Whilst this curriculum looks different to a traditional KS3/4 curriculum it needs to as the needs of the children are different. As leaders we have a solid consensus about the knowledge and skills our young people need in order to take advantage of opportunities, responsibilities and experiences in life – now and later. Staff delivering this curriculum will adopt a pedagogy that is markedly different from what is typically experienced in the classroom in order to give the students ownership over their learning and decision making. We firmly believe that this curriculum is powerful in addressing social disadvantage for our most vulnerable group of young people.
Research tells us that learning can only happen when children feel safe and secure. It is then that they will take risks and open themselves up to new challenges. This can be difficult for children whose early life has been impacted by trauma. We have therefore designed a curriculum to help our most vulnerable children break the cycle of deprivation and bridge learning gaps with the intent of equipping them with skills that will enable them to be good citizens and ultimately reengage with their education and life beyond. We believe that there is far more to education than just looking at exam results as the one simple metric for success – we want to grow inquisitive minds and show our young people how their subject knowledge explains the world around them.
Many of our learners arrive having suffered significant trauma. Our students need to experience life skills and emotional development that will redress earlier negative experiences and will aim to break the cycle that led to ACEs. We know that children with 4 or more ACEs are 20 times more likely to go on to be incarcerated and that people who have experienced ACEs in their life are at an increased risk of poor health, including mental health issues. We simply cannot expect these children to fit into the core offer – they would continue the cycle of finding school very hard and emerging from the educational system feeling like they have not achieved anything worthwhile. We will not allow our children to feel like this.
We aim to use a variety of therapeutic and nurturing approaches to encourage emotional and social growth, and recreate a joy for learning. With support from a range of professionals including ELSA leads, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, Lego therapists, Forest School leaders, teachers and family support workers we look at every child as an individual with their own set of strengths and challenges and design a pathway for success.
Recognising the need for an alternative approach from simply just academic pathways - one that cares for the whole child - has led to the development of the Focus group who follow a thematic curriculum based on a series of Big Questions. Subjects are taught weekly through an over-arching question that allows the students to explore far beyond a classroom environment. The desire is to create real world experiences that are underpinned by drawing on and developing subject content / procedural knowledge, but which draws on the issues, expertise and resources in the local community to give that knowledge a more engaging context. By drawing on and developing students’ curiosity and creativity we look to provide them ownership of their learning and the opportunities that develop their resilience and ability to direct their actions and learn to take responsibility for those actions. This method supports SEMH needs and helps students reengage with their learning in a safe environment, where trying hard is rewarded and mistakes are allowed.