Special Needs - Discovery channels

17th October 2008 at 01:00
What does the new secondary curriculum offer for learners with additional learning needs? Nell Banfield investigates

The best thing about the new secondary curriculum is that teachers can still use their tried and tested methods of games and activities to help pupils remember their learning, but they can also make links across subjects to make that learning real and meaningful.

So if a pupil seems interested in the way in which bacteria grows in a science lesson, for example, then they can also look at their own health and diet, or health in a 19th-century industrial setting across other subjects. Some of the ways in which infections spread can even be demonstrated in drama and art.

All of this could be recorded and celebrated in a display or demonstration and also be evidence for progression. It could be extended into how to protect yourself against infections and so involve some work outside school and in the home, with contributions from their family and local visits.

For pupils with special educational needs, this can reduce barriers to learning and help them build the same sense of pride in their achievement as all learners.

These kinds of learning experiences are compelling because they are co-led by learners and shaped by teachers and teaching assistants. They offer opportunities to follow interests and respond to individual need, to plan together where and how to find things out, how they want to present their learning and who they want to show it to. It gives evidence not only for learning but for persistence, teamwork, reflecting on their own learning, setting goals and so on - all aspects of personal, learning and thinking skills.

Young learners who have had difficulties in achieving and making progress know what helps them to learn successfully - they like being challenged, they want to learn in active ways and want to talk to teachers about their learning. The use of flexibility in the new curriculum gives young learners with difficulties the chance to learn in ways they find effective, and to be motivated and inspired so that they experience success, gain confidence and become more responsible for their learning.

Nell Banfield is curriculum adviser for the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

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