At Abbot’s Lea School we design our curriculum in conjunction with our Philosophy of Education: the ASD model ©

All learning is delivered with an equal emphasis on:

Academic Progress

Specialist Therapeutic support

Development of Life Skills

The curriculum at Abbot’s Lea School is designed to be broad, balanced, challenging and personalised to the needs of the students. We keep at our heart of learning the fact that we are teaching the adults who will lead our society; we might just so happen to be teaching them when they are 10!

Our curriculums prepare students for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences which they will encounter after leaving Abbot’s Lea School, whilst promoting spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. It is designed to promote students’ emotional well-being and mental health. A clear emphasis is placed on exploring other’s belief systems and enabling the students’ exploration of their own beliefs, spirituality and morals.

We have a commitment to developing each student’s life skills through our well-sequenced and exciting Personal Development curriculum. We and work in conjunction with families to ensure that learning is prioritised in a bespoke manner taking into account family priorities and EHCP targets.
We also embed the Employability Curriculum from Early Years through to KS5. This is achieved through the careful planning and inclusion of employability in lessons and through standalone events.

Within the daily practice of the classroom, holistic and therapeutic interventions and support are provided to students. This may be as explicit interventions such as sensory circuits or it may be part of the implementation of a lesson. This provision is extended through the support of the school’s designated therapists.

The admissions criteria for our students requires a diagnosis of at MLD. This means we have to acknowledge as part of our careful curriculum design, that learning and sequencing must match our students’ cognitive levels, not necessarily their chronological ages. Therefore, we allow three years for a students to achieve the EYFS curriculum. This in turn means that our KS1 curriculum begins at KS2. We do have high ambition for all learners and there will be some students whose spikey profiles mean that during Year 1 or 2, whilst still benefiting from the EYFS curriculum, dip into Year 1 curriculum in other classrooms.

We acknowledge that our learners have diverse needs and skills, and as such, we offer a bespoke curriculum and an adapted National Curriculum. We offer a tailored approach, which suits each individual. Students can access either curriculum approach as their assessments, diagnoses and identification of needs require.

Bespoke Curriculum

For these students, who are all working consistently and over time below or very near the start of their National Curriculum, we acknowledge that learning needs to be different rather than differentiated, because the way such pupils learn, is different. Whilst we believe in the desirability of providing a broad and balanced curriculum, it must be wholly appropriate to the needs of each learner. Ongoing assessment may point to a need for concentration and intensity in one or two particular areas for some learners for a part, and sometimes a considerable part of their time in education. Focus for targets will come from, and in turn form EHCP targets. To support personalised planning, teachers use the Equals curriculum. However, learning is not limited to this curriculum, as often specific learning will be advised from our in-house multidisciplinary team. The appropriate assessment framework(s) will be used to assess students’ progress and identify next steps so that students are still taught ambitiously and their day is full of rigor and purpose. Our Bespoke Curriculum is topic led and strong focus is placed on play based activities to strengthen and develop learning across all areas.

For any learner on this accessing this curriculum it is of paramount importance for us to continually review their engagement and progress and to monitor whether students could achieve in a classroom with subject-specific study based on the National Curriculum Programmes of Study.

Adapted National Curriculum

Our adapted National Curriculum follows the Programmes of Study, as set out in the National Curriculum. However, adaptions are made to meet the learner’s needs. This means that student studies the learning at their own level, as determined by their prior learning, rather than necessarily covering the content set out in the Programmes of study for a student of their chronological age. Students study all subjects of the National Curriculum. Whilst inevitably different subjects may be more difficult for some learners, we believe that to narrow the curriculum for the learners on this pathway would limit their ability to develop schema and would limit their exposure to cultural capital.

The Schemes of Work at Abbot’s Lea School are well sequenced and designed in a way that allows for ambition. In all subject areas, topics build on prior learning as students move up the school. Where, on face value it might appear that topics are re-covered (for example – in maths, where money is covered twice a year every year) the school has a systemic approach to ensuring that whilst the overarching topic may be repetitive (to help students remember more) the specific learning objectives are personalised to achieve progression in the students’ learning. In the example of money, whilst the same topic is purposefully covered numerous times, one student might be learning to recognise coins, whilst another is calculating tax values.

By nature of our admissions criteria, all of our learners have at least Moderate Learning Difficulties. This means that all students need an adapted National Curriculum offer. However, we also acknowledge that many of our learners have a spikey profile which means there could be particular subject areas that they can access at the level of their chronological age and even beyond. We use assessment data and work closely with students and families to determine the highest level of qualification that a student is able to access in a given subject.

Roles and Responsibilities of curriculum areas

The Deputy Headteacher is responsible for all curriculum matters. She works with other members of the Leadership Team to ensure that our curriculum is well sequenced and ambitious.

EYFS Emily Tobin and Laura Gibney
Art and Design Emily Tobin and Laura Gibney
Computing Emily Tobin and Ryan Mason
Design Technology Emily Tobin and Ryan Mason
Employability Emily Tobin and Ryan Mason
English Emily Tobin, Ryan Mason and Laura Gibney
Food Technology Emily Tobin and Ryan Mason
French Emily Tobin and Laura Gibney
Geography Emily Tobin and Laura Gibney
History Emily Tobin and Laura Gibney
RSE/Citizenship Emily Tobin, Ryan Mason and Laura Gibney
Maths Emily Tobin, Ryan Mason and Laura Gibney
Music Emily Tobin and Laura Gibney
PE Emily Tobin and Ryan Mason
RE Emily Tobin and Ryan Mason
Science Emily Tobin, Ryan Mason and Laura Gibney


Throughout all stages and Abbot’s Lea School, Our curriculum will give children the opportunity to:

  • Explore beliefs, experience and faiths, feelings and values; enjoy learning about oneself, others and the surrounding world; use imagination and creativity and reflect on experiences
    Recognise right and wrong and respect the law; understand consequences; investigate moral and ethical issues and offer reasoned views
  • Use a range of social skills to participate in the local community and beyond; appreciate diverse viewpoints; participate, volunteer and cooperate; resolve conflict
  • Appreciate cultural influences; appreciate the role of Britain’s parliamentary system; participate in culture opportunities; understand, accept, respect and celebrate diversity
  • Be part of a system where everyone plays an equal part
  • Learn that all people and institutions are subject to and accountable for their actions and behaviour
  • Be free to express views or ideas
  • Respect and tolerate the opinions or behaviour of others

Well-being through the curriculum

Our curriculum will give children the opportunity to:

  • Recognise that people are good at different things
  • Build respectful friendships
  • Learn how to respect themselves and others
  • Develop self-esteem and confidence in their abilities
  • Follow their own interest and be themselves
  • Learn in a supportive environment
  • Be supported to learn how to self-regulate when anxieties become heightened
  • Find a way of being active that they enjoy
  • Support others in the school community and wider community

Student Voice

Pupil voice refers to pupils’ participation, contribution and influence in a school context (MacBeath, 2006). Various studies have confirmed the benefits of pupil voice: increased pupil engagement, improved relationship between pupils and teachers, better communication between pupils and the school, and providing the right conditions for the school community to become a learning community (Mitra, 2001 and Rudduck et al, 2003).

We recognise that some students have difficulties with expressing their opinions and therefore, we use creative and personalised ways to ascertain students’ feeling about things and their recommendations for making their experience even better.

Our curriculum will give children the opportunity to:

  • Say what they like and dislike about their learning
  • Express their opinions on a range of different topics and issues
  • Take part in democratic activities across the curriculum
  • Make choices about things that are important to them
  • Take part in age-appropriate discussions
  • Explore ways of becoming an active citizen
  • Make a positive contribution to the school and local community


All enrichment activities are woven into the heart and soul of our school day. We do not see enrichment activities as being distinct from learning. It is these rich experiences that make learning memorable and develop a person’s schema. By ensuring that these enrichment offers are within our school day, we can ensure that all learners can access all opportunities. Through this, they begin to learn about themselves, their passions and their interests.

We will enrich our curriculum by:

  • Holding specialist curriculum days or weeks
  • Welcoming families to take part in children’s learning and experiences
  • Using quality resources in and out of the classroom
  • Developing partnerships with external providers that extend children’s opportunities for learning
  • Offering opportunities for children to learn outdoors
  • Providing on and off-site subject or topic related activities
  • Giving students a high level of access to technology as part of their learning offer (not limited to Computing)

Whilst, as stated above, we see enrichment as an every-day entitlement, we do also have a strong Personal Development Curriculum offer.

Personal Development

At Abbot’s Lea School we acknowledge that the wholeness of a student is only truly developed when a strong subject-specific curriculum is interconnected with a personal development curriculum. When both of these factors are present, with strong sequential planning, they form schemas in our students’ minds which support retention and promote a joy that feels tangible as you walk around our school.

Our Personal Development Curriculum develops and deepens pupils’ understanding of the fundamental British values of Democracy, Individual Liberty, the Rule of Law, Mutual Respect and Tolerance. We promote the equality and self-advocacy through the extra-curricular opportunities afforded to all pupils. Such opportunities are adapted in a way that means all students benefit. Everything we do ensures that our children develop spiritually, morally, socially, and culturally so that they are ready to thrive as a member of society.

We have strategically planned and structured our extensive personal development curriculum and extracurricular activities so students can access a wide, rich set of experiences, including powerful discussions and debates. As a result, there are many opportunities for pupils to develop their personal talents and interests across our school. For our secondary students there is a particular focus on preparing for future success in education, employment, or training.

To be truly outstanding we believe that it is impossible to purchase an off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all personal development scheme. Instead, the school needs to look at the community it serves and ensure that the curriculum is designed for that community. As a result, our Personal Development Curriculum has 3 strands which run from EYFS to KS5.


Health and Wellbeing

Social Communication

To cover the three strands above you will see enhancements to our curriculum provision on our timetable in the format of:

Votes for schools

Enrichment Clubs

Personal Development Themes

Student Break and Lunchtimes


  • Votes for schools

Votes for Schools is a weekly current affairs platform, which supports discussions on challenging topical issues, empowering our pupils to have their voices heard by voting and commenting on a key question relating to political and social issues. Through weekly debating and voting, not only are our pupils learning about the world around them, they are becoming prepared for participating in our democratic processes, as they learn about themselves, others and the world around them.

  • Enrichment Clubs

There is a clear purpose behind all enrichment clubs. In Term 1 students will have tasters of all the enrichment clubs in their own classes. From Term 2, students will be supported to choose the club that they will both enjoy, and benefit from. These clubs will run on a Friday afternoon.

  • Personal Development Themes

There will be six themes that run throughout the year, and time is dedicated to these on class teaching timetables in Adapted National Curriculum classes. In Bespoke Curriculum classrooms, such themes run through the core curriculum. The themes are:

  • Travel Training
  • Speak Out Stay Safe and Talk Relationships
  • My Happy Mind

Student Break and Lunchtimes

During break and lunchtimes, it will be made clear to students (ahead of leaving the timetable) what activities are available for them.



Accredited Learning – Key Stage 4

All students in KS4 will continue to be assigned to one class, as per the Primary Model. A student will spend the majority of the time in this classroom. Here, they will study these subjects:

  • English – Functional Skills, GCSE Language, GCSE Literature
  • Maths – Functional Skills, GCSE
  • ICT – AQA unit award scheme
  • Science – Open Awards accreditation
  • Employability – ASDAN accreditation
  • Food Technology – Open Awards Catering qualification
  • PE – AQA unit award scheme
  • RE – AQA unit award scheme
  • Collective Reflection
  • PHSE/Citezenship -Open Awards accreditation

* Whilst it is not mandatory for students to study Food Technology at KS4, we believe that this is important for our students and therefore, we have made this compulsory at Abbot’s Lea School

To supplement these core curriculum areas, we will offer students the opportunity to diversify their qualifications by studying a 2 additional subjects from the areas below:

  • History (higher pathway also available) – AQA unit award scheme
  • Geography (higher pathway also available) – AQA unit award scheme
  • Languages (higher pathway also available) – AQA unit award scheme
  • Design Technology (higher pathway also available) – AQA unit award scheme
  • Art and Design (higher pathway also available) – AQA unit award scheme
  • Music (higher pathway also available) – AQA unit award scheme

All students will also follow our Personal Development Curriculum

Key Stage 5

Students who transition into, and become part of our Key Stage 5 provision from Key Stage 4 enter a period of non-statutory school attendance whereby the programme of study is centred around transition to adulthood and preparation for a following destination.

Students in this Key Stage will study:

  • English – Functional Skills, GCSE Language, GCSE Literature
  • Maths – Functional Skills, GCSE
  • ICT – AQA unit award scheme
  • RE – AQA unit award scheme
  • Collective reflection
  • PE – – AQA unit award scheme
  • Food Technology – AQA unit award scheme (Catering)
  • PHSE/Citenzenship – – AQA unit award scheme
  • Employability – ASDAN accreditation
  • Personal Development Curriculum

In addition they will follow our bespoke Key Stage 5 Abbot’s Lea School Curriculum.


Students have the opportunity to undertake a Supported Internship within Key Stage 5 if they wish to. This allows the students to embed themselves within an employer for a minimum of six months, gaining the skills needed to undertake a range of different roles. Alongside their working pattern, students also engage in accredited learning through completing qualifications in Englishand Maths. This allows each Supported Intern to complete a hands-on and bespoke experience of work-based learning and fulfilling a job role, whilst continuing to gain academic qualifications.

All students within Key Stage 5 will also experience college taster activities, college visits, work experience days and a range of community visits, using public transport where appropriate to further enhance their ability to travel independently.


At Abbot’s Lea, in line with the Government’s careers strategy, we ensure that all students, from the age of 3 to 19 access an embedded and bespoke education through our development of an Employability Curriculum. At Abbot’s Lea School, we use the Gatsby Benchmarks to measure the quality of our provision in order to develop it further. We believe in high-quality career advice and practical support in terms of access e.g. students are supported with arranging and attending college interviews and visits. This is absolutely essential if students are going to achieve their potential.

Students from across the school have the opportunity to engage in work experience and this is a really important part of our curriculum. This opportunity to go and work in the wider community is invaluable and allows students the opportunities to achieve the following aims:

  • to enable students to apply the transferable skills learned in the classroom in a real-life context.
  • to further improve skills by making learning more relevant and practical
  • to offer further opportunity to develop personal and social skills
  • to develop an understanding of work and its related responsibilities
  • to broaden awareness of the world of work
  • to introduce students to the knowledge and skills of particular occupational area/s
  • to help students to make the transition from school
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