Home Page

Millstead School's Curriculum Vision

Millstead School’s Curriculum Vision 


At Millstead School, we believe that the curriculum the children follow should enable them to become successful young people who are ready to learn, make progress and achieve, whatever their starting point may be and whatever type of special educational need they may have. 


The children on roll are grouped into classes based on need and ability. There are 15 classes – 3 classes for children who have profound and multiple learning difficulties (including those with complex health needs), 6 classes for children who have profound autism and 6 classes for children who have severe and complex learning difficulties.   


Our curriculum focuses on developing the transferrable skills that equip children for each stage in education and life beyond school as confidently and independently as possible. The key areas of communication, physical development, cognition, self-care and independence are central to our offer. To enable our children to engage in learning, our curriculum is skills and play based. We believe in creating a happy and secure environment which inspires our children to explore, engage and learn safely. 


Through a multi-disciplinary approach, we aim to work collaboratively to start each child’s individualised learning pathway from the point of induction into the Millstead family. 


Curriculum Intent 

To provide children with learning experiences that are relevant, motivating and offering a degree of challenge, we have adopted a structure which encompasses 3 pathways. This also allows us to identify opportunities for progression within and across the pathways. 

Our three pathways are: 

  • Pre-formal   

  • Semi-formal 

  • Formal 


The pathways are not defined by age but by stage of development. Each pathway covers skills, knowledge and understanding across a range of areas of learning. These are planned to facilitate movement between pathways to ensure the curriculum is flexible and responsive to a child's needs at any point in their time at Millstead School.   


Teachers use individual EHCP (Education, Health and Care Plan) outcomes as a starting point for all learning intentions. Emphasis is placed on ‘Communication and Interaction’, ‘Cognition and Learning’, ‘Sensory and Physical’ and ‘Social, Emotional and Mental Health’. Teachers also use ‘Development Matters’ to support steps of progress as we believe these outcomes are fundamental to the children’s futures.  


At Millstead teaching and learning opportunities are not limited to ‘lesson time’ but throughout the day, including break times, snack time, personal care routines and when out in the community. These opportunities are planned for and include meaningful generalisation of skills across a range of settings. 


The Pre-Formal Curriculum 


“Children with complex needs need to be taught in ways that match their individual learning styles by educators who recognise their abilities and potential for engagement and learning. Our work must be to transform children with complex needs into active learners by releasing their motivation, unlocking their curiosity and increasing their participation; key to this are relationship processes – warmth, sensitivity and responsiveness. From there the child becomes engaged, and their personalised learning journey begins.” 

Engaging Learners with Complex Learning Difficulties and Disabilities – Barry Carpenter (2015) 

The pre-formal curriculum is for children who have profound and complex needs and are at very early levels of development. These children may have a diagnosed neurological condition which affects all aspects of their development, and others have complex medical conditions which require highly specialist support. Some children will experience significant sensory processing difficulties. Some children may use a small range of formal communication; others may not have reached the stage of using intentional communication. (P1 – P3).  


This pathway focuses on the development of early communication, social, emotional and cognitive skills that are a pre-condition to learning. Our pre-formal learners first need to develop positive relationships with familiar adults and develop behaviours through which they can communicate, in order to explore the world around them using their sensory and physical capabilities to the full. We aim to prepare children for learning and give them opportunities to develop their levels of engagement. These children are provided with opportunities to access rich learning experiences, including play, following a non-subject specific approach. 


The curriculum is designed to meet the needs of children through a personalised approach.  It focuses on the early communication, social and emotional and cognitive skills that are the foundation of all learning.  It is a curriculum that recognises the importance of movement and play in a child’s development and the need for sensory and multi-sensory approaches to learning. 

There is a significant focus on therapeutic activities such as hydrotherapy, rebound therapy, physiotherapy, massage, intensive interaction, sensory integration and physical development programmes. 


The Semi-Formal Curriculum 


‘Play and playing games are not time out from real work; they are the most intensive developmental work you can do’. (Nind and Hewett, 2001) 


Learners consistently working below the level of National Curriculum attainment targets for Year 1 access our ‘semi - formal curriculum’ and receive an adaptation of the National Curriculum alongside broader areas of learning which are likely to offered in the context of repetition, over learning and generalisation. 


The Semi-Formal Curriculum is primarily about emotional well-being, understanding the self, forming and sustaining relationships, beginning to understand emotions, respecting others and their emotions and developing positive dispositions to learning. These children learn most effectively when teaching and learning relates to their own experiences, sometimes through structured play or themes and other times through functional activities. The aim is to build children’s resilience to deal with challenges and provide foundations on which lifelong learning can be built.   


Our semi-formal curriculum is divided into 6 areas, closely linked to the Early Years Foundation Stage areas of learning, with the focus around communication and cognition. Half-termly themes which incorporate these areas are used with linked activities planned in all areas to engage pupils and promote generalisation. (P4 – End of Year 1 Expectations). Curriculum coverage allows for concepts to be connected and reinforced through the use of a ‘theme’ with activities which are meaningful and ‘real life’ allowing for a deeper experience. 


Our semi-formal learners require a ‘holistic’, ‘multi –sensory’ approach without the need for the teaching of ‘discrete’ subjects.  We work closely with other professionals, including Speech and Language Therapists, Sensory Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists to provide students with the appropriate programmes and plans which are incorporated throughout the day. Due to their significant sensory needs many of our semi-formal learners have a sensory profile and a bespoke sensory programme. 


The Formal Curriculum 


For a few children (working at end of Key Stage 1 expected outcomes), more formal learning e.g., for Literacy, Mathematics, Science and Humanities provides an appropriate extension to the semi-formal curriculum. Children who are able to access content from the early stages of the National Curriculum are supported to do so, taking account of their individual learning styles and preferences. 


Life skills and independent skills will also form a large part of the curriculum. The topics are planned to be practical, building on previous learning experiences to allow for consolidation and scaffolded to promote progression of skills and independence.