Semi-formal Curriculum


The Semi-Formal Curriculum is provided for our pupils who have a range of complex difficulties as well as their moderate or specific learning difficulties, which make access to our differentiated National Curriculum more challenging.  These challenges may be sensory, physical, social, emotional and mental Health needs or communication.  The children may also have a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC) which may be either a current barrier to curriculum access or they require a more tailored approach to teaching and learning.  While some children who access this pathway are working on the lower progress steps due to their specific learning needs,  it is also more suitable for those who perform at higher levels but require significant adaptations to the teaching and learning, so support is tailored to their more complex additional needs e.g. regular sensory breaks and frequent therapeutic interventions. 


The Semi-Formal approach recognises that the pupils will find the more traditional approach of subject delivery and daily time table more challenging to access and engage in for sustained periods of time.  It also recognises that their range of difficulties requires a more individual and developmentally appropriate approach, providing a holistic curriculum which is meaningful, relevant, at an appropriate pace and built on challenging goals.  The pupils will still begin National Curriculum 'subject' learning but will require additional support to access these more formal styles as they transition from a wholly 'Play Based' curriculum. 


Our Semi-Formal Curriculum is delivered primarily through a thematic based approach, which provides connected skills and knowledge that can be reinforced through a common theme.  This interconnection of key objectives across thematic topics, will be further connected by planning which incorporates both the pupils personal and real life experiences.  Making concrete links to real-life experiences results in the pupils having a richer learning experience allowing for learning to be remembered long-term and therefore facilitating a deeper understanding.    The thematic delivery is also structured to allow for some themes to be taught over longer period of time, to support understanding e.g. The Seasons, or split across the year to enable more challenging learning to be revisited and see the change in Seasons in real time. 


The structure of the school day is also tailored to these more complex learning needs and children will also receive a range of holistic lessons within each week.  These holistic lessons may include progressive fine and gross motor skills, thinking skills/metacognition, social skills or Play skills. 


Lessons will also be tailored around the developmental needs of the pupils. In practice, this will mean that learning will be delivered in more practical and holistic ways: As well as time tabling specific times for ‘Sensory diet’, teachers will incorporate pupil’s sensory needs through a multisensory approach in teaching and learning activities. Role play, building models, outdoor learning and field trips will also be embedded into planning.

Example 1: In phonics, the pupils may complete letter and sound work by standing to write at a white board; practising letter formation in sand or shaving foam; being able to physically move between a carousel of activities (under COVID-19 hygiene guidelines e.g. cleaned surfaces; new resources for each child etc.).  

Example 2: In maths, when adding ‘1’, large number cards may be placed on the floor or wall. Children move to the answer which they believe to be correct.  When completing the corresponding calculation e.g. 2+1 =3, children either drag and drop digits and symbols on a white board or manipulate large class cards.  Children requiring ‘Heavy lifting’ may move larger items e.g. 2 boxes plus 1 box equals 3 boxes (may move between 2 demonstrating tables at the front of class etc.)


What it looks like 2020-2021

The introduction to the Semi-Formal Curriculum is new and full implementation across the Federation will be from September 2021. In the interim period, teachers will include the following elements:

  • Multi-sensory teaching and learning activities
  • Time tabled sensory diets
  • Brain breaks within lessons
  • Clutter free classrooms and displays
  • Daily Holistic lessons for either individual or whole class interventions (Social skills, play skills, OT, SALT interventions, EHCP provisions etc.)
  • Target ‘Catch up’ lessons for missed learning due to COVID-19 in maths and literacy (Including EHCP targets)
  • TEACCH Work Stations (These incorporate structure, routine, visual cues and limit distractions to develop independence, organisational skills, the concepts of working in an ordered manner, the concept of finished and the generalisation of skills).
  • Adapted Thematic curriculum topics, combining key skills and knowledge
  • Planning which reflects the interests and motivations for their pupils