Oaklands Autism Base offers the full National Curriculum. Wherever possible, pupils participate in statutory tests and many pupils excel in these, within their areas of strength.
Delivery of the foundation curriculum is balanced with the need to provide a specialist social learning curriculum.
Our intention for our pupils is that they leave Oaklands Autism Base ready to be successful learners in the next phase of their education.
To meet this goal our pupils need:
We understand the requirements of the Key Stage 3 settings we feed clearly and our curriculum choices are made carefully to ensure our pupils build the precise set of knowledge and skills that they will need for the next point in their education. We map the ultimate outcomes of our curriculum onto the foundation of the Year 7 curriculum, to give our pupils the capacity to succeed as they embark on that learning.
The social curriculum at Oaklands Autism Base permeates everything we do. It is not delivered through separate ‘social skills lessons’, although we do also hold these. Pupils’ holistic progress across the social curriculum is captured and evaluated in detail using an innovative software package called ‘ShowProgress’.
Our social curriculum is built around three pillars: communication, well-being and self-regulation.
We support pupils’ verbal and non-verbal communication, both by developing their bank of skills and by adapting the methods of communication used in their environment. We work from the early beginnings of vocabulary and meaning building through to the development of sophisticated self-advocacy skills, depending on each pupil’s stage of development. For some pupils, Speech Therapists provide care plans and targets and these may be implemented as an individual intervention or as part of group work.
We work hard to promote a strong sense of well-being in all of our pupils. We use Martin Seligman’s PERMAH model to provide a framework for this. We teach pupils about the importance of each strand and design opportunities for them to grow and develop within each area. We try to equip them with the self-determination skills to secure good levels of well-being for themselves, both now and in their future.
Self-regulation, in all its forms, is seen as the ultimate goal at Oaklands Autism Base. Adults support pupils to become independent in their thinking, learning, social interaction and emotional regulation. Support is seen only as the pathway to future independence and is faded as soon as a pupil no longer needs it. Pupils are given opportunities to practise their self-regulation skills in a rich variety of contexts.
In the base, academic lessons are differentiated for the needs of pupils with autism. In comparison to a mainstream classroom environment, the primary difference is the use of ‘structured teaching’. This involves using a consistent format and set of cues for each lesson which pupils can easily learn to predict. Timetables and routines for lessons are kept as regular as possible to reduce anxiety caused by change and the unknown. Wherever possible, any necessary change within the daily learning routine is carefully prepared for.
Learning is broken into small blocks and adult-led time is interleaved with frequent periods of ‘low demand’ time during which pupils may pursue their own interests. Feedback methods are adapted to support those who are very sensitive to perceived failure or criticism. Learning is carefully designed to be high challenge, but risk-free. Alternative recording methods are used for those with motor-control and perceptual barriers to handwriting. Each pupil is supported as an individual to be able to access the specialist teaching delivered to their group. Individual (1:1) teaching is avoided as much as possible, although it is occasionally necessary for specific, time-limited interventions.
Along with the rest of the school, the base classes follow the White Rose planning structure. Plenty of opportunities are built in for over-learning and to apply maths in a range of real-life contexts, such as shopping and cooking.
Reading is taught rigorously using the whole school reading scheme. Dyslexia often co-exists with autism and we have effective dyslexia-specific interventions in place for any pupil who needs it, whether diagnosed or not. A love of reading is encouraged- reading can be hugely helpful for autistic children to develop their social understanding and explore emotions safely, as well as being enjoyable. Pupils are read to daily, experiencing a wide range of the best quality children’s literature. They also have daily guided reading and time to read independently for pleasure.
We have a strong focus on vocabulary and pragmatics to support pupils’ communication skills.
Pupils write for a range of purposes across the curriculum. They develop a secure understanding of grammar and are encouraged to use writing to express themselves and their ideas clearly. Pupils’ special interests are used to encourage them to enjoy writing creatively. Alternative recording methods, such as word processing, are used extensively to ensure that motor co-ordination difficulties are not a barrier to the development of composition skills.
Pupils at Oaklands Autism Base study the full range of National Curriculum subjects.
Our foundation curriculum structure is different to that of the mainstream school because we have mixed-age groupings and many pupils remain in their base class for more than one year. We run a rolling programme of ‘topics’. Learning within each topic is planned to enable each pupil to build their own knowledge and skills from their individual starting point.
Themes are chosen to ensure we can build ‘learning bridges’ into the Year 7 curricula in place at the settings we feed into.
Pupils may also access some foundation subjects alongside their mainstream class, especially where they have particular strengths and interests.
Our goal is that pupils progress from their starting point on joining us to being ready to be successful in the next phase of their education. This is a key element of our curriculum.
We look carefully at what our pupils will be required to know and do in Year 7 and we build bridges to this into our curriculum. This pre-teaching ensures that they can embark on the Year 7 curriculum confidently, at a time when they are dealing with many other changes.
Independence is a primary goal for every pupil at Oaklands Autism Base, in both their social and academic learning. We target support carefully, fading this once it is no longer needed, giving pupils space to practise and apply their skills independently. Pupils are encouraged to take responsibility for themselves as soon and as much as they are able to.
Life skills, such as keeping safe and healthy, understanding and managing risk and learning how to be part of a community are built into the curriculum. We access our local area regularly to give pupils a range of experiences and different contexts in which to practise their skills.
The ability to self-advocate makes a significant different to positive life-outcomes for autistic people. We teach skills such as self-awareness, decision-making and goal-planning discretely and embed practice into our daily routines.
We have close links with all of the settings that our pupils move on to for KS3. Extensive, personal transition packages are planned for each pupil to help them to manage the changes confidently.
We know that our curriculum is effective because: