'School can be changed from a negative experience to one in which he or she can achieve, and in which his or her self-esteem can be enhanced. These experiences increase resilience and hopefulness'.
Heather Geddes, Attachment in the Classroom, 2012.
Square pegs do not fit into round holes so why keep trying the same? For some children, the traditional classroom setting does not work and can create even further barriers to their learning. This can often become a revolving door which adds to the loss of crucial real education time for the pupil.
Cherry Tree is a detached building in a quiet residential area and has a warm homely feel and can cater for up to 10 pupils. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, and pupils are encouraged to take ownership of their school. The property also has a large safe garden area with working spaces where various ‘hands on’ projects can be carried out e.g. gardening and upcycling.
At Cherry Tree our aim is to provide an excellent education for all our pupils. Our commitment for an engaging and bespoke curriculum is rooted in a desire to bring out the best in all pupils and prepare them for success in life. Our data gathering is constantly evolving to ensure we capture the personal achievements and personal development steps pupils take so they can celebrate their progression.
Recognising positive change highlights and encourages their personal growth, self-esteem and individuality. For pupils who need an integrated plan to allow them time to settle into school life, a variety of environments can be accessed including classrooms without walls using the spacious outdoors of either the local beach or the Kent countryside. In our experience, pupils who have a history of sporadic education respond well when a variety of these learning environments are available.
Through this flexible and adaptable approach, pupils have the time and space to discover their strengths and the way they learn best, which in turn creates the best possible environment ‘fit’ for the pupil to achieve their potential. We intend to ensure that our pupils are ready for the move to post 16 education or employment, with the ability to show resilience and the competence to interact with peers within society post 16 and beyond.
The Working Memory Challenge
The focus of our whole school curriculum intent is to ensure that all pupils have a balanced, rounded and appropriate education, which meets their individual needs, ensuring it remains flexible to meet their ongoing mental health challenges. There are many mental health difficulties that our pupils have to learn to manage and or live with that affect everything they do, every day of their lives.
These difficulties include depression, severe levels of anxiety, PTSD, self-harming, complex trauma, attachment disorders, ASD and many other learning difficulties. Severe levels of anxiety can overtake and consume our pupils on a daily basis not only linked to various diagnosis, but also when they are presented with new and stressful life situations they need to navigate their way through.
When young people are under the influence of stress, trauma and or high levels of anxiety, the memory will often be working at a lower level than that of normal memory functioning. One part of the body affected by anxiety and stress is the nervous system, which plays a primary role in basic functions like memory and learning. As a result, persistent anxiety and memory loss can be overly affected. Working memory, or the short term memory, is critical for solving problems effectively and for managing chunks of information in the ‘now’.
There is a plethora of evidence which shows that young people with elevated anxiety are either unable to complete task, or take a long time to shift from one cognitive set to another during working memory tasks e.g. listening to a sequence of events in a story while tying to understand what the story means. When the working memory is not working properly, it will often present as the inability to complete tasks properly, difficulty concentrating, inability to multi task and often, errors are made. Our pupils often present with these difficulties in their lessons and so our challenge is to enable pupils to develop and move into new subjects and chunks of learning, while acknowledging that they may not be able to recall their previous learning on a regular basis.
As a school we balance the need for overlearning with the need to ensure pupils do not get ‘bored’ by constantly revisiting information or topics. This also presents the challenge for Cherry Tree to constantly evolve ways to ensure accurate, reliable and valid assessments methods are in place to measure individual pupils progress and achievements, which takes their working memory difficulties into account.
Meeting Individual Needs
To ensure the individual needs of Cherry Tree pupils are met we will:
Moving on when ready
Some pupils need more time than others to catch up, work through their learning barriers and to be ready to engage in bigger groups and / or mainstream schools. However, some pupils may be ready to move on faster than others. To ensure that Cherry Tree continues to be the right provision for pupils, discussions will take place at every PEP and EHCP review to identify and start planning any future potential moves. This will not only ensure that there is a smooth transition plan in place but that everyone including the child, is involved in the decision making about their future.
Our English curriculum is designed to provide all of our pupils with the core knowledge, skills and an appreciation of English that will underpin their ability to access the whole curriculum and what their future world holds for them. We consider the individual interests, experiences and diverse backgrounds of our pupils in our planning to promote engagement. Our curriculum is differentiated for the individual student, whilst ensuring that each student is taught what is needed to achieve their full potential. A key aim for teaching English: is to develop our pupils’ confidence and fluency with English.
We teach Functional Skills English from Pre-entry level up to Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE). Our curriculum is mapped against national standards and there is a clear progression through these levels. The curriculum focuses on: spelling, punctuation, grammar, reading and speaking, listening and communication. Our aim is to ensure that all pupils are given the skills needed to use in their future lives. The pupils are taught writing structure, including sentence formation and paragraphs, types of text, literary devices and how to use resources such as a dictionary and a thesaurus as well as ICT programmes.
ICT will play a significant role in the pupils’ futures and hence learning how to effectively use word processing, email formatting and navigating organisational features on websites, all form part of the English curriculum at Cherry Tree. Teaching Functional Skills English, means that there is a focus on the pupils being able to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of English by applying it to real-world scenarios.
Our curriculum intends to fill the English gaps that pupils have been unable to in previous schools, often due to long periods of disrupted education. We aim to do this by teaching fundamental skills to support reading and writing levels. All pupils read on a weekly basis independently and to a staff member. Reading materials vary from storybooks, news articles and comprehension tasks depending on each pupil’s individual needs and interests. When pupils join Cherry Tree their reading age is initially assessed as well as pupils completing a reading age test every 3 terms hence, ensuring we keep on top of their individual needs and to determine progress made. Pupils are taught to spell words taken from high frequency spelling lists and from Functional Skills Spelling Lists which are appropriate for each pupil’s level.
Different strategies to learn spellings are employed such as a spelling book, kinaesthetic tasks and key word cut outs. Pupils are also taught a more challenging keyword vocabulary to allow our pupils to be stretched. During their reading lessons, pupils extract “tricky words” from their given text. Pupils are prepared for spelling and reading assessments and encouraged to take ownership of their own learning by practicing at home and taking part in self-directed learning tasks.
The Cherry Tree intent for Functional Skills maths is to ensure that pupils gain confidence and fluency in, and a positive attitude towards, maths. We aim for pupils to convey their confidence in using maths by demonstrating a sound grasp of mathematical knowledge and skills and be able to apply it to solve mathematical problems in their everyday lives.
Our curriculum progresses from pre Entry Levels to Level 1 and 2 (GCSE equivalent). The overall purpose of the Cherry Tree Entry Functional Skills maths curriculum is for our pupils to be able to demonstrate a sound grasp of the underpinning skills and basics of maths appropriate to their level, and for them to be able to apply mathematical thinking to solve simple problems in familiar situations. Our intent for Entry Level Functional Skills maths is to:
When the Entry Levels are achieved, the pupils can progress to the higher Level 1 and Level 2 curriculum. The purpose of the Level 1 and 2 curriculum is that pupils will be able to demonstrate a sound grasp of mathematical skills at the appropriate level and the ability to apply mathematical thinking effectively to solve problems successfully in the workplace and in other real-life situations. Our intent for Level 1 and Level 2 Functional Skills maths is to:
The maths curriculum is also designed to fill in learning gaps and provide first -hand learning experiences which allows the pupils to develop interpersonal skills and build confidence with numbers and problem solving. It is designed to allow pupils to gain knowledge in mathematical concepts, terminology, notation, facts, generalisations, methods, and techniques following the maths functional skills curriculum. Pupils increase their skill base by engaging in communication, teamwork, presentation, and problem solving. Our maths curriculum also supports and encourages pupils to develop their number skills and interpret mathematical information presented in a variety of forms using visual, kinaesthetic, and audio teaching methods suitable for each pupils’ individual learning styles.
We aim to encourage pupils to be confident to tackle daily problem -solving skills, promote mathematical thinking and to transfer these skills into everyday life and eventually into the world of work or further education. Encouragement and engagement come from using a range of resources and teaching methods. ICT will be embedded in the maths curriculum through numbers and number systems, measuring, shapes and space, handling information and data and solving mathematical problems. This will be implemented using ICT areas such as graphing, databases and spreadsheets.
All learning styles are catered for, and all classes have pupils of varying abilities in the subject studying together. Pupils are encouraged to learn by any mistakes made, not to become anxious by making them and to celebrate success in the classroom. Lessons and learning are also encouraged to take place using outdoor spaces. Pupils have access to ICT within the maths lessons, using websites such as BBC bitesize, Splashlearn and Mathsframe, and pupils enjoy regularly playing problem solving games on their iPads.
Science at Cherry Tree employs a great empathasis on practical application and curiousity for the subject. We feel that pupils at varying levels should not be penalised and miss out on experiements that enrich the learning experiences that science has to offer. Instead, Cherry Tree adopts an approach of varying application of knowledge and ability in different topics. This gives the pupils the benefit of accessing kinaethetic and visual experiences in experiementing and viewing the potential of science in the real world.
The science curriculum has been developed from the contents of KS1-KS4 contents mapped out against national standards from Entry Level 1 – Level 2, with clear progressions through these levels. Classes often have varied learning levels with a shared topic for all pupils, with differentiated tasks, extensions and assessments, which means pupils can access a highly enriched curriculum and stretch their learning to the best of their abilities. The science curriculum also gives achievable stepping stones for pupils to progress onto the ‘Gateway Applied Science and Technology’ qualifications, where more indepth learning, analysis and assessment takes place.
Science in the modern world is ever changing and developing. In the space of 20 years we have transitioned to the information age of the internet, smart technology and much more. This progression will not stop. Humans are an ever advancing race, always seeking out scienific truth and technological development. Cherry Tree believes pupils should be curious of the wider scientific world, ask why things happen the way they do, and understand that science will continue to advance and humans must adapt to technological changes to overcome future issues and crisises, such as energy and the environment.
Personal Social Development (PSD) at Cherry Tree is a present and integral part of our Ethos and approach by all staff through out the entire school day. We are aware pupils who present with attachment difficulties, trauma based mental health issues, high anxieties and specific learning difficulties to have the time and space to firstly feel safe, secondly engage in learning and thirdly enjoy the feeling of learning and change. We provide an engaging and stimulating curriclum that encourages the enjoyment of learning and growth and allows time for pupils to take ownership of their own development.
The Personal Social Development curriculum has been developed from the contents of statutory guidance and has been mapped out into Entry Level 1- Level 2 criteria, that clearly shows progressions through these levels. As classes may contain pupils of varied levels it allows for all pupils to achieve in lessons working at their individual levels. The steps clearly marked out through the levels allow pupils to develop the crucial stepping stones required for them to be able to go on to achieve both awards and certified qualifications at both Entry Level 3 and Level 1, provided by Gateway.
Peronal development is integral to everything we do at Cherry Tree so we ensure that each pupil has the opportunity to talk to any staff member when they feel the need to through an open door policy. We have a daily check in system so that pupils do not have to speak to let us know they are experiencing difficulties. All pupils have a full Education Psychology assessment when they start with us so that we can better understand their needs. All pupils are also offered weekly sessions with our school counsellor. Some pupils engage in regluar 1-1 sessions to learn about their difficulties and diagnosis e.g. we use various up to date work books to help them understand and manage the areas they find the most difficult e.g. we use workbooks on managng anxiety, workbooks on understanding ASD, workbooks on self harm and sometimes we carry out life story work for those who need to undersand what has happened in the early lives. Although this is confidential 1-1 work we seek permission from pupils to involve their parents / carers when they feel ready, so that we can work in a wraparound holistic way. We constantly use ad hoc learning moments throughout the day encouraging pupils to learn more about themselves and to become rounded and grounded young people. Social development is a key part in any pupils development and as a school we ensure pupil’s are given regular opportunities to develop their social skills with their peers throughout the day and during weekly after school social clubs. As a school we take part in a “Question of the day” during lunch times, which encourages pupils to listen to others’ opinions and explore issues in the wider world, and explore how they feel about issues affecting theirs and others lives.
ICT within PSD / RSE
Internet safety is paramount in keeping children and young people safe and within both the RSE and or PSD curriculum we will ensure that pupils at all functional skills levels, will be taught:
Within the Cherry Tree Relationships and Sex Education curriculum we understand the importance of educating pupils about relationships, sex and their health. The core focus is to prepare our pupils to be able to go on to make the right and well informed choices in their future. We intend on giving pupils the correct tools to have healthy lifestyles and successful relationships with others. Our pupils are able to explore RSE in a comfortable and safe environment supported by ground rules that the pupils are encouraged to create together, therefore instilling unity and expectations within the classroom.
The Relationships and Sex Education curriculum has been developed from the contents of the statutory guidance published by the Department for Education in September 2020. Our curriculum, which is differentiated for functional skills learning levels covers: families, respectful relationships including friendships, the media, being online and being safe, and intimate and sexual relationships (including sexual health). We are able to implement differentiation and stretch pupils learning to the best of their abilities. Cherry Tree believes in dedicating time to the personal development of its pupils. This includes the encouragement for our pupils to engage in positive and healthy Relationships. This is demonstrated not only in Relationships and Sex Education lessons but also throughout the school day with their peers which is encouraged and guided by all staff. These healthy skills are continuously being developed and we as a school believe they are crucial to growth of our pupils and the success of their future and relationships.
ICT within RSE / PSD
Internet safety is paramount in keeping children and young people safe and within both the RSE and or PSD curriculum we will ensure that pupils at all functional skills levels, will be taught:
(Encompassing: Exploring Interests, Community Involvement and Vocational Skills)
Most of our pupils live in a world that is different from most other teenagers. They often have multiple professionals and agencies making decisions and structuring their lives and often have various diagnosis which can make their lives difficult to manage and navigate. This can culminate in young people feeling disempowered and out of control, which in turn has a huge impact on the ability of young minds being open to discover their creativity and explore who they are. At Cherry Tree we embed a culture of learning while healing where ‘Promoting children and young people’s emotional health and wellbeing’ (Public Health England 2021) is securely in place. Many pupils, through various emotional and social difficulties have missed valuable time to explore what they like in the world, how to give back to the community and what their career path might be. Pupils have often missed life experiences where they could discover their strengths, talents, and creativity. We ensure that all pupils have maximum opportunities to be able to explore their creativity and learn how to use their imagination and resourcefulness and take this forward into long term goals.
The therapeutic curriculum allows staff to adapt the learning to meet the individual needs on the day. The sessions are less structured and are led by the pupil. Staff will maximise socialisation opportunities and work together so pupils can mix with others for those who are able to do so and want to. All pupils have various options and have their own projects that they can choose from. This approach enables pupils to develop a wide range of skills, develop confidence and be able to express their creative and artistic independence using a variety of resources and materials. Various creative projects will allow pupils to become independent problem solvers and gain the confidence to tackle new and difficult tasks. Having time to be creative, artistic and to share this with others is imperative for pupils to develop good mental health and cultivate an ability to enjoy, explore and contribute to a creative world and will also enable them to reflect critically on their own work and that of others. The Therapeutic Curriculum is for pupils to engage in a subject that they can find aesthetically pleasing, which helps them to explore their senses and who they are while they are learning to engage in and explore aesthetic subjects. Our pupils often have attachment and trauma difficulties and sometimes subjects like art, craft, gardening and community projects can enable them to express themselves without the need for words.
Many pupils who are experiencing trauma, attachment difficulties and or a high level of anxiety, will have often missed out on the personal development of what it’s like to ‘give to others’. At cherry tree we have linked up with a local elderly care home and have created opportunities for our pupils to be involved in enriching the lives of the elderly residents. Our aim is to enable our pupils to develop their generosity of spirit by ‘giving’. Our flexible curriculum allows for ad-hoc trips to the care home to deliver cards that the pupils write to each elderly resident.
Pupils are also given the opportunity to raise funds and buy presents for the residents e.g. organising a summer fete for the elderly residents, which has enriched the lives of the residents, which they in turn, have communicated back to the pupils. When it is safe to do so, the pupils community involvement will progress into regular visits to the care home to read and play games with them, which will enhance the lives of both pupils and the residents.
The Vocational Skills curriculum is designed to enable the recognition of sector specific vocational learning in addition to encompassing generic employability skills. The curriculum is designed to allow pupils to discover new knowledge and develop their personal growth and progression and explore their interests through Gateway EL3 Vocational Skills units and to be able to progress into Level 1 and Level 2 if and when they are ready. We encourage the development of the pupils’ values, personal attributes and their inter-personal skills that will contribute to their future success in the workplace.
Through the curriculum we will give pupils a range of vocational experiences that will help them explore their interests and skills and cultivate positive attitudes through the development of essential work skills and behaviours such as communication, teamwork and problem solving. Pupils will study a variety of units including cookery, craft, upcycling and gardening, that will allow them to become creative thinkers and produce a portfolio that will culminate in the gateway qualification. Employability Skills units are an integral part of the Vocational Skills qualification and units will be chosen on a needs basis to enable pupils to be ready for the world of work. When pupils are able to, they will also be supported to attend independent advice meetings with a careers advisor and take part in local college visits and taster days. Through our vocational skills curriculum we aim to give all our pupils the tools they need to make informed choices for employment, further education, and other opportunities for life beyond Cherry Tree.
Humanities at Cherry Tree Education has been designed to meet the needs of the pupils and give them monitored control of what topics they would like to cover in the academic year. Following whole school evaluations, it was very apparent that pupils were not enjoying the traditional humanities curriculum and often found it irrelevant to their lives. Following further discussions with the pupils about what they would like to understand about humanities, they were very clear in that they wanted the curriculum to represent a more modern take on the subjects. From this, they decided that in geography, they would like to learn about what is happening around the planet now. They also identified that they would like a more holistic look at religion and so the curriculum will look at the annual calendar of religious festivals and celebrations for our RE curriculum. History will be pupil led in that they will pick an important event / time in history and study the time they choose. This will culminate in pupils combining their research / knowledge by producing either posters, leaflets and or a power point presentation to teach the other pupils in their class about their findings. Our humanities curriculum therefore aims to inform pupils about global and significant topics and or events, as well as encouraging independent research and learning. This also ensures that pupils have the opportunity to develop and incorporate a variety of other vital skills into their work including time management, teamwork and presentation.
Topics to be covered over the next year will each have a main focal subject arching over two terms, for example in terms 1 and 2 Geography will be implemented and pupils will be learning about the Blue Planet and Planet Earth. Pupils will study documentaries and conduct their own research into these topics. Pupils will also gather information from applications on the iPads and combine this to produce a final piece of work based on their understandings. In terms 3 and 4 pupils will learn about R.E. through a religious festival calendar. Pupils will be able to research these religions and festivals and develop a final piece of work based on what has been learnt. Pupils will engage in class discussions with the teacher and peers about these festivals and then choose one to study. They will be encouraged to think creatively and asked to produce not only substantial understandings of their work but also an artistic piece to accompany it, such as a painting, print or sculpture. British History will be taught in terms 5 and 6, this is vast in options so an overview of all different eras will be explained so that the pupils will have an overview of what has happened in our country and be given the opportunity for them to focus on a specific era of interest to them. Pupils will work both independently and within a team to discuss and research their chosen area in depth. Pupils will embed their learning by producing either a poster, a leaflet and or produce a power point presentation at the end of the term to inform the rest of their class.
Exercise and fitness are essential parts of a healthy lifestyle. It is crucial for our young people to learn to enjoy taking part in regular physical exercise and improve fitness, which in turn, will help their mental health to improve. At Cherry Tree we believe that all pupils should be encouraged to take part in various sports with others, learn to love exercise and to develop a desire to get, and remain healthy.
P.E. at Cherry Tree is taught through various sports which are changed termly to expose pupils to different options. We all gravitate towards different sports or activities, which is natural, so being exposed to different sports will give our pupils opportunities to learn and enjoy something new. If a pupil enjoys sports and physical activity, it will never feel like work, and they will likely continue feeling this into adult life. As exercise is regularly cited as one of the best treatments for mental wellbeing, engaging and exciting lessons will have a real-world impact now and later on in their lives.
Some pupils come to Cherry Tree struggling to work in a group, or with anxieties about exercising around others. In lessons pupils will be encouraged to work as a team, communicate with others, push their abilities, learn new skills, and challenge themselves to achieve more. These will all be encouraged at each pupil’s own pace. Staff will actively participate in lessons where required to help pupils with teamwork, however participating with peers instead of staff will always be promoted. Learning to participate in teamwork will translate to the real world for all pupils, helping them for working life as well rounded and productive members of the community.
At Cherry Tree, we strive to create an ethos and environment which promotes British Values at every level. The Britishness curriculum focuses on teaching the British values as set out by the government: democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those of different faiths and beliefs. Our ethos places pupils at the heart of, and part of every decision we make. We value their voices and strive to be innovative in the ways which we can meet the diverse needs of each pupil. Moreover, we encourage and support our pupils to build mutually respectful and tolerant relationships with their peers, the staff and with individuals in the wider community. Providing pupils with the opportunity to study Britishness and embedding British Values into everything that we do, allows pupils to gain intrinsic reward by enabling them to develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem and self-confidence.
Our pupils have the opportunity to achieve a Gateway Qualification in British Values at Entry Level 3 and Level 1. This qualification, not only provides an outline for which the Britishness Scheme of Work is based upon but, allows the pupils to have an extrinsic goal to work towards by studying Britishness. The Britishness curriculum is accessible to pupils of all backgrounds and abilities and pupils will have the opportunity to work towards achieving an Entry Level 3 and Level 1 qualification. Pupils at all levels, from Entry Level 1 to Level 2, can access the same topics but learning is differentiated for each pupil. For example, all pupils can study democracy however, pupils at Entry Level 1 are taught about the importance of voting and being able to voice their opinions whereas pupils at Level 1 learn to define democracy and identify types of democratic practices in the United Kingdom.
The overall goal for the pupils is to enable them to distinguish right from wrong, to respect the civil and criminal law of England and to promote further tolerance and harmony between them and others.