The Russett Curriculum- aims, rationale, design and assessment

    1   What is the curriculum?

The curriculum is all the planned activities that we organise in order to promote learning and personal growth, development and independence. It includes not only the formal requirements of the National Curriculum taught in classrooms, but also any other activity organised by academy, for example, educational visits and any other activities designed to enrich the experience of the children.


  • What do we strive to achieve for our pupils to become, as a result of our outstanding curriculum?


  • Successful learners who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve exceptionally well
  • Confident individuals who are able to get on well with each other and live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives
  • Respectful and responsible adults who are well prepared to play their part as law-abiding citizens in modern Britain, valuing equally different faiths and beliefs


  • Which are the most important aspects of children’s learning that underpin the content of our curriculum?

We prioritise:

  • Communication skills
  • Numeracy
  • Personal, Social and Health Education, including healthy lifestyles
  • Physical skills
  • Independence

At The Russett, we believe that our curriculum should be broad, balanced and relevant and meet the needs of our pupils at our learning difficulty school Cheshire in a highly bespoke way. It should meet the needs of all children whatever their ability and staff will be supported to deliver the curriculum in a creative way through a thematic approach. By providing a range of opportunities we believe that our children have the potential to achieve and be the best they can be. We aim to enable our young people to have developed as far as possible the skills, knowledge and understanding that will enable them to play an active part in their community and have skills for lifelong learning. Developing pupils spiritually, morally, socially and culturally is an important part of this.

4     Why our partnership with you as parents/carers is important

Before your child starts at the academy , you will be invited to come and see the classroom and meet the teacher and senior members of staff in order to set up a partnership with you that will last throughout your child’s time at the academy . We place a high value on dialogue and exchange of information with parents/carers because we need to take your expectations and priorities for your child into account if we are to plan and deliver the best provision. This will include agreement on individual outcomes for pupils identified at the annual review meeting for the Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP).

  • What is our vision for how our outstanding[1] curriculum will develop even further in the coming years?


  • Our curriculum will provide a strong element of ‘personalisation’, with a range of different pathways developed to enable each pupil over the long term to reach her/his own potential, whatever that might be.
  • The curriculum will have even stronger relevance for our pupils’ current and future lives.
  • The curriculum will continue to inspire a life-long love for learning.
  • Our broad and balanced curriculum will be highly effective in helping prepare children and young people for life in modern Britain.
  • The curriculum will be significantly enriched and brought vividly to life through a wide range of first-hand learning experiences beyond the classroom.
  • Pupils, where appropriate, will regularly express their needs and wishes in relation to the curricular pathway they follow


  • What is our overall rationale for the design of our curriculum?

How our curricular programmes are organised

Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)

At this key stage, the statutory framework for EYFS is taught to our pupils by providing routine, structure and carefully planned, targeted play activities. Individual targets for children are set with the purpose of enhancing opportunities for learning and personal development. There are seven areas of learning in the EYFS framework: literacy, mathematics, understanding the world, expressive arts and design plus three ‘prime’ areas of learning:

  • Communication and Language (listening and attention; understanding and speaking)
  • Physical Development (moving and handling; health and self-care)
  • Personal, Social and Emotional (self-confidence and self-awareness, managing feelings and behaviour; making relationships)

Our timetable allocates a lot of time to these three ‘prime areas’. All the learning that goes on in EYFS is designed to promote these core skills and to provide opportunities for children to generalise them.

Key Stage 1 – Key Stage 3

At The Russett School we are following a thematic approach to teaching the National Curriculum as this enables pupils to link skills and knowledge taught across the theme. Pupils, depending on their age, usually follow a two- or three-year rolling programme. Each term, we follow a theme, such as Jungle/Circus in the summer term for Key Stage 1.  Taking this as an example, pupils then work on focused texts, such as The Tiger that Came to Tea, use numeracy skills to ‘pay’ entrance to the circus and count the spots on animals, learn geography through exploring which countries circus animals come from and listen and perform music from the circus.

Throughout these key stages, we continue to emphasize communication skills because they lie at the heart of teaching and learning. We adopt a ‘total communication approach’, drawing, for instance, on signing, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs) and objects of reference. This model enables a shared understanding between adult and learner, without which no true learning can take place.

Learning activities are organised through schemes of work which are derived from the National Curriculum but adapted to suit the learning needs of the individual. Students are set challenging targets but there is a commitment to fun and enjoyment whilst learning. There are also increasing opportunities to participate in educational visits and extra-curricular activities, as the learners progress through the key stages. These include opportunities to work as volunteers and to participate in community events, such as the Christmas tree decoration competition at Arley Hall.

Each ‘ability’ group covers all the National Curriculum subjects, but the balance of the curriculum will vary from group to group. For instance, pupils with identified sensory processing needs will follow individual programmes to develop their ‘readiness for learning’. Each lesson is highly differentiated in order to meet the different needs of all the pupils in the class.

As pupils move through these key stages, the expectations placed on them become more demanding, including an emphasis on developing their independence and responsibility, as part of the preparation for later key stages and adulthood.

14-19, including Sixth Form

Accredited courses, starting in Year 10, boost learning opportunities and raise achievements in a caring ethos which nurtures positive relationships and fosters the growth of responsible behaviour. All students will have the opportunity to:

  • work towards achieving a nationally recognised accreditation in the form of either:
    • an award, certificate or diploma in Personal Progress (ASDAN)a diploma in Life Skills (ASDAN Entry 1/Entry 2)
    • an award in Skills for Further Learning and Employment (Open Awards Entry 1/Entry 2)
  • experience the workplace, receive impartial careers guidance and advice, voice their aspirations and work with staff, including our job coach, to achieve them;
  • receive some form of travel training;
  • experience life in the community, e.g. visits to the local post office, library and shops and, for some students, to take part in college links, which enable them to gain real experience of, and be well-prepared for, life after the academy  and make well-informed decisions about their future
  • prepare for adulthood and independent living;
  • develop skills towards economic and personal and social well-being.

In the Sixth Form, we continue to deliver a curriculum linked to nationally accredited courses which is tailored to students’ individual needs, interests and priorities. Our curriculum offers opportunities for our older students to develop their learning, functional and personal skills in real-life settings in the academy, the workplace and college placements, for instance. Students take responsibility for planning and making lunches, as well as acting as positive role models for younger students through taking on a range of responsible ‘jobs’ in the academy .

For the sixth form, we have identified three clear learning pathways, each linked to accreditation: Coastal, Countryside and City.

Students following the Coastal pathway are likely to require a high level of staff input to access the curriculum and access to multi-sensory teaching. They are also likely to require a high level of physiotherapy and/or medical input.

Those following the Countryside pathway still require a high level of support. They are likely to be able to participate, whilst in the sixth form, in a college part-time programme, supported by familiar staff and benefiting from travel training. Work experience for those on this particular pathway is likely to be in-house.

City students will follow Entry 1/Entry 2 accredited programmes of study, will participate in external work placements and will secure a post-academy college/FE placement or take up a supported internship.

The optimal pathway for a student to follow is largely determined by prior assessment. The curriculum design allows for a degree of flexibility, so that, for instance, even if a student does not completely switch pathways there will still be opportunities to experience elements within another pathway. This flexibility is possible because students on all three pathways are grouped and taught in the same class.

As a simple illustration of the differentiated provision made within each pathway, students on all three pathways learn about European cultures and lifestyles. In the case of Coastal students, the emphasis would be on experiential learning, identifying personal tastes and preferences; the Country students would shop for, and prepare, a simple snack, whereas the City group would engage in more complex work around planning, budgeting, shopping and preparing a meal.

  • Specialist provision

In room 10, the pupils follow a curriculum written by staff at Victoria School MSI Unit in Birmingham. There are four phases and eight curriculum domains:

  • Social relationships and emotional development
  • Communication
  • Conceptual development
  • Sensory responses
  • Understanding of time and place
  • Orientation, movement and mobility
  • Ownership of learning
  • Responses to routines and changes.

The class follows a termly theme with a focus on whole class, small group and individual work. On the timetable subjects may be identified but also activities such as Intensive Interaction, sensory stories, Rebound Therapy and individual programmes will also be evident.

In this class there is an emphasis on multidisciplinary working with staff from Health and the Sensory Service supporting the pupil’s progress and wellbeing.

  • How do we approach, and what do pupils learn from, different subjects in the curriculum?
  • English: Pupils learn letter sounds (phonemes) through daily phonics sessions, with a strong emphasis on ‘Letters and Sounds’, enabling us to provide a consistent approach to teaching high quality phonics. We use a combination of reading schemes and the books are banded using a colour system. These include Oxford Reading Tree, Project X and PM Starters. These give a variety of fiction and non–fiction books to develop children’s reading range. PM Benchmark provides a reading assessment tool. Developing pupils’ ability to respond, to listen and to understand lies at the heart of our curriculum.

Developing pupils’ ability to respond, to listen and to understand lies at the heart of our curriculum.

  • Mathematics: The teaching of mathematics enables pupils to use their awareness and developing understanding of pattern, space, shape and number, to develop problem-solving skills that contribute to making choices, taking decisions and gaining control over their immediate environment.
  • Science: The teaching of Science gives all pupils the opportunity to think and learn, and develop an interest in and curiosity about, the world around them.

In particular, science offers pupils the opportunities to use their senses to explore and investigate, to develop an awareness of, and interest in, themselves and their immediate surroundings and environment. We also encourage pupils to participate in practical activities and develop an understanding of cause and effect.

  • Personal, Social and Health Education, including Citizenship and Careers Education: Learning PSHE and citizenship helps all pupils develop as individuals in a wider society. Pupils learn to understand themselves physically, emotionally, socially and sexually and understand their relationships with others. In particular, PSHE and citizenship offer pupils opportunities to make choices and decisions, develop personal autonomy by having a degree of responsibility and control over their lives.

Our Job Coach works with individuals and small groups to help students to identify and pursue their own career aspirations, offering real life experiences of the work place, an understanding of lifelong learning, and developing skills to enable students to contribute to society.

  • Religious Education (RE): Religion is the experience and expression of faith. Learning about religion and learning from religion are important for all pupils, as RE helps pupils develop an understanding of themselves and others. RE promotes the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of individuals and of groups and communities.

In particular, RE offers pupils opportunities to develop their self-awareness, understand the world they live in as individuals and as members of groups, develop positive attitudes towards others, respecting their beliefs and experience, reflect on and consider their own values and those of others and deal with issues that form the basis for personal choices and behaviour.

We are very proud to have been awarded the RE Quality Mark- Gold standard.

  • Physical Education (PE): PE gives all pupils opportunities to develop their physical skills and to apply those skills in different situations. It also enables personal and group achievements to be acknowledged.

In particular, PE offers pupils opportunities to develop their skills of coordination, control, manipulation and movement, promote a healthy lifestyle and contribute towards their physical development. PE also develops the personal qualities of commitment, fairness and enthusiasm.

  • Computing/Information Communication Technology (ICT): Developing capability in ICT helps all pupils become part of the rapidly changing world in which technology is an essential part. ICT helps pupils take greater responsibility for their own learning, plan and organise their ideas, and produce and present work of a high standard. It can also encourage creativity.
  • Humanities (Geography and History): Learning geography helps pupils develop curiosity in, and an understanding of, themselves, other people and places, and the relationships between them.

Learning history helps pupils develop curiosity in, and an understanding of, the past and how their local community has changed. In particular, studying history offers pupils opportunities to develop knowledge and understanding of the sequences, routines and chronological patterns that make up their world.

  • Design and Technology (D&T): D&T provides practical learning experiences which make it accessible to all pupils. Pupils use knowledge and understanding from across the curriculum and apply and consolidate them in practical activities. Pupils carry out practical tasks in which they all can make a contribution to the development of individual or group projects.
  • Art and Design: Art and design stimulates creativity and imagination. It provides visual, tactile and sensory experiences, and is a unique way to understand and respond to the world, and to communicate with others. Pupils learn about the place and role of art, craft and design in life today, as well as in different times and cultures.
  • Music: Music is a powerful, unique form of communication that can change the way pupils feel, think and act. It brings together intellect and feeling and enables personal expression, reflection and emotional development. As an integral part of culture, past and present, it helps pupils understand themselves and relate to others and improves listening, concentration and attention skills.


  • Foreign/Modern Foreign Languages (FL/MFL): The teaching of FL /MFL (at KS2 and above) through theme days helps all pupils develop their interest and curiosity in the similarities and differences between themselves and others. This includes learning about countries, cultures, people and communities.


  • How do we check that the curriculum is working well?

We use different methods and procedures to check that the curriculum is well-matched to pupils’ needs and achieving what it is designed to do. These include:

  • observations of teaching made by senior staff to see how well the curriculum is being taught and assess the impact that it is making on pupils’ learning and personal development;
  • work done by subject or curriculum leaders on reviews and audits, in order to identify future priorities for curriculum development;
  • analysis of pupil achievement data to check that the curriculum is promoting the best possible progress for learners;
  • questions asked by governors about the effectiveness of the curriculum and about the evidence that academy leaders have of its impact on pupils’ learning and development;
  • feedback from parents/carers, so we can take account of their views on how well the curriculum is working;
  • where appropriate and feasible, gathering feedback from pupils on their perceptions of their achievements and on what they enjoy about the curriculum and their learning.


10     How do our arrangements for assessment work?

It is vitally important that our arrangements for assessment are fully aligned with our model for the curriculum. We need to be confident that we are assessing correctly what we have been teaching and what pupils have learned.

Assessment takes a variety of forms. These include:

  • class team assessments of pupil progress within a lesson, series of lessons and over time
  • direct observation by senior and middle leaders of ‘learning in progress’ over the course of a lesson and over time
  • looking at pupils’ work over time, including the use of photographic evidence, in order to assess the progress that has been made
  • analysis of pupil progress data generated by teacher assessment
  • analysis of other relevant data – attendance, behaviour and IEP and curriculum targets.

In addition, formal assessment tools are used to generate summative achievement data which allows us to evaluate individual, group and whole-academy achievement. These tools include:

  • B Squared
  • MSI Profiles
  • Routes for Learning
  • PM Benchmark Assessment
  • Benchmark exercises with other special schools, where each school shares, compares and discusses its assessment data, so as to help us check the validity and reliability of our judgements.


  • How can I find out more about The Russett’s curriculum?

Clicking on the ‘related downloads’ within this Section.

These will provide you with more detailed information in downloadable form about the curriculum taught in particular year groups.

Other ways you might wish to use to find out more include:

  • Making an appointment to come into our academy to look at relevant documents, such as schemes of work
  • Making an appointment to come into our academy to talk to a senior member of staff.



[1] Ofsted inspection report for The Russett – July 2014