The purpose of this statement is to provide a comprehensive document to share with staff, governors, other professionals, families and other interested stakeholders. The policy incorporates our philosophy, aims and values as well as describing the approach to our curriculum, the content and the specialised approaches required for teaching the pupils at Briarwood. The Briarwood curriculum statement also aims to describe the context behind the tailored approach to our curriculum and the reasons why such a bespoke approach is required.

A curriculum is the basis for any school to provide a meaningful and effective education to the pupils who attend. At Briarwood we believe this should be a broad and balanced approach which identifies and meets the needs of our pupils. The curriculum, alongside specialist teaching approaches, provides consistency throughout the school, whilst recognising developmental and age related aspects to learning.

The development of the curriculum at Briarwood, whilst being led by the Senior Leadership Team, is the responsibility of all staff and we consider it their right to be involved in curriculum design and content. All teachers have a subject or curriculum area responsibility and many learning support staff also contribute to the process. Staff have worked closely together to develop the curriculum, meaning there is real ownership and understanding to the route we are taking. Consistency is vital for pupils with learning disabilities and therefore careful consideration is taken when making any changes to the curriculum.


Briarwood school is a special school for pupils aged from 3 to 19. We are spread across 3 sites; The Pod our Early Years provision, Primary and Secondary. Our Post 16 department is co-located on the Primary site. We have 140 pupils across the age range. At Briarwood we support pupils with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD), Severe Learning Difficulties (SLD), Autism (ASD) and children with Complex Needs.

Many pupils come from the East central area of Bristol though some children come from other areas in the city; our pupils have a diverse mix of nationalities and languages.

Due to the complex nature of the pupils that attend Briarwood, it is our responsibility to provide them with the most appropriate curriculum, a tailored approach, to both academic learning, life skills and Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education.

Vision, Values and Aims

“Enjoy, Engage, Learn”

We believe that Briarwood is a safe, happy and stimulating school that supports pupil’s individual needs. The staff and the school community work hard to ensure that a nurturing approach supports all pupils through their education, providing a bespoke curriculum to each child depending on their current needs.

At Briarwood all aspects of school life are designed to inspire and engage pupils, through a mix of a learning curriculum, creative approaches and essential life skills. The roles of communication and engagement are key to all we do and underpin our approach to learning.

Our curriculum is designed as a cohesive approach with an individual’s EHCP at the core; therefore facilitating greater involvement of families, the pupil and other professionals in their learning and development.  The overarching curriculum vision is one that supports the idea of provision and curriculum linking together. Consequently, what a pupil needs at that point in time, becomes both a provision requirement and a learning opportunity. This means there are closer, consistent connections between the schools curriculum and the provision we offer. We provide positive challenges to foster individual achievements and promote confidence and self-expression. This allows the curriculum to show progress of pupils over time; celebrating the challenging, enriching and developmental progress of all pupils.

Our curriculum is developmental, but child centred, with our recognition that each pupil will have a different pathway. It is a life skills and creative curriculum that aims to promote the social inclusion of all pupils and prepare them for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life as pertinent to their circumstances. As the pupil’s move through the school, the skills they need for living become an integral part of learning. These include

  • Communication
  • Academic achievement (including Literacy and Numeracy)
  • Qualifications where appropriate
  • Mobility
  • Independence – including self-help
  • Relationships
  • Self-respect, dignity
  • Self-esteem, self-confidence
  • Self-regulation.

The school curriculum comprises all learning and other experiences that each school plans for its pupils. The national curriculum forms one part of the school curriculum.

Although the National Curriculum and expectations it holds are taken into account, for the pupils at Briarwood, it is often more important to consider their needs and the skills that will be supportive for the future;

Content should be determined by the needs of the child rather than cultural values in respect to academic subjects and so it needs to be pupil centred and not subject centred. (Powell and Jordan 1997:25).

Assessment of the Briarwood curriculum is outlined within the assessment policy, however it is important to note that the vision and aims of the curriculum have been considered in relation to the ‘final report of the commission of assessment without levels.’ This report encourages schools to adapt their curriculum to support the needs of the pupils;

“Removing levels encourages schools to develop approaches to in-school assessment which are better tied to curriculum content and which do not restrict teaching solely to the specific content in the National curriculum, but encourage the wider exploration of subjects which results in higher attainment and greater enjoyment. Similarly the freedom to choose their own approaches to assessment is consistent with the freedom many schools have to develop and deliver their own curriculum and allows schools to ensure their curriculum and approach to assessment are aligned.”

For the pupils at Briarwood, our curriculum must incorporate the opportunity for pupils develop depth of knowledge and understanding, as Ofsted 2015 states “As part of pupil’s progress, inspectors will consider the growth in pupil’s security, breadth and depth of knowledge, understanding and skills.” This is especially important where pupils are studying life skills or targets that fall outside of traditional areas. In our curriculum, this features in our progression planners (see curriculum policy and subject appendices) and also the assessment systems we have in place to allow for skill development.

We believe that a curriculum should constantly be evaluated for its effectiveness for our current cohorts of pupils. Therefore regular reviews of curriculum content and suitable updates are made where necessary, with careful consideration of consistency and prior learning. The Briarwood curriculum aims to give each pupil the best start in life and prepare them for the challenges of later life.

Curriculum design

The Briarwood curriculum has been designed as a multi stranded approach in order to provide pupils with the most appropriate approach and content.

Whilst many pupils will work within one curriculum model for several years, as skills and knowledge progress, many will move into the next model. It may also be appropriate for some pupils to move to a less formal curriculum model, to support skill consistency and maintenance.

At Briarwood we also vary the curriculum based on age;

The starting point for the curriculum is the individual child with a programme designed to meet his/her needs taken from the full available curriculum, delivered in a way that is enjoyable and will engage each child or young person. Each academic year, a pupil’s EHCP is reviewed. The long term targets for this are used to populate a pupil’s current pathway. The current pathway is a yearlong target for each curriculum area that is broken down into 3 shorter term skills, to be reviewed 3 times per year.

These targets are incorporated within the curriculum subject areas each term and the topics that a class are studying, making it entirely pupil led.

All pupils, regardless of the curriculum strand they are following, study English and Maths. These subjects feature heavily in our curriculum as a developmental approach. They are taught both as discrete subjects and as cross-curricular skills within other subjects.

Communication is another key aspect of our curriculum, with both specific communication sessions timetabled, to ensure each pupil has the most appropriate communication systems set up for them as well as cross-curricular opportunities throughout the day.

The Curriculum Framework

Early Years

The Early Years Curriculum at Briarwood is followed from Nursery through to and including year one. We believe that an early years approach is the most suitable for the year 1 pupils at Briarwood. It is in keeping with the Early Years foundation stage (EYFS) expectations. We aim to provide a broad, balanced, differentiated curriculum which addresses the children‘s social, emotional, physical, intellectual, moral and cultural development within a safe, secure, stimulating environment.

Through the use of the Differentiated Early Years Outcomes (DEYO), our curriculum enables the pupils to learn and develop skills, attitudes and understanding in these areas of learning;

The prime areas;

  • Personal, Emotional and Social Development. (PSED)
  • Communication and Language. (CL)
  • Physical development

The specific areas;

  • Mathematics.
  • Literacy.
  • Understanding the World
  • Expressive Art and Design

Throughout the EYFS we plan activities to give pupils learning experiences and opportunities to work towards the Early Learning Goals. Teaching and learning takes place within the classroom and outside areas. Pupils participate in a variety of activities, both with an adult and independently. The approach and curriculum is primarily a play based approach with specific teaching methods and opportunities being used to support pupil’s needs. We believe that play, both indoors and outdoors, is the fundamental way in which young children learn. See Early Years policy (available on the website) for more information around the approaches used in the Early Years.

As well as considering what opportunities we are providing for the pupils, we observe the skills and qualities that pupils need to support them to become successful learners throughout life. Included within the DEYO, we use the characteristics of learning (see Early Years policy available on the website) to examine the overall development of the pupils. In addition to the standard characteristics of learning we also consider a pupils emotional wellbeing.

Whilst there are elements of the 3 stranded approach – Pre-formal, Semi-formal and Formal, within the EYFS, it is less evident here due to the use of the DEYO and the play based, child led approaches that are used. However, sensory approaches, specialist teaching methods, the use of TEACCH and specialist equipment are all utilised.

Each pupil, has their own learning pathway and bi-termly learning map, which sets out their targets each term (3 times a year). These targets are used to plan appropriate, individualised activities, bespoke to a current need. Pupils in our EYFS classes, follow a 2 year rolling program, with different topics 6 times per year as outlined below.

Key Stages One to Three

The curriculum at Key Stage One starts in Year 2. Dependent on the need of the pupil, the teacher will follow the Pre-formal, Semi-formal or Formal curriculum. The content and balance of each learning area is adapted as required.


The Pre-Formal curriculum is a sensory approach to learning. The curriculum acknowledges what learners can do by supporting and developing their strengths and abilities. It is defined developmentally and is finely stepped so that progression can be plotted, measured and acknowledged. The curriculum focuses on developing the learner’s understanding both of the world around him or her, and of social interactions and relationships. It values the process as much as the achievement and it is flexible in order to be responsive to the needs of the individual learner. It is delivered in an integrated manner incorporating learning, therapy and health needs.

Each pupil, has their own learning pathway and bi-termly learning map, which sets out their targets each term (3 times a year). These targets are used to plan appropriate, individualised activities, bespoke to a current need. Pupils following the Pre-formal curriculum, follow a 2 year rolling program, with different topics 6 times per year. These topics help support the generalisation of skills into different contexts.

The Pre-formal curriculum consists of both ‘traditional’ and less traditional subject areas;

My Communication Opportunities to develop early communication skills, speech and language therapy targets (incl. eating & drinking), early choice making, using objects of reference, photos and symbols, using technology and communication aids.
My Body Toileting and hygiene routines, physical skills including physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. Learning new movements and moving body parts. Exploring and tasting foods. Responding to other people
Myself Using senses and exploratory play. Engaging in new environments and leisure activities. Making eye contact, sharing activities & responding to name. Developing likes and dislikes. Experiencing own and others culture.
My Creativity My creativity includes the strands of visual, auditory, movement, performance & tactile. Much of my creativity at this level is exploring and interacting with the materials, tools, objects and stimuli. Also making choices about likes and dislikes.
My Community Staying safe, responding to noise, accessing transport and different locations in their community. Responding to peers, new people and new locations. Making choices.
My World My world is an opportunity to start to explore some of the early science and design & technology skills. Pupils learn to show an awareness of sensory stimuli, experience changes, learn different methods of exploration, show preferences and experience changes. Pupils also look at experiencing multi-cultural societies and the natural world.


The Semi-formal curriculum is a flexible approach, designed as a mixture of the Pre-formal and Formal curriculums. It gives teachers the opportunity to support pupil’s strengths and fill their gaps, whilst using the best approach to their learning style. Below the diagram shows the full range of subject options available to teachers when deciding on the best approach for each pupil. More detailed descriptions of the additional subjects can be found under the description of the formal curriculum section below.

My Communication Building on speech & language therapy targets. Opportunities to formalise communication methods, including the use of symbols & PECS, Makaton and communication aids.
My Body Toileting and hygiene routines, physical skills including physiotherapy and hydrotherapy. Using and extending movements, starting some games, gymnastics and PE skills.
Myself Developing likes, dislikes and leisure activities. Starting to explore emotions and emotional literacy. Developing play skills, working with others. Looking at my own and others culture.
My Creativity My creativity includes the strands of visual, auditory, movement, performance & tactile. Much of my creativity at this level is making choices and using the materials, tools, objects and stimuli. Also making decisions about what to produces and the most appropriate items to use.
My Community Staying safe, road safety and danger signs. Knowing my way around my immediate environment and people that help us. Travelling and transport. Accessing community locations and venues. Citizenship and taking a role.
My World As pre-formal but with the option of studying more formal science and design and technology topics.


The formal curriculum consists of adapted National Curriculum subjects, along with some life skills and creative aspects. Pupils working within this curriculum, tend to be near the top end of the P-levels and into National Curriculum expectations. At Briarwood we have adapted many of subjects and topics to reflect the needs of our pupils, whilst ensuring challenge and progress.

My Communication Building on speech & language therapy targets. Opportunities to formalise communication methods, including the use of symbols & PECS, Makaton and communication aids.  Building conversation skills.
Myself Expressing likes and dislikes. Continuing with play skills and becoming adept at play with others. Making choices about leisure activities and taking part in these with more independence. Recognising own and others emotions and developing self-regulation skills.
My Creativity My creativity includes the strands of visual, auditory, movement, performance & tactile. Making choices about materials and appropriate tools. Evaluating their own and others work. Taking an active role in designing and performing.
My Community Staying safe, road safety and danger signs. Knowing my way around my different environments and knowing people that help us. Using public and private transport. Accessing community locations and venues. Citizenship and taking a role.

Learning outcomes

Across the range of curriculum there are expected learning outcomes for the 6 areas of the life skills and creative curriculum. These set out the expectations of the subject and are expanded on further in the Curriculum Policy. Each area has a Progression planner (within Curriculum policy) with statements which break down the overarching outcomes below;

My Communication

  • To have and enjoy receptive and expressive communication within their community.
  • To communicate their wants and needs / to have their voice heard as citizens of their society.
  • To use a range of communication tools, including ICT, to enable inclusion within their community.


  • To access their community, as independently as possible, through self-organisational skills.
  • To develop hobbies and leisure for adult life.
  • To have a strong self-image and understand we are all different.
  • To have positive interactions with their community, through well-developed social and play skills.
  • To understand myself.

My Body

  • To leave with mobility that ensures access to their community.
  • To enjoy an active life in society, through the health benefits of looking after their body i.e. lifestyle, exercise, diet.
  • That body changes are part of being an adult.
  • To know how their body works.
  • To ensure that their personal care skills help them access their community.

My Creativity

  • To develop an appreciation of the arts.
  • To be able to express and develop their ideas and imaginations through their creativity.
  • To express themselves through their body- dance, drama.
  • To experience/enjoy/develop curiosity about the beauty of art, photography, music.
  • To be able to manipulate materials to create new things.

My Community

  • To have positive interactions with their community.
  • To access their community as independently as possible.
  • To understand the dangers of independently accessing their community.
  • To be able to find their purposeful role as citizens of society.

My World

  • To have curiosity and explore the wonders of the world natural and man-made – weather.
  • To have curiosity and explore the phenomenon of natural world, living things.
  • To be able to find solutions for problems
  • To have curiosity about the people that used to live in this world.

Key Stage 4

The key stage 4 curriculum, recognises the need for pupils to move towards a higher proportion of life skills and independence. The SEND code of practice recommends that from 14 years old;

“High aspirations about employment, independent living and community participation should be developed through the curriculum and extra-curricular provision. Schools should seek partnerships with employment services, businesses, housing agencies, disability organisations and arts and sports groups, to help children understand what is available to them as they get older, and what it is possible for them to achieve. It can be particularly powerful to meet disabled adults who are successful in their work” (SEND code of practice January 2015)

Our curriculum follows the structure of key stages 1-3 with the Pre-formal, Semi-formal and Formal curriculums. All the same subjects are on offer to the pupils to access as a teacher deems necessary.

Pre-formal route

Pupils considered to be working on the Briarwood Pre-formal curriculum, will continue to follow this curriculum. They will follow the topics and coverage provided within the Briarwood curriculum framework. This will however be supported by Asdan’s Transition Challenge. By using Transition Challenge to enhance the curriculum, pupils will have the opportunity to gain accreditation for their work. There are 2 levels of Transition Challenge – Sensory for our most profound pupils and introduction and progression for those working a little higher.  Transition Challenge – sensory gives pupils the opportunity to record a developmental perspective through Communication and interaction, Cognition, Physical, Self help and independence. Transition Challenge – introduction and progression gives a broader range of topics – knowing how, making choices, feeling good, moving forward and taking the lead. Both support English and Maths skills as well as several other age appropriate examples and activities to support the delivery of our curriculum.

Semi and Formal routes

Pupils considered to be working within the Briarwood Semi formal or formal curriculum, will continue with the Briarwood Curriculum model. This will be enhanced through the use of Towards Independence. Pupils English learning can be recorded through the ‘developing communication skills’ module at introduction (P4-6) or progression (P7 and above) levels. Both cover the strands of Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening. The Maths learning can be recorded through the use of developing numeracy skills, again at the levels of Introduction or Progression. Maths covers the areas of Number, Measure Shape and Space, Position Pattern and Sorting, Time and Handling data. Pupils will continue to work on the Briarwood Semi or Formal curriculum areas for the rest of their time e.g. afternoons, however this can be enhanced through the use of towards independence modules. For example when working on My Creativity a teacher may choose to use the Towards Independence module sound rhythm and music in order to record and accredit the learning.

Post 16

Our Post 16 curriculum builds on the life skills and independence that runs through the curriculum, especially in key stage 4, providing new opportunities for our pupils.

Pupils participate in a range of courses and activities building up a portfolio of evidence to support accredited learning at a level to suit their learning needs and ability. Our courses are accredited by ASDAN and include modules to support achievement of awards, certificates and diplomas in Personal Progress, Employability and Personal and Social Development.

Targets are set for each pupil using the individual learning maps. These are taught through our course structure, challenging students in an age appropriate and often vocational context, then mapping that progress through the ‘Achievement Continuum’ ensuring that we not only monitor which and how many awards pupils are achieving but also through progress within the unit i.e. moving from experience to engagement and then to independence.

A much greater emphasis is placed on community learning, managing their own time, taking responsibility for tasks and having as much control as possible over personal care and daily living activities. Curriculum content is delivered, where appropriate, through community and school based activities maximising engagement and ensuring meaningful and relevant learning experiences. We work alongside a range of community partners who include Props, Design for Life, Adelines Social Farm Project, theatre groups and community artists enabling us to utilise a range of expertise and environments. The partnership with other Bristol special schools, extends this opportunity further and provides appropriate social contexts for learning.

The areas of the Post 16 curriculum include;

  • Independent living skills
  • Personal development
  • Community participation
  • Preparation for work
  • Literacy/Numeracy/ICT – functional and relevant skills
  • Creativity

Interventions and individualised programs

As part of our curriculum we offer several interventions and programs to support pupils learning. These are put into place both by therapists and teachers. More information around the interventions we offer can be found in our interventions profile, however below is some general information about how they feature as part of our curriculum.


At Briarwood the therapists often work as part of a multi-professional team, with the teacher and learning support assistants to integrate the targets and programs as successfully as possible into the curriculum.

Speech and language therapy targets of feature as part of English lessons or as a My Communication target. The strategies to teach these targets are suggested and written by the therapists and then a trained team carry them out.

Similarly physiotherapy and hydrotherapy targets set by the physiotherapists often feature as part of a pupils My Body pathway.

Occupational therapists also work at Briarwood, these targets normally feature as part of a pupils ‘Myself’ pathway or within their Engagement target.

Taught interventions

Taught interventions make up a crucial aspect of our curriculum to support pupils with gaps, or to boost or extend skills.

Communication Through Music

Functional Literacy

Functional Numeracy

Maths Through Music


Singapore Maths

Curriculum monitoring and subject leadership

The Deputy Head leads the curriculum and its development throughout the school in discussion with the SLT, Early Years and Post 16 Leads. As a school we aim to use staff expertise to the full.  Subject leaders are responsible for their subject across the school, often working in pairs of teachers and may be supported by a member of the Teaching Support Staff.  Teaching staff provide the full range of curriculum opportunities to their class group or key stage groups.

Subject leaders monitor the curriculum delivery, quality of teaching, learning and progress in their area of leadership.

All subject leads will create an action plan that uses data analysis and feeds into School Improvement Plan (SIP). The evaluation of such feeds into the Self Evaluation Form.

Subject leaders are responsible for knowing and monitoring their subject’s ‘improvement journey’.

Possible sources of evidence are;

  • Data
  • Observations/ learning walk
  • Work scrutiny Work samples/photos
  • Planning
  • Individual pupil records, discussions with pupils, views of staff
  • Annual Reports
  • Individual Learning Maps

Finally, the overarching outcome of the Briarwood Curriculum is to ensure that;

“With high aspirations, and the right support, the vast majority of children and young people can go on to achieve successful long-term outcomes in adult life. Local authorities, education providers and their partners should work together to help children and young people to realise their ambitions in relation to:

  • higher education and/or employment – including exploring different employment options, such as support for becoming self-employed and help from supported employment agencies
  • independent living – enabling people to have choice and control over their lives and the support they receive, their accommodation and living arrangements, including supported living
  • participating in society – including having friends and supportive relationships, and participating in, and contributing to, the local community
  • being as healthy as possible in adult life” (SEND Code of practice 2015)