Curriculum Intent, Implementation & Impact

As a special school for children with Moderate Learning Disabilities we aim to provide the highest quality care and education for all our children, thereby giving them a strong foundation for their future life and learning. We create a safe and happy environment with motivating and enjoyable learning experiences that support children to become confident and more independent. We value the individual child and work alongside parents and other professionals to meet their needs and help every child to reach their full potential.

The curriculum is all that we do, say, teach and learn in our school both in class and out, both formally and informally.  It defines the experience of our children and the environment in which they learn.  As a special school we have a duty to provide a truly unique curriculum which supports all to build bridges over barriers and overcome difficulties in learning.  We teach our children in unique ways, using skill, empathy, encouragement and ambition; looking outwards to the therapeutic community and the expertise that lies both within and outside of our school. 

We aim to support and teach our children to become successful young adults by ensuring that they are;

  • Independent and curious learners who demonstrate ability to explore and take safe risks
  • Happy and confident individuals
  • Respectful and tolerant of others
  • Able to reach their potential
  • Have an awareness of theirs and others needs 
  • Celebrate their individuality and be proud of who they are and express themselves through their own means.

We aim to do this by;

  • Ensuring our children have the basic writing and reading skills or can     communicate in a way that works for them
  • Ensuring that our curriculum is purposeful and personalised
  • Ensuring that learning is focused on real life- functional skills, providing opportunities for children to learn in a meaningful, enjoyable way and focuses on skills rather than content.
  • Providing learning opportunities that support, motivate and encourage our children to enable them to make progress in line with their ability and developmental age rather than their peers.
  • Ensuring our learning is focused on developing the whole child, providing opportunities that develop children’s mental and physical wellbeing

The Department for Education (DfE) recognises that “in order to help their pupils succeed; schools have a role to play in supporting them to be resilient and mentally healthy”.  There is good evidence to support this assertion and Ofsted has highlighted that children and young people themselves say that they want to learn more about how to keep themselves emotionally healthy.

Moreover schools have a duty to promote the wellbeing of students.

At Courtlands Special School we believe that the children’s wellbeing is crucial for their physical and emotional health and for them to be able to learn. We have therefore developed our curriculum to develop and promote emotional wellbeing.

Along with our academic curriculum of English and maths we have identified six key areas that are designed to support healthy wellbeing and promote good mental health. All of our work and curriculum design is rooted in the PACE approach by Dan Hughes.


Figure 1. Six key areas of Courtlands Wellbeing Curriculum.

Healthy body

Healthy body helps children to develop the skills that they need to maintain their physical health. This includes the teaching of PE and other healthy living life skills such as food technology, hygiene and healthy habits.

The school believes that physical education, experienced in a safe and supportive environment, is vital and unique in its contribution to a pupil’s physical and emotional development and health. Healthy body lessons aims to provide for pupils’ increasing self- confidence through an ability to manage themselves successfully in a variety of situations. A balance of individual, team, co-operative and competitive activities aims to cater for individual pupil’s needs and abilities. PE helps improve the gross and fine motor skills of the children which has an impact on their learning, skills and abilities in the classroom and across the curriculum.

Swimming and Water Safety;

Each child is given the opportunity to swim during Key Stage 2 using the facilities at the Life Centre in Plymouth. Preference is given to Year 5 children throughout the year.

Time allocated for PE;

The time allocated for PE is as follows:

Reception: an hour of PE is allocated each week for the hall, outdoor provision is provided throughout the day every day. Physical development operated through a range of various mediums i.e. sand and water, climbing equipment.

Key Stage 1: 1 x 60 minute lesson each week, this does not have to be in one block.

Key Stage 2: 1 x 60 minute lesson each week.

In addition to this children have access to whole class sensory diets throughout the day, this can include; Jump Start Jonny, Cosmic Kids Yoga, outdoor play and physical activity opportunities and LOTC sessions make up the remaining required time.

School Sports Premium

The school has a detailed plan to improve the quality of PE provision for all pupils. This is updated termly and reviewed by SLT. The plan includes an overview of sports premium spending and a review of the impact of the allocated funds.

Healthy Mind

Healthy mind is designed to support children with their mental health. We explicitly teach strategies to cope with different emotions and explore others feelings and how to best react to them. Following advice from the NHS, 5 steps to mental wellbeing these sessions cover- mindfulness, how to form and maintain relationships, develop an understanding of diversity, how to cope with change, and understanding how to make positive mental health choices. In addition to this session we also provide yoga daily for children to have opportunities to be alone and experience quiet, away from technology and interactions, in their day. We also explicitly teach about mental health conditions such as holding autism awareness weeks.

The timetable specifically includes sessions that support children’s transitions from home to school, giving them opportunities to build on connections with staff. We greet all children through their preferred method of hello, they then come in to a specifically chosen activity that is catered to helping them settle into school. Throughout the day, there are designated times where children access mindfulness activities and every child has access to a specific calm tool kit designed to meet their needs. At the end of the day, we have ringfenced time to mark the day finishing in a positive way. This includes entries in children’s proud books, closing the day activities as well as time for restorative conversations, if necessary. Staff wave all children off at the end of the day.


Creativity is specifically designed to help children explore the arts and find a way to express themselves through creating, including music, art and dance. Children are exposed to all mediums within art and are given the time to explore which they enjoy the most. Opportunities for creative expression are available for all children during play learning as well as mindfulness opportunities.


Science for our children means exploring, discovering, investigating and understanding the world around them Science can be used as a multi-sensory approach to learning.

For children to gain an understanding and knowledge of Science the development of positive attitudes needs to be planned into their exploration and investigations.  They will use a range of skills and processes.  Exploration is the vehicle in how we teach science in our wellbeing curriculum, it is designed specifically to teach the children skills to problem solve. It encompasses scientific enquiry, making calculated and safe risks, exploring dangers safely and how to solve real life problems. Our LOTC curriculum and lessons further embed these skills, promoting learning outside of the classroom.


‘Play is an essential part of every child’s life. It is vital for the enjoyment of childhood as well as for social, emotional, intellectual and physical development’ (Play England, 2016).

Play learning builds on the EYFS curriculum. We recognise that some of our children find play particularly difficult and therefore we build in modelled play sessions which support children in their development of their social and play skills. Recent research shows that child directed play is a key tool to reduce children’s anxiety. Lin, Y. & Bratton, S. C. (2015). A meta‐analytic review of child‐centered play therapy approaches. Journal of Counseling & Development, 93(1), 45-58.

Unlike play in the EYFS, play in the curriculum is designed to support children’s ability to develop social skills, conflict resolution, play skills and problem solving skills in order for children to manage and develop their relationships themselves and become resilient. Play learning is timetabled for a minimum of 3 sessions a week for 20 minutes a time.  These sessions are structured like any other lesson where a WALT is shared, it is assessed, and adults actively model how to play. The sessions use problem solving as a way to help children become more resilient and solve social interaction issues with adult guidance. These sessions are assessed using play learning observation sheets and are collated to assess children’s developmental next steps.

Wider World

We want our children to become active citizens and support this through the wider world element of the curriculum. We look at how we can learn about others differences and help develop children’s respect and tolerance for all kinds of diversity, such as gender, disability, race, religious tolerance, as well as recognising bullying and how to challenge it appropriately. We also tackle stereotypes, explore our community, and develop the skills to become successful members of our wider community.

In 2011, the UK government set out a new requirement for ‘British values’ to help everybody to live in a safe and welcoming community where they feel that they belong. These British values are:

1.       Democracy

2.       The rule of law

3.       Individual liberty and mutual respect

4.       Tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs

At Courtlands we promote these British values through our Wider world lessons and by:

•        celebrating and marking British occasions and festivals

•        promoting positive behaviour choices

•        teaching empathy and understanding through healthy mind

•        taking turns and sharing through play learning

•        learning British weathers and seasons through exploration

•        making friends and developing friendships and being respectful

•        cooking, eating and learning about traditional British food

•        celebrating British authors and illustrators