The curriculum review section of most direct interest to SENCOs concerns organising the curriculum. SENCO Update reports

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) completed consultation on its major review of the secondary curriculum for 11- to 14-year-olds at the end of April 2007. After consultation, final revision and ministerial decision, the revised curriculum was due to schools for planning purposes from September 2007. It will become statutory for year groups as follows: September 2008: Year 7 pupils; September 2009: Years 7 and 8; September 2010: Years 7, 8 and 9. In addition, changes to the Key Stage 4 curriculum will take effect from September 2009. The section of most direct interest to SENCOs concerns organising the curriculum. This section includes detailed suggestions on personalising the curriculum with regard to:

  • inclusion; this section contains an array of specific prompt questions and other tools to assist schools in assessing their inclusive education practices and arrangements
  • promoting specialism and choice that enable pupils to succeed and develop into independent learners through flexible curriculum and classroom provision. Attention to learners’ needs and diverse interests is highlighted
  • targeted intervention designed to support learners who have fallen behind, who are working beyond age-related expectations, or who have a particular gift or talent.

Pupils with special educational needs

Curriculum planning and assessment for pupils with special educational needs must take account of the type and extent of the difficulty experienced by the pupil. Teachers should take specific action to provide access to learning for pupils with special educational needs by:

  • providing for pupils who need help with communication, language and literacy
  • planning, where necessary, to develop pupils’ understanding through the use of all available senses and experiences
  • planning for pupils’ full participation in learning and in physical and practical activities
  • helping pupils to manage their behaviour, to take part in learning effectively and safely, and, at Key Stage 4, to prepare for work
  • helping individuals to manage their emotions, particularly trauma or stress, and to take part in learning.

Principles for an inclusive curriculum

The section on inclusion contains an array of specific prompt questions and other tools to assist schools in assessing their inclusive education practices and arrangements. QCA is working in collaboration with practitioners to develop an inclusion audit tool, and this is likely to be of particular interest to SENCOs. The tool will cover the principles and points described below.

Learning activities should be set at the right level of challenge for the entire attainment span within the group.

  • Have you aimed to give every learner the opportunity to achieve a meaningful outcome at as high a standard as possible?
  • Have you paid enough attention to the needs of pupils with SEN and the gifted and talented when designing your curriculum, rather than relying on ‘one off’ adaptations in every lesson?
  • Have you taken account of the fact that bilingual learners need to learn English and the content of the curriculum at the same time?
  • Can the necessary knowledge, skills or understanding be taught in ways that suit learners’ interests and abilities?
  • Is there enough flexibility to allow any gaps in learning to be addressed?
  • Can the pace of learning be adjusted to ensure that learners are making meaningful progress?
  • Have you met the needs of gifted and talented learners with a range of approaches and resources?
  • Have you met the needs of pupils with learning difficulties with a range of approaches and resources?
  • Have you met the needs of pupils learning EAL with a range of approaches and resources?
  • Have you planned for those learners who will stay at the same level of attainment for some time?
  • Have you provided opportunities for all learners to progress systematically?
  • Is the level of demand appropriate for the target group?
  • Have you identified the skills, knowledge and understanding that learners will need at the outset?
  • Is there a balance between practical and theoretical approaches to learning?
  • Are there accessible materials for learners at all levels of attainment?
  • Do the assessment arrangements enable learners to demonstrate their understanding and attainments?
  • Are the assessment arrangements fine grained enough to track the progress of children with SEN?
  • Do you continue to focus your planning on the same group of learners? For example, could you develop similar opportunities for learners of other attainments?

Example: Challenging the attainment span of learners

A group of gifted and talented learners in Year 9 are given opportunities to undertake independent research across the curriculum. The projects are designed to build on their analytical skills. They undertake a range of research and reporting tasks: reviewing the current use of land within their town in geography; analysing the success rates for foreign aid schemes in maths; looking at what makes a successful ‘blog’ and what accounts for the growth of this mode of communication in English, etc. They review each other’s progress as a part of self-assessment.

The curriculum should be made inclusive by ensuring that the diversity of group learning needs is addressed.

  • Are learning environments effective and do they reflect the diversity of pupils?
  • Have you considered the best way to organise provision for learners in your school. For example, there is no requirement to deliver the programmes of study through discrete subject slots and there are no statutory regulations about how much time ought to be spent on different areas of the curriculum.
  • What needs to be done to promote the engagement, motivation and concentration of the group?
  • Have you set appropriate group and individual learning targets?
  • Do your assessment approaches give positive and constructive feedback to learners to actively engage them in self-improvement?
  • Have you identified the possible progression routes for the group?
  • Does your work cater for the different learning styles of individuals?
  • Have you acknowledged the achievements and contributions of people from a variety of ethnic groups in your work?
  • How can you monitor and research the effect of your work on the achievement of learners from minority ethnic groups?
  • How can you assess the impact of your work on pupils with SEN who make slower progress than other pupils?
  • Are materials and procedures free from gender discrimination and stereotyping?
  • Have you promoted approaches to teaching and learning that interest, motivate and engage pupils from different backgrounds?
  • Have you made sure that the demands made on language skills, particularly reading and writing, in a range of subjects do not demotivate particular learners?
  • Can you make sure that learners have opportunities to develop their understanding and skills of formal assessment techniques?
  • Is there a balance between practical and theoretical approaches to learning?
  • Have you provided approaches and resources that are culturally relevant for all groups, including new arrivals to the UK? Have you taken into account and valued the diversity of learners’ backgrounds?
  • Have you avoided indirect discrimination and, for example:
    • acknowledged diversity rather than assuming a homogeneous population
    • reflected a range of perspectives rather than prescribing a white, Eurocentric view of the world
    • acknowledged different faiths and beliefs instead of favouring one religion to the exclusion of others?
  • Have you avoided direct discrimination, for example using racist language or stereotypical images?
  • What action can you take if learners from a particular minority ethnic group underachieve?
  • Do you positively promote the notion of a multicultural society in your work?
  • Do you promote racial harmony through your materials?
  • Have you made it possible for learners with disabilities to use alternative means of communication, such as signing, using symbols or communicating through ICT?
  • Have you identified the different paths that learning may take for some learners?

Example: Diversity of group learning needs

A group of learners with language and communication difficulties are on the joint rolls of a special and a mainstream school. The schools work together with the speech and language therapist to plan and build opportunities for their language and communication development across the curriculum. This involves learners having the opportunity to extend their interests in some subjects, such as art, but planning their learning to develop both the written and spoken language, for example through a better knowledge of letter shapes and sounds.

The curriculum and assessment approaches should address the potential barriers to learning for groups and particular individuals.

  • Has thought been given to the type of support that some learners may need to participate effectively?
  • Have you considered the range of difficulties that learners may have when planning learning contexts and activities? Are you clear about how they can be addressed?
  • Have you met the needs of learners with significant learning difficulties with a range of approaches and resources?
  • Has your school developed a ‘provision map’ that sets out the extra provision available and its impact on outcomes?
  • Have you made sure that the demands made on language skills, particularly reading and writing, in a range of subjects do not de-motivate particular learners?
  • Have you attended to the study skills that might need to be developed by pupils with SEN or behavioural problems?
  • Have you developed essential learning materials and resources for learners who are unable to see?
  • Are there tactile materials, braille text and taped materials for assessments? What other resources may be necessary to support a visually impaired learner?
  • Have you planned for learners who are unable to hear sounds clearly or at all?
  • Have you developed materials for hearing-impaired people at all levels of attainment that match their language development? Do you provide special assessment papers for hearing-impaired learners?
  • How can you help to compensate learners with limited mobility for the learning opportunities they have missed in the wider world?
  • Have you made it possible for disabled learners to use technological aids or alternative means of communication in assessment?
  • Have you allowed for the greater length of time, physical effort and concentration required by these learners to complete a task?
  • Do you show that you value the additional learning activities such as mobility, braille and therapy, carried out by these learners?
  • Have you made it possible for these learners to use alternative means of communication, such as signing, using symbols or communicating through ICT?
  • Do the assessment arrangements enable these learners to demonstrate their understanding and attainments?
  • How far can these learners demonstrate their competency using their first language?

Example: Barriers to learning

A school has many young people who are new arrivals to the UK. They are matched, where possible, to a teacher who speaks their first language. Other departments, such as mathematics and science, produce posters, worksheets and other materials where the content is represented visually, where possible. The pupils are all given bilingual dictionaries to help them understand the specialist vocabulary used in these lessons. The school takes a flexible approach to oral work and assessments, allowing pupils to have some access to written questions and also allowing pair work and more time for learners who need to prepare their answers.

The secondary curriculum review can be viewed at www.qca.org.uk/secondarycurriculumreview/index.htm