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'Tiers' Curriculum

Our 'Intent' outlines the core and moral purpose of our curriculum design. 
In addition, we carefully considered the design of the curriculum; what is covered and its relevance for our individual pupils transitioning through childhood into adulthood.  This school's curriculum covers the entire learning experience for each pupil - what's learnt in class, unstructured learning times - breaks, lunches, games and clubs, informal and formal learning of knowledge and the skills to apply this.
Read about our Curriculum in the booklet below: 

St Luke's Curriculum booklet flip book 

St Luke's Curriculum booklet pdf

Curriculum INTENT

Engagement for Thriving
St Luke's School Curriculum intent is ultimately to engage children with learning in order to successfully access our mainstream world with increasing independence.  We see one of our most important aspects of our curriculum is to nurture each individual’s human agency, building the self-esteem and resilience required to thrive through childhood into adulthood.  Experiences, opportunities, relevant and meaningful teaching content, delivered by skilled adults are integral in our desire to provide a curriculum that illuminates our pupils’ abilities.
Developing Enquiring Minds
Learning is a complex activity and not necessarily linear; particularly so for children and adults with cognitive disabilities and disorders, syndromes and the layered complexity of these.  Often subject-specific learning requires earlier 'building blocks' to be in place in order to acquire new knowledge/skills.  As a child, each pupil needs to be supported in remembering and embedding knowledge and applied skills to encourage an enquiring mind.  Our teaching consistently supports the individual in their developing independence to further their learning and apply knowledge and skills in different contexts. 
The National Curriculum entitlement forms an essential and statutory part of our school curriculum as we look to ensuring a broad, balanced and meaningful programme of learning and experiences.  Within our school, relevance is of particular importance and as such, some national curriculum areas of study have different relevancies to our pupils in childhood, whereas other areas are crucial, such as reading and skills in communication.  
Progress in Learning Towards Outcomes
Learning at different rates and the embedding of knowledge can be particularly difficult for some of our pupils.   Due to their difficulties, our pupils are likely to:
  • Be working below or at the lower end of the standards set out by the National Curriculum, though have some age-appropriate knowledge and skills
  • Have non-traditional learning needs such as feeding independence skills in managing transitions, medical needs, personal care or requiring specific therapies.
As such, the skill in teaching concepts and knowledge by breaking down the activities and tasks to help the individual grasp and retain this means our assessment methodology needs to cover both small steps and assimilate these into chunks of progress.  Assessing progress in our school considers carefully what 'we' (including the child, their teachers, potential employers, the child's family) want the individual to achieve and as such, we make judgements on whether enough progress has been made and how we enable/ facilitate this potential for the pupil.  In doing so, we look carefully at 'outcomes' - both in terms of accreditation and those outcomes identified in the individual's EHCP.
Our Learning Disability (LD) Sector schools in Hertfordshire do not have Post-16 provisions, but pupils statutorily have to continue education until 18yrs.  As such, the vast majority of pupils leave our school for one of the four colleges of further education in Hertfordshire, an FE college in another county or, sometimes a private SEND school with a sixth form provision.  However, beyond college, our pupils need the skills, experience and knowledge to access the world of work. 
We want to know the impact of our curriculum and school experiences on our leavers.   As such, we have been having purposeful conversations with young adults and their families who attended St Luke's to find out about their experiences since leaving school. 
Post Statutory Education
School, as a place for learning and experiencing real work, gaining accreditations that are understood by employers feels an essential aspect of what we now do as a special school.   Our forthcoming farm and café development builds on this essential need to support our youngsters into gainful employment, developing confidence with communication, functional literacy and numeracy.  Our school community feels the responsibility and importance in ‘moving the dial’ and changing the landscape for young people with SEND to ensure our children acquire the functional tools for an engaging and employable future.  Our curriculum seeks to do just that.
The picture of early adulthood (and longer term) is challenging for many with cognitive disabilities.  Like their mainstream counterparts, our young people (and alumni) have been significantly affected by COVID-19.  The 'Big Ask' of 5million young people has however, revealed a majority have retained a positive outlook for their future.  Proportionately few young people with SEND make up the consulted young people, which will hopefully be rectified to capture the views and needs of those with disabilities and provide a national body of information from which to inform further evidence-based decision-making. 
The impact of COVID-19 on our current learners has been varied, though having school staff's strong relationships and support, knowledge of their capability and how to respond effectively to their needs, has supported the majority of children in their self-regulation and mental health needs.
Employment and Unemployment
The challenges for our young adults with SEND continue into and across their adulthood.  Young people starting employment now will work longer and change jobs more often – competing in what is an increasingly uncertain jobs market.   Government statistics identify 94% of adults with SEND and/or complex mental health difficulties are not in employment.   In competing with highly qualified peers (more than 50% of school leavers nationally attend university) our curriculum has to be relevant, purposeful and appropriate in supporting our youngsters to see themselves in employment, to secure work and have the resilience to remain in their job. 
Diversity, Breadth and Coverage of Our School Curriculum
Within and across our federation of schools, the young people’s needs are incredibly diverse, requiring high levels of flexibility and creativity of the adults working with them to ensure curriculum breadth, work-related learning and the functional application of skills in addition to the rising confidence levels and self-esteem needed to effectively navigate the challenges of our mainstream world.
Our curriculum seeks to meet the individual's needs and prioritise those most important to them; Communication, Personal Development and Understanding My World.  Some curriculum areas retain discrete subject-area teaching and this is dependent on the Curriculum Tier they are working within to ensure a cohesive and appropriate curriculum.

To develop the pupils capabilities and potential, enhance their personal health and wellbeing, improve the quality of their relationships that lead to the realisation of their dreams and aspirations to thrive in life.



Curriculum Area 

Curriculum Intent 

Personal Development 

To be able to function as successfully and independently as possible. 


To be able to wholly express their needs and communicate effectively with members of their community.  To be able to read and write in everyday contexts.

Understanding the World 

To develop an awareness of the world around us, including all forms of diversity and how to stay safe and healthy. 

Physical Development 

To be able to function physically as successfully, confidently and, as independently as possible.


To be able to read and write in everyday contexts. 


To be able to use mathematical skills to reason and use functionally to support 'Understanding the World'

Expressive Arts 

To be able to express themselves, and pursue their own interests, strengths and talents.




Our Curriculum has 7 Areas of Learning:

Prime Areas of Learning

  • Communication (relationships)
  • Personal Development (self)
  • Understanding My World (world)

Specific Areas of Learning

  • Literacy
  • Maths
  • Physical Development
  • Expressive Arts
Within these areas of learning children's progress is supported through Curriculum Tiers of curriculum content and teaching that learning that lead towards appropriate 'Outcomes' for the young person.

'Curriculum Tiers' Pitching Content and Progression Routes

'Curriculum Tiers' Pitching Content and Progression Routes at the Right Level

It is recognised that children will not always fit neatly into a particular pathway, and that a best fit approach is required.   That said, we have created Tiers of learning which are more relevant to the child than an arching curriculum that loses purpose and intent. 
Within and across the Curriculum Tiers there is flexibility in terms of the content delivered to ensure that the needs of all children over time can be most appropriately met.  As such, these Curriculum Tiers form a ladder of learning knowledge and skills that our pupils need to learn in order to reach relevant outcomes. 
Capturing progress through our assessment system, StAPPS allows learning to be pitched appropriately with knowledge and skills teaching, mapped out over time to ensure coverage of key ideas.  Objectives are identified for each strand, differentiated through the Curriculum Tiers with strands of learning revisited over time to allow progression, over-learning and gap filling.
It is also recognised that progress will not always be smooth; children may make more or less progress than their peers at different points in the school life with the intention of moving upwards through Curriculum Tiers towards achieving higher level outcomes.  Learning may not always be linear, though our teachers sequence learning activities at the child's place with the pace to ensure it remains relevant.

St Luke's Curriculum Tiers

The Curriculum Tiers are used to identify pupils' starting points, baselining attainment, subject area coverage to ensure mastery of areas needed and foundations for learning in the subsequent Curriciulum Tiers.

Curriculum Tiers Ensuring Progress Towards Relevant Outcomes


Pupils following our benchmarked and carefully constructed curriculum will be working towards external examination accreditations in Year 11 and sometimes in Year 10.  Along the way, other accreditations may be taken.  Our school's Curriculum Tiers pitch learning and teaching at the right level for the individual.   Accreditations offered by the school include: our own certification, Entry Levels, ASDAN, GCSE, BTEC and adult industry certification in areas such as First Aid, Health and Hygiene.  Our use of the College Link courses in Key Stage 4 continue to promote preparation for adulthood in supporting pupils move from school to their next destination.

EHCP Outcomes

Each pupil in our setting has an EHCP with identified Outcomes over the course of the year.   These Outcomes are designed with families and the child to be purposeful, meaningful and relevant to the individual at that time in their life.   Progress towards these Outcomes are measured by Teachers and other stakeholders, reviewed throughout the year and formally in the EHCP Annual Review. 


Curriculum Implementation

Our Curriculum Implementation: Content, Organisation and Delivery

In the implementation of our curriculum, we have addressed pedagogical choices, activities for creating learning opportunities and test how well these are being undertaken - the Quality of Education provided.

All pupils have access to a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum, based on the National Curriculum, which is differentiated and modified for pupils with complex SEND. We have strong processes for assessment, planning, teaching and reviewing to help each pupil make the maximum progress in learning.  We teach through practical and highly visual approaches, using learning from experience, signing, pictures and symbols to support understanding. We emphasise developing academic, personal and social skills to improve each child’s independence, confidence, and resilience.

All pupils' teaching is differentiated according to their personal needs and curriculum tier.   The curriculum focuses on the development of functional skills in literacy and maths, speech, language and communication, social interaction and independent living.

The curriculum includes a wealth of routes for learning, which may include lunch-time and after-school clubs, with high levels of skilled staff who continue to educate and support learners. There are planned integration experiences, for example with pupils from local mainstream schools, and educational outings as part of the curriculum.

Timetables at The St Luke's School follow a primary style manner of teaching, with pupils having a 'learning group' which most of their lessons are taught in.  However, specialist teachers and/or teachers who developed expertise in a primary or secondary setting work with our children over the course of the week.  School organisation is flexible to meet the changing pattern of pupil needs. 

Organisation is responsive to the needs of the pupils through the Key Stages. Small classes, and variable adult/pupil ratios depending on the needs of the group, ensure that learning can be tailored to a pupil’s individual needs. Included in this offer of a personalised approach is the assurance that intimate care and attention to all basic functions is guaranteed.

Teaching uses a wide variety of methods to teach key skills and abstract concepts. Children learn in different ways so knowledge is delivered and skills taught using kinaesthetic, visual, practical and concrete approaches. Pupils are likely to require access to a high level of visual support, e.g. objects of reference, photographs, the use of symbols and appropriate signing strategies.

Pupils are given regular opportunities to learn new skills and to generalise those already learned through frequent repetition and the chance to practise skills in different situations.  This will include a large range of curriculum enrichment activities, such as visits to museums and subject-related facilities in the wider community.

We enable pupils with complex learning needs to access education and engage in learning in preparation for adult life. This is provided in a safe environment. All our pupils have learning difficulties and cognitive barriers to learning to differing degrees.  As such, our curriculum focus' on the child's needs and progress through a relevant curriculum.


Our Curriculum Tiers

Our curriculum and subsequent planning is divided into three main sections, based on the differing needs of our pupils within the lower, middle and upper school - with relative and meaningful aspirations.  The learning intentions are aligned to the National Curriculum, but topics are chosen that are relevant to the needs, skills and understanding, as well as interests of the pupils. We strive to ensure that the topics chosen reflect the ages of the pupils exploring them; otherwise, they are left vulnerable, particularly when out in the community. e.g. young adult with Thomas the Tank engine lunchbox. There are no perceived limitations to what pupils can achieve.


Functional Skills Learning

The curriculum has a focus on the ‘functional’ so that pupils develop the skills necessary to thrive and live as independently as possible. Some topics are also chosen to excite and motivate our pupils e.g. myths and legends - we have a large group of pupils who enjoy playing with mythical figures at playtime. Links are made between elements of learning e.g. letter writing to a figure from history. Where possible, learning is linked to first-hand experiences such as going to the shop for money handling. This puts the learning within a context, making it more meaningful and useful. Wider skills such as reading are also laid out across the subjects to build comprehension.


Measuring Progression

Assessment information feeds into curriculum planning which ensures that there is progress in concepts from year group to year group, department to department. One of our progress measurements is  STAPPS, a system designed by staff.  Staff are able to track next steps in learning and highlight pupils who need intervention and/or further challenge. They are also used to identify curriculum areas that need strengthening. STAPPS enables staff to pitch the curriculum at the correct level and to ensure topics are progressive across the school.  We use additional measures for assessment to judge standards against national measures including age-related expectations for neurotypical children.

Targets are set in collaboration with pupils, parents and other professionals and reviewed together on a regular basis. Assessment is moderated across the county and regionally. Information and data is held at school, local authority and national level. 


Challenge and Relevant Outcomes

Pupils may move up the Curriculum Tiers at any time, where a greater, challenging pathway is needed and appropriate.  Key methods of teaching such as revisiting and reinforcing, building on prior knowledge and skills, teaching in a logical sequence building to an outcome transfer across all ages.



 'COMMUNICATION' (Relationships)

  • To experience therapeutic interventions including speech and language, animal therapy, arts therapies
  • To develop effective attention and listening skills
  • To develop an understanding of language
  • To develop effective communication skills
  • To develop lifelong learning skills and strategies
  • To have opportunities to learn through a broad, ambitious and challenging range of experiences
  • To build on prior knowledge
  • To develop transferable thinking skills
  • To acknowledge and celebrate our differences
  • To work with others
  • To express ourselves through the arts
  • To communicate through writing, drawing and different technologies
  • To read functionally and for pleasure
  • To engage with talk therapies


Discreet subject areas within the area of Communication include:

  • Communication
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Speaking and listening
  • Visual art
  • Music
  • Drama
  • Modern foreign languages



In our curriculum, 'Personal Development' covers a range of learning topics that are focussed on the individual developing skills and understanding about what matters to them and, how they can interact with the world.  Dependent on their needs, the information covered in the Pathways of learning will cover statutory requirements and a tailored, relevant programme of learning.   The Personal Development Planning Framework identifies extension of knowledge along identified categories/areas of learning. 

The St Luke's Personal Development Planning Framework (revised July 2021)

Our programmes of learning ensure relevance and purpose, with Pathways leading to identified qualifications and outcomes that enable the child an understanding of the individuals' skills, knowledge and understanding for their next steps.


  • To enable a readiness to learn
  • To be taught Personal, Social, Health, Citizenship and Emotional Development (PSHCED)
  • To know more about biology; how we and our world lives and thrive
  • Physical development including PE, sports and games
  • Occupational therapy and sensory integration skills to access learning and experiences
  • Life skills - in the home and our immediate world
  • To develop understanding of our own emotions and those of others to establish and retain strong relationships
  • To take risks in learning and develop resilience
  • To develop positive physical and mental health
  • To know how to keep ourselves safe - emotional, physical and sexual health.
  • To develop strategies to overcome our individual barriers to learning
  • To develop readiness to transition to the next stage of education
  • To develop as respectful and active citizens


Discreet Subject Areas within the area of Personal Development include:

  • Personal, Social Development (PSD)
  • Mental health appreciation and support
  • Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural (SMSC) education
  • Sport, PE and Games
  • Cooking
  • Life Skills
  • Counselling and talking therapeutic work
  • Sensory skills
  • Behaviour management skills
  • Occupational Therapy skills
  • Relationship and sex education (RSE)
  • Citizenship
  • British Values
  • Politics
  • Religions



  • To be taught knowledge and skills through relevant and appropriate topics that enable the individual to build on prior learning, expand their awareness and understanding of the world we live in, leading to the broadening of this from their immediate circumstances.
  • To experience learning through individual and group teaching that ensures an anchoring of knowledge and skills are obtained through regular recapping for the application of these to new learning.
  • To be taught through project-based work that links discreet subject areas and enables relevance for the individual child with functional skills.
  • The curriculum routes will enable relevance, pitch, appropriate pace and expectations of knowledge and skills as well as the application of these.


Discreet subject areas within the area of Understanding My World include:

  • Numeracy
  • Functional numeracy
  • Place and geography
  • Time and history
  • The world, space, weather and forces
  • Animal Care
  • Horticulture
  • Science
  • Modern Foreign Languages
  • Art, Music, Drama

An example of Medium Term Planning for Middle School at St Luke's: numeracy

Trans-disciplinary Approach

A range of professionals works with the pupils, parents and staff of the schools to ensure that the best possible guidance is provided to encourage and support educational development. These professionals include Speech and Language Therapists, Physiotherapists, Occupational Therapists, Music and other therapists, School Nurses, Consultant Paediatrician, Educational Psychologists, Clinical Psychologists, Counsellors and Advisory Teachers for Autism, Hearing Impairment and Visual Impairment, Youth Connexions Personal Advisers and FE College tutors.

Schools work with a variety of external professionals to provide for the holistic needs of children and young people.

School Departments: Lower, Middle and Upper Schools

Lower School 

The Lower School's curriculum focus is on developing classroom readiness, as many pupils come to school having been on a reduced timetable or only having attended a pre-school. Communication and language form the basis of their curriculum either through language, or communication supports such as PECS. Many of the pupils have significant sensory needs and time is built into planning to facilitate their sensory diet, including working towards O.T targets. Younger children often struggle to rationalise their emotions and as such, the curriculum has an emphasis upon developing emotional regulation. 

There begins a focus on understanding number such as counting and one to one correspondence so that the basic blocks are set up. Lessons around phonics (we use Read, Write Inc.) and spelling strategies occur daily, which develop an understanding of the text and an excitement and love for reading. For many of our pupils, the art of writing begins with the ability to mark make, form letters and then basic sentences. Writing is cross curricula as repetition of skills is the key to progress. The pupils study history, geography and science as part of a series of topics, mainly centred on their own community. STAPPS ensures there is progression in skills. As with the other departments in school, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and values such as friendship, kindness, respect, happiness and respecting each other remain high on the agenda. 


Middle school

The skills within lower school continue, to be built upon. Communication and language becomes more functional, such as writing a list for shopping. Pupils are encouraged to question and form opinions. They begin to understand responsibility, democracy and tolerance and strategies are explored to teach empathy. Maths, has a stronger focus on time, money and number skills such as times tables. Strategies for problem solving are key and in particular, how these relate to the outside world e.g., How many rolls of wallpaper are needed. Writing takes on a more functional role. For instance, completing a form to join the library, sending an email. Basic spelling, punctuation and grammar remain as a focus so that the skills become embedded. Although staff still teach through topic, there is a greater emphasis upon specific subjects such as history and science. This way, the subjects can be explored at a deeper level. PCSHE and life skills is the area given the most curriculum time. There are so many skills that our pupils need to learn to be independent citizens that the focus has to increase in the middle school. As our pupils start to become more independent and start to use technology more readily, internet and social media safety is paramount to their well-being, so safety features highly in the curriculum.  There are more opportunities to engage with the community, develop leadership roles and engage in events to support local charities. Children continue to develop creative skills applying these to projects such as designing Christmas cards.


Upper school

The skills in Upper school build upon the skills from middle school. Whilst it is important to study for accreditation, there is a greater focus on the skills and knowledge needed to support our pupils when they leave to go on to the next stage. This includes drug education, protection from extremism, online safety and sex and relationship education. Functional maths and literacy remain high on the agenda. Communication is also a skill to be developed, particularly in relation to the world of work. E.g., Interview skills. As part of the curriculum pupils experience the world of work, volunteering, travel training, charity work, being a prefect and representing the school council. There are opportunities to experience competitive sport and to develop coaching skills. There is a focus on practising the skills that may be used in the place of work such as barista training and food preparation and safety. Pupils gain a greater understanding of themselves in relation to their community as well as the cultures that determine it.


Curriculum Accountability Structure

Executive Headteacher - Quality of Provision Analysis and Impact

The Blue Tangerine Federation Governors - Monitoring of Quality of Provision

Head of School - Development of Framework, Intent, Standards, Training Needs

Deputy Head of School (From September 2021) - Curriculum Leader of Teams: Strategy and Operation, Delivery and Training Needs, Analysis

Curriculum Learning Areas Teams (Leaders, Teachers, TAs) - Evaluating the provision across the Tiers of learning from Y2 to Yr11 and beyond; triangulating content, teaching and progress. Curriculum Area Audit, Overview, Topic Coverage, Age-related content and Teaching Resources, Learning Sequencing and Analysis

  • Communication
  • Personal Development
  • Understanding My World
  • Literacy
  • Maths
  • Expressive Arts
  • Physical Development

Heads of Department - Coverage, Standards, Assessment, Implementation, Interventions, Action Planning, Analysis

Teachers - Triangulation of planning, assessment, teaching and learning through delivery and Pupil Progress Meetings, feeding back to curriculum development. Feedback to pupils and parents, collaborative practices, reporting, termly pupil progress, contribution to curriculum area development and analysis

Teaching Assistants - standards, consistency of delivery, adaptation to needs, contribution to curriculum area development and analysis

Remote Learning

We worked online during the Covid-19 pandemic to secure learning for pupils not able to access school. 

 Links to our curriculum online learning programmes and, others to explore.




What do we mean by 'remote education'?

Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with school if you would like any further explanation or support.

We use ClassDojo, Teams and Zoom to enable all of our pupils to access resources, communicate with their teachers and to learn from home during the pandemic.  As much as possible, teaching will follow the original class plan for the term.  Here are the ways we communicate with children and families online:

ClassDojo is a safe and secure solution for families to access learning materials directly from their class teachers, as well as a secure method of communicating with the school.  Work may be set directly through ClassDojo or be physically posted/delivered home.


Zoom or Microsoft Teams will be used where appropriate to support children’s learning and social interaction and so that all members of the class are physically able to see each other. 

Please be aware that all participants in a zoom call will be able to see and hear each other.   If you have any concerns about this please contact your class teacher via ClassDojo


Further information for parents

A Little Guide for Parents on Home Schooling During Lockdown
Parenting in a Pandemic: Growing confidence in guiding learning in a home environment

SEND Weblinks for Home Learning