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.
Our ’inside-outside‘ curriculum: The majority of our wonderful children 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 is controlled and calm, a low-arousal space to enable our children to relax and become more open to learning. 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. We want them 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.
That is the ‘inside’ aspect of our curriculum and the focus of our Oaklands Learning Habits and our core curriculum programme: My thinking & Talking; My Movement; My Life, My Community; and My World. All children study within these 4 Areas of Learning (AoL) and will be given lots of opportunities to explore their capabilities in multi-sensory ways both inside and outside a traditional classroom setting.
The ‘outside’ aspect of our curriculum is an extensive and progressive set of ‘life skills’ learning projects which are designed to help our children cope in social situations outside school. These learning projects, our ‘Out and About’ units, 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 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 home lives.
Another ’outside‘ aspect of the Oaklands curriculum is our Forest School run in the spinney behind the main building and in 2018-19 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 who have autistic children in their settings. Through our new DSP (Designated Specialist Provision) Oaklands @Barley Croft we are able to provide high quality autism- friendly teaching in a mainstream school and so offer 10 children school places that they otherwise could not have. This partnership with Barley Croft is a new model for Leicester city that we are excited to be part of; being specialists inside a mainstream school whilst sharing ideas and expertise outside with Barley Croft staff and vice versa is the embodiment of our ‘inside-outside’ learning ethos. We support other schools in a variety of ways from seconding staff to their teams, to arranging work shadowing, to school visits. 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 curriculum & the three pathways: From August 2018, we will have three distinctive pathways for our children to reflect their diversity and learning needs. Children who will follow the Willow pathway are at the very earliest stages of language learning and need support to develop their attention, communication and interaction skills. They will learn some basic numeracy skills building up to counting and 1:1 correspondence, largely through play interaction and working with concrete items. They will be taught PECS stages 1 and 2 and basic Makaton signs so that they can express their needs and likes. Their lessons will be creative and multi-sensory focusing on gross motor skills initially to build their resilience and positive behaviours for later learning. They will be encouraged to recognise and communicate their own needs and learn about basic self-care. All Willow children will access our core curriculum at their own level and will have realistic but challenging half termly targets in the following Areas of Learning: My Talking & Thinking; My Movement; My Life, My Community; and My World.
Cherry children will have some language and be beginning to read and make meaningful marks. They will study the core curriculum at an appropriate level for their individual needs and also have another Area of Learning: My Creativity. This AoL recognises their ability to concentrate for longer and develop self expression skills in more subject specific sessions in art, music and design. In My Talking &Thinking they will be building their Number, Space, shape and measure knowledge and understanding, as well as their communication skills.
Chestnut children will have language and be able to concentrate for longer sessions and access some elements of subject-specific teaching. They will follow the core curriculum, plus My Creativity and also have more focused Maths sessions.
All children will study the same topic each half term so that children in different pathways can share their learning at their own level and collaborate together during curriculum days. We hope that some of our Chestnut children will be able to ‘teach’ our Willow & Cherry children on those days, building on our ‘inside-outside’ ethos of sharing our learning.
A more detailed overview of our curriculum model is set out below:
|Focus of the Aol||Communication; literacy; cognition; numeracy for Willow & Cherry; sensory development||PSD/PSHE,Out & About units; life skills & self care||
PE & Games; motor skills & physical development
(curriculum for Outdoor learning & soft play)
|Science & experiential learning; thematic topics, horticulture, Forest School||Expressive arts, music, dance, art & Design, drama & performance||More formal Numeracy|
|Areas of Learning||My Talking & Thinking||My Life, My Community||My Movement||My World||My Creativity||My Maths|
‘Inside-outside’ assessment of learning: In order to ensure all the learning at Oaklands is as purposeful as can be in every area of the school for every child, we need to have a shared understanding of what we want children to learn and the small steps that they can make in order to make sustained and meaningful progress.
All assessment in each pathway will be focused on their areas of learning and all targets referenced against them. Every half term, children will have 2-3 personalised targets in each AoL (maximum of 12 targets) and be assessed against these small step targets. The AoLs will be the headings under which we report on children’s attainment and progress to parents and to all other stakeholders. These assessments will bring together what we currently use so we will not have 2 different systems i.e. Jigsaws & SOLAR. Jigsaws will continue as visual symbol of how the AoLs fit together and as a key part of our ‘brand’ (see exemplars). Everything related to a child’s individualised assessment will be housed within SOLAR under the 4-6 headings of the areas of learning dependent on their pathway; however if a child is in Cherry but is a More Able mathematician they might also have individualised My Maths targets. Equally a talented artist in Willow might have Cherry My Creativity targets.