regulation Skills Ladder 


Communication, Interaction & Social Skills 

  • Communication Skills Ladder 
  • Interaction & Social Skills Ladder 


Physical Development 

  • Physical Development Skills Ladder 
  • PE within the National Curriculum  
  • National SEND Swimming Rockhopper scheme (Yr6 only) 


Independence & Life Skills 


  • Self Care Skills Ladder 
  • Self Care in the Community Skills Ladder 







  • Literacy Skills Ladder 
  • Oaklands Reading Profile 
  • Phonics screening test (when applicable) 
  • SATs papers (when applicable) 




  • Mathematical Skills Ladder 
  • SATs papers (when applicable) 

Science & environmental education 

  • Whole school Eco Awards 


Creativity & the Arts (includes RE)


  • Oaklands Art Passport 
  • ArtsMark awards 



Pathway structure overview: In light of the increasing complexity of need of our cohorts, we have defined three pathways to better meet children’s differing needs. The three pathways have distinctive practices and approaches informed by best practice in Autism education and chosen to focus on the key learning needs of each pathway.  As the school cohort continues to change, we will be reviewing the pathway structure so that children can be taught with similar peers to enhance their learning potential. In 2021-22, we have three pathways: Willow, Cherry & Chestnut.