Adapting your curriculum to a specialist setting

adapting a curriculum to specialist setting

Did you catch our latest free webinar on how to adapt your curriculum to a specialist setting? If not, you can catch up here, or read on for a summary of what we covered.

About the webinar

Our second free webinar was hosted by Hannah Homa. Hannah is part of the Dimensions team, working with us on a consultancy basis. She’s also a teacher, working at Hong Kong International Learning Academy.

During the webinar, Hannah interviewed two special guests. Helen Redfern is Assistant Head Teacher at Hebburn Lakes Primary School. Meanwhile, Justine Barlow is Principal at Hong Kong International Learning Academy (and Hannah’s boss!).

Both guests had distinctive experiences of how to adapt a curriculum to specialist settings. However, we soon discovered that, despite working in very different settings, they had many common insights to share.

The webinar was hugely popular! We released extra tickets to make sure everyone could access it and had a fantastic number of attendees watching live on the day. Plus, many of you watched the recording back in your own time.

About our guests

Helen Redfern has been Assistant Head Teacher at Hebburn Lakes Primary School since September 2020. The school opened in 2012.

As curriculum lead at the school, Helen enjoys being able to have a whole school impact, while also still teaching two days a week in Year 3.

Hebburn Lakes is a large primary school in the north-east of England with 480 children and two specialist provisions.

Justine Barlow set up Hong Kong International Learning Academy in 2010 with a single student.

A small British international school in Hong Kong’s Discovery Bay, HKILA has a maximum of 55 children on roll and right now has an SEN provision of 28%, which doesn’t include children on the spectrum. 

HKILA works to a “stage, not age” model, allowing all pupils to progress by their abilities, rather than chronological age.

The benefits of a good curriculum for SEND provision

One of the main takeaways from the webinar was the importance of a good curriculum as the foundation for your SEND provision.

Especially during the challenges we’ve all experienced over the past year, our guests both stressed the benefit of their curriculum in shaping teaching to meet the needs of all of their pupils.

Justine said: “We had to look at how you become more effective and the way you become more effective is through your curriculum. Certainly, for us, it was the easiest thing in the world to put curriculum at the centre of all of that”.

For her SEND pupils, Helen said the variety of themes and activities offered by the ‘Learning Means The World’ curriculum was key.

She said: “What’s really good about Dimensions and the themes is they’re not all writing-based, so actually they are accessible for all of the children, so even our mainstream children who are SEND can access it.”

Inclusion and curriculum

During the webinar, we spoke about the advantages of inclusion, and how you can customise your curriculum to achieve this.

At Hebburn Lakes Primary School, Helen and her team use the Dimensions Learning Pathways for SEND pupils of different age groups, selecting the pathway most suited to each individual.

She said: “They come with us for whole school assembles – they see themselves as Adventurers, Explorers and Pathfinders just like the rest of the school. They don’t see themselves as separate because they’re doing what we do.”

Managing expectations

Another topic covered during our webinar was how to manage parents’ expectations of SEND pupils’ abilities and achievements.

Our guests provided some fantastic, practical advice on different awards and accreditations available for SEND pupils, as well as offering fascinating insights into their experiences of working with pupils to reach their individual potential.

Justine, from Hong Kong International Learning Academy, said: “Some parents think of their child as making progress with you as “great, they’re fixed, so we can now put them back here”. My answer is always that they’re not broken in the first place – we just have to make sure we have the right curriculum and the right tools and skills for them.”

Adapting your curriculum for SEND pupils during COVID-19

Of course, the past year has seen exceptional circumstances for us all.

Unsurprisingly, adapting your curriculum to accommodate changing restrictions – alongside your existing commitments to make it work for every pupil in school – has been a challenge.

Justine said: “It’s been the hardest thing to engage children. We have to wear masks all day every day, the students are all facing forward with Perspex screens between them – it is the most unnatural teaching environment you will ever have to teach in.

“And yet they’ve still managed to maintain motivation, and we’ve been able to do that because we have such an exciting curriculum.”

Get Ahead – 21st century skills

We also touched on the fact that Hebburn Lakes has recently been trialling our Get Ahead 21st century skills programme, which can be easily adapted for all ages and abilities.

Speaking about the programme, Helen said: “Our KS2-based children especially were struggling with the thought of transition – they’d been in school the whole way through [lockdown] but then everyone else was back and trying to get back into normality they found really challenging.

“Elaine mentioned about Get Ahead and the idea is that it focuses on core skills for them and to get them ready for 21stcentury living and being able to adapt.

“They’ve done it for half a term and they’ve absolutely loved it!”

Find out more about Get Ahead here.

Watch the webinar now

If you’re keen to find out more about the topics we covered in our webinar on adapting a curriculum for specialist settings, you can watch the full recording here.

Got a question we didn’t cover? Email it to [email protected]and we’d love to answer it for you.

Stay tuned for information about our next webinar coming soon!

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