Woodlands School

Curriculum Overview

Woodlands School Curriculum Rationale

Woodlands School is a special school catering to pupils aged 2-19 with Severe and Complex Learning Difficulties. A substantial proportion of our student body have been diagnosed with Autism, presenting challenges such as nonverbal communication and sensory processing difficulties. All our pupils possess an Education, Health, and Care Plan identifying a broad spectrum of learning difficulties and disabilities, placing Woodlands at the forefront of meeting complex needs in Blackpool.

“Together We Raise Aspirations for Independence and Lifelong Learning”


Curriculum Intent

Woodlands School has invested time in researching, developing, piloting and implementing our curriculum. We want to get it right for our children. We are very proud of it and have had external verification of its intent, implementation and impact which has told us that our curriculum is innovative, ambitious, and that it prepares children well for life.  

 The curriculum at Woodlands School has been written to meet the very specific needs of our learners. 

Following years of differentiation of the National Curriculum, adaptations and 'making do', we, are proud to have developed our own curriculum. We aim to secure outstanding outcomes to develop students’ academic achievements, independence, engagement and social development by ensuring their access to the appropriate curriculum model, as they transition through school and move in to adulthood.

We aim for every student to be engaged and to become an effective learner. Every member of staff takes part in a cycle of training that ensures they understand how our students learn best. Our curriculum is developmental, meaningful and functional. It is research based and includes the essential building blocks for learning that our children may have missed. It is responsive to each student, building on individual strengths, interests and learning styles.


The curriculum encompasses our core learning values of independence and interdependence; where learning for life is fun. It focuses on developing the key skills of communication, cognition, independence, physical development and self-care. These are all transferable skills that will equip our young people for life beyond school. A thematic plan supports a balance of stimulating contexts to ensure breadth and coverage. We have developed our learning environments outside the confines of the classroom, promoting learning through positive outdoor experiences and play.

In order to provide students at Woodlands with experiences that are relevant, interesting and challenging, and to identify opportunities for progression, we have adopted a curriculum structure which encompasses 3 pathways - Explorers, Discoverers and Pioneers.

Each pathway covers skills, knowledge and understanding across 4 areas of learning, individual learning needs are further met through bespoke intervention programmes for enhanced personalisation.

At Post 16, students will then transfer to a Learning Programme, which, for some, includes preparation for external accreditation within the ASDAN Foundation Learning and preparatory programmes. Opportunities to achieve outcomes within three adulthood pathways - Footsteps, Stepping Out and Branching Out.

Curriculum Implementation

Our 4 Areas of Learning are:

Communication and Interaction focus on giving students the skills and experience necessary to communicate as functionally as possible and allow them to live more independently as adults, whether in supported living accommodation or with parents. Our aim is to improve confidence, teach appropriateness and social skills and interaction.

Cognition and Learning focus on what students need to be able to do in order to successfully function in and integrate within society

Social, Emotional and Mental Health focuses on mutual respect, improving self-esteem and helping students overcome anxieties and barriers. Our students need to be listened to and want validation, they need to be able to manage emotions, make good choices and respond appropriately in a range of situations and settings.

Sensory and /or Physical focuses on encouraging our students to be more physically active. We want them to develop healthier lifestyles, participate in sports events and generally form healthy habits. To be able to respond to and develop an understanding of their sensory needs.

Curriculum Overview

Our curriculum teaches the knowledge and skills of the Early Years Curriculum and the National Curriculum so that children learn to:

  • Vocalise, verbalise and communicate
  • Track, focus, read and write
  • Understand about objects, numbers, shape, space and measure
  • Develop Self-Confidence and Self-Awareness
  • Manage their feelings and behaviour
  • Make relationships
  • Learn about people and their communities, the world and technology
  • Learn about their body, what it does, and how it works
  • Look after and care for themselves and others.

The EYFS Areas of Learning and Development

The revised EFYS curriculum is based upon four principles.

  • A unique child – developing resilient, capable, confident and self-assured individuals
  • Positive Relationships – supporting the child in becoming strong and independent
  • Enabling Environments – where opportunities and experiences respond to the individual needs of the child. By developing strong partnerships between practitioners, parents/carers and the child
  • Learning and developing – An acknowledgement that children learn in different ways and at different rates

Throughout the EYFS curriculum, staff reflect on the characteristics of effective learning, which include:

  • Playing and exploring - children investigate and experience things, and ‘have a go’;
  • Active learning - children concentrate and keep on trying if they encounter difficulties, and enjoy achievements;
  • Creating and thinking critically - children have and develop their own ideas, make links between ideas and develop strategies for doing things.

The curriculum is organised into three ‘prime areas’ of learning and development and four ‘specific’ areas:

Three Prime Areas

Four Specific Areas

  • ·         Personal Social and Emotional Development
  • ·         Communication and Language
  • ·         Physical Development
  • ·         Literacy
  • ·         Mathematics
  • ·         Understanding of the World
  • ·         Expressive Arts and Design


Careers and Enterprise

The aim of the Careers offer at Woodlands School is to provide students and their families with the information they require to enable them to make informed decisions about their future learning and career. We acknowledge that our students will need support to experience different career options in order to make informed choices and to be able to manage transitions. We recognise that the importance of Careers Education and Guidance (CEG) to ensure all of students have access to supported and independent careers opportunities. We acknowledge that research indicates that high quality careers education, information, advice and guidance (IAG) can assist in increasing social mobility. We want to embed aspirational outcomes for our students and ensure that we find creative approaches to meet them. We therefore provide a curriculum that offers accreditation (ASDAN) that provide skills for the work place, alongside this we pride ourselves on a wide range of Work Placements.  We offer internal experiences of work which include working alongside the site supervisor and in our school office.  These provide real life work experience in order to develop skills, over a period of time, to embed work skills. We ensure that students complete college visits and taster course days to aid a positive transition. Students leave school with a Learning Journal that includes details of Work placements / Experiences of work, to ensure they are supported to discuss their next steps.  

Gatsby Foundation / Benchmarks

The Good Career Guidance Report identifies a set of eight benchmarks that schools can use as a framework for improving their careers provision to secure that every young person will receive high quality career guidance to make informed decisions about their future. Within our schools we aim to achieve (where deemed appropriate) all eight Benchmarks recommended by the Gatsby Foundation, establishing (through a baseline) where each school is in relation to providing:

  • A stable careers plan
  • Learning from careers and labour market information
  • Addressing the needs of each student
  • Linking curriculum learning to careers
  • Encounters with employers and employees
  • Experiences of workplaces
  • Encounters with further and higher education
  • Personal guidance.

Through such means a baseline is produced which evaluates our careers provision enabling each school to draw up an improvement plan to address the identified areas for development. Within our KS4 and Sixth Form learners will take part in work related learning visits, Enterprise activities and Work Experience, where it is deemed appropriate to meet the learning needs of students and identified as having value in the experience undertaken. 


Learning is promoted through well organised classrooms and outside learning environments across the school. Students develop their knowledge, understanding and skills around their personal needs, and the curriculum encourages independence, problem solving and contextualisation of learning. This allows them to develop through independent or supported engagement.

Students are grouped by developmental stage rather than age, therefore classroom environments are created to fully meet the needs of all students and to support the individualised learning requirements. 

 Strategies to support students learning are:

  • TEACCH (workstations and individual timetables)
  • Communication Aids – PECS, Communication Books, VOCAS, PODD, Signing (Makaton), Objects of Reference, Music/Transition Cues
  • Aided Language Input (ALI)
  • Intensive Interaction
  • Sensory Integration
  • Sensory Circuits
  • Social Stories
  • Art Therapy
  • Story Massage
  • Inclusive Technology
  • Attention Autism
  • Colourful Semantics
  • Music Interaction

Students access the local community where appropriate to further enhance individual learning.  Everything we do is through personalised learning and to support students’ individual needs, interests and ways of learning. 

How do we Measure the Impact of our Curriculum?

The impact of our curriculum is monitored regularly through a rigorous quality assurance process.

Connecting Steps enables us to show progress for each child and is analysed prior to each student progress meeting to ensure that discussions are focussed and that class teams are providing intervention where it is most needed. This information is viewed alongside learning walks, data scrutiny, triangulation of available data and assessments, moderation of evidence through Evidence for Learning and communication between home and school. 

Senior and Middle Leaders work closely with Class Teachers and Multi-Agency Teams to review Curriculum Access, Assessment Frameworks, Behaviour and Attendance Data, Annual Review Meeting documentation, Careers/Work Experience information and internal data sources from Insight. We constantly evaluate the effect our curriculum has on the progress of our students and their access to further education and employment opportunities. This is under constant review as we fine-tune and trial new delivery initiatives.

Curriculum Cycle

Medium term plans are tailored to the needs of each specific class, adapting the learning areas and opportunities to their needs and level of learning. Daily planning supports the point of learning of individual students and is very adaptable to changes to support student’s point of learning and changing experiences.

Weekly class team meetings allows staff to share information and to think through adaptions to learning opportunities.

The Teaching Teams have a thorough understanding of each child’s point of learning; their interests, strengths and barriers, developmental stage and learning level. Each of these areas are used to effectively plan for a range of learning intentions for each student which are personalised to that students point of learning across the Curriculum. These are used across the day by a range of professionals giving continuity, contextualisation, therefore giving breadth of approach and supporting students to achieve deep learning.

Continuity is ensured through the use of the personal learning intentions and celebrated through Evidence for Learning. This captures key achievements which develop into a record of learning for students from Early Years to Year 14, showing progress from entry to when the learner leaves Woodlands. We meet regularly with families to incorporate the ‘individual student’ into the plans for their learning.

A full detailed overview of our school curriculum rationale can be found here:

Woodlands School Curriculum Rationale