Thomas bewick school 21
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Curriculum Model

At Thomas Bewick School, we understand that the learning journey for each individual child or young person will be unique and is dependent upon their different abilities, interests and aspirations.

The various learning pathways that make up our whole school curriculum model are therefore very flexible, and have been designed to reflect the diverse and wide ranging needs and abilities of our pupil population.

We use a range of well researched and widely recognised autism specific approaches, strategies and resources in our work with pupils and understand the need for teachers, teaching assistants, parents, carers and multi-agency professionals to work collaboratively, with each child or young person at the centre of everything we do.

We use Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCP) and a range of other assessment tools to create an Individual Progress Plan (IPP) for each pupil, which is continually tracked and reviewed termly to monitor and evidence the progress they are making.  Ongoing assessment also helps us to ensure that each pupil is accessing the most appropriate curriculum pathway for them. You can find out more about our assessment approach, tools, processes and procedures in our ‘Assessment Policy’.

The curriculum pathways at Thomas Bewick School are:

  • Reception (based on the statutory Early Years Foundation Stage framework)
  • Engager Pathway (Pre-formal curriculum)
  • Explorer Pathway (Semi-formal curriculum)
  • Discoverer Pathway (Formal curriculum)
  • Steps into Independence (Post 14, semi-formal curriculum)
  • Steps into Work (Post 14, formal curriculum)

Curriculum Pathways


Most of our pupils begin their learning journey with us in their reception year. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) framework underpins the curriculum taught in our reception classes, with autism specific approaches, communication strategies and therapies (e.g. speech and language therapy, occupational therapy) skilfully integrated and embedded into teaching to ensure a focus on the four key areas of difference associated with autism.

The Engager Pathway

The Engager pathway is for our pupils with the most complex needs and is underpinned by the key principles of the EYFS (Unique Child, Positive Relationships, Enabling environments with teaching and support from adults, Learning and Development).  It is designed to reflect the complex needs of each individual pupil and focuses primarily on the development of early communication skills, emotional and sensory regulation, and personal independence skills.  Teaching is characterised by a combination of play based and therapeutic approaches to encourage progressive development towards all of the early learning milestones.

The Explorer Pathway

Like the Engager pathway, the Explorer pathway is also underpinned by the key principles of the EYFS, and builds upon the foundational learning skills that pupils have developed whilst accessing the Reception or Engager curriculum pathways. Pupils will transfer onto the Explorer curriculum pathway, from either the Reception or Engager pathway, when they are showing a ‘readiness to learn’ through their retention of basic knowledge and skills in literacy and numeracy – the building blocks for a life of learning.  They will also be able to sustain their attention and focus within a small group activity.  The key intentions of the Explorer pathway are to develop functional social communication, cognitive and academic abilities, and greater independence skills.  We refer to this pathway as being ‘semi-formal’ as it is characterised by formal English and maths lessons alongside themed continuous provision, with therapeutic strategies and approaches embedded into teaching.

The Discoverer Pathway

The Discoverer pathway is our more formal, subject-specific curriculum for pupils who are ready to access the full range of National Curriculum subjects.  As in all other pathways, pupils will continue to work on their social communication, emotional regulation and personal independence skills, but academic progress and the acquisition of subject specific knowledge and skills is also a key focus for Discoverer pupils.  Although this pathway is more ‘subject specific’, lessons are still adapted and differentiated in order to meet the wide-ranging needs and abilities of pupils.

The Post 14 curriculum pathways (including sixth form)

Steps into Independence and Steps into Work

The Post 14 phase consists of two curriculum pathways:

  • Steps into Independence
  • Steps into Work

Post 14 is also where ‘pupils’ become known as ‘students’, as the focus of the curriculum shifts more towards preparation for adulthood.

Students who have followed the Engager or Explorer pathway in Key Stages 1 to 3 will typically transition onto the semi-formal ‘Steps into Independence’ pathway.  Students who have followed the Discoverer pathway in Key Stages 1 to 3 will typically transition onto the formal ‘Steps into Work’ pathway.  Both curriculum pathways have been designed with the long term perspective and potential future destinations of students in mind, and both have been designed around the four key ‘Preparing for Adulthood’ themes:

  • Employment
  • Independent Living
  • Community Inclusion
  • Health

The post-school options for each student will very much depend on their very individual profile of strengths, interests, needs and abilities.  For some students, living independently, having a job and being an active participant in the wider community are realistic and appropriate future aspirations, whereas this may not be appropriate for some of our other students who may require a more bespoke, supported independence package in the future, designed around their specific interests and needs.  Our two Post 14 curriculum pathways focus on what the future may look like for each student, so incorporate a range of opportunities for students to engage in activities to further develop their knowledge, skills and independence, alongside opportunities to engage with employers, community facilities and services that will support their post-school transition.