Curriculum Statement 2021

Harbour School Dorset - Curriculum

At Harbour School we believe that all children are entitled to an accessible education that supports the child in a positive manner and enables them to reach their full potential. A diagnosis of autism impacts on individual development and, to differing extents, shapes the nature of the child’s education. Education for children with autism should reflect the unique presentation of autism in each individual, for example meeting sensory needs, providing for social and communication differences or challenging areas of strength. Children with autism may develop differently and we believe these differences merit a specific approach, whereby skills can be fostered to maximum effect, rather than trying to fit the child with autism into a ‘normative’ model of development. Core aims of the Autism Curriculum at Harbour School are to support the child in developing independence, to encourage a positive sense of self and to promote a positive attitude to learning, so that each child can access learning fully.

In its opening year, Harbour School Dorset provides an education for pupils who are described as having High Functioning ASC and are Y5 to Y9 inclusively.  Within this broad definition we recognise that we have a responsibility towards a wide range of learners and that certain principles must underpin our curriculum design and delivery.

These are:

  • The inclusion of all pupils.
  • A recognition that pupils acquire understanding at different rates and in different ways.
  • That opportunities must be given for pupils to organise information and to generalise and practice new skills.
  • That experiential learning is vital for all pupils.
  • The recognition that there is a social and emotional aspect to all pupils learning
  • The recognition and celebration of multi-cultural diversity
  • The promotion of pupil self-esteem and resilience
  • The meeting of legal obligations

These guiding principles are the foundation of our aim to ‘Turn around lives, Creating Opportunities & Building futures’.  This forms the core of our curriculum and can be best visualised in our Curriculum Framework.

Curriculum Framework

The Core Curriculum

core curriculum

In order to offer a curriculum that provides the above our provision must:

  • Developing relationships between children and adults that are positive, consistent and secure, respecting the child’s social needs
  • Providing a total communication environment enabling children to initiate communication in their preferred method and to experience the value and pleasure of interaction
  • Meeting sensory needs
  • Develop self-awareness and self-control
  • Develop resilience and motivation in learning
  • Supporting children in responding to change
  • Recognising anxiety in children’s responses
  • Providing pupils with an appropriate curriculum that develops area of need and strength and focussed on essential skills for their long-term well-being
  • Balancing challenge in learning with understanding of the child’s perspective
  • Celebrating success in all its forms

Cornerstone Projects

Our timetable allows for literacy and numeracy lessons that are linked to our themed project work. We use our academy freedoms to enable a curriculum that meets individual need as well as the profile needs of our pupils. However, we think it important to follow the National Curriculum as closely as possible.  We use Cornerstones as the basis for our Project curriculum which maps National Curriculum coverage for KS3 and can be used as a basis for our KS3 teachers to develop their areas of the NC.

Cornerstones has four corners that support our curriculum values. These are:


Hook learners in with a memorable experience.

Set the scene and provide the context for learning.

Ask questions to find out children’s interests.

Spark children’s curiosity using interesting starting points.


Teach facts and information for deeper understanding and knowledge.

Demonstrate new skills and allow time for consolidation.

Provide creative opportunities for making and doing.

Deliver reading, writing and talking across the curriculum


Provide imaginative scenarios that encourage creative thinking.

Enable children to apply previously learned skills.

Encourage enterprise and independent thinking.

Provide opportunities for collaborative working and problem solving


Provide environments for reflective talk.

Create opportunities for shared evaluation.

Celebrate and share children’s success.

Identify next steps for learning.

Boing Boing – Resilience Framework

Any school’s curriculum should be both supportive and challenging. Our pupils have a story of high levels of anxiety and so ‘challenging’ can be something they have not developed the skills to manage. They are often not very resilient and to support our pupils in growing more resilient and ready to take on a challenge we include the Resilient Framework in our environment and curriculum design. As well as developing opportunities within our Project work and sensory breaks we adapt a published programme of structured resilience exercises during our Friday timetable.

Family Fridays

Any child with autism requires a support network that is cohesive; therefore, we believe it is imperative to work in close partnership with parents/carers and families. Often children have highly complex needs and may require considerable levels of support for everyday life. A diagnosis of autism affects the whole family; close work between home and school provides the best all-round support, as well as facilitating the sharing of good practice and successes across both environments. In addition, we believe it is essential to draw on the expertise of outside agencies and professionals such as speech and language therapy, sensory occupational therapy, physiotherapy and social care.

To facilitate this support network, we have a rolling programme of Family Fridays where parents are invited to meet professionals, discuss and review previously agreed targets. View their child’s work, progress and be given every opportunity to share their ideas and knowledge with us.

For more on Family Fridays, please click here or on the menu item under Curriculum above.

Aweigh School

When we listen to our parents and pupils, most of them tell us that classical physical education has been one cause of anxiety. This has in some cases been considered the reasons for non-attendance or reduced timetables in the past. At HSD we know how important exercise is for our well-being and resilience. We have appointed the Aweigh School, a team of outdoor education experts that are experienced in adapting experiences to meet the needs of pupils. This can be very motivating for those pupils who struggle with PE and learning in the classroom.


Timetables and curriculum are formative in the early years as the numbers and profiles of pupils are changing regularly. Reviews are taken every 6 weeks as part of our accountability process and there will be an annual review to accommodate an additional planned 15 pupils next year. Some of the current key stage three pupils will move into key stage four, thus requiring significant changes in the curriculum provision next year.

Curriculum Organisation 

  • At Harbour School the children are at the heart of the planning and all educators are involved in the planning of an engaging and stimulating curriculum using a multisensory approach.
  • Our Themed Projects reflect our belief in the importance of cross curricular learning which makes clear links between different subject areas within a meaningful overall context. Children become immersed in the context and learning becomes purposeful and meaningful.
  • Long term planning ensures coverage of the National Curriculum where appropriate.
  • Medium term Planning is highly differentiated ensuring that all levels of learning, activities and experiences are addressed offering a relevant programme for all subjects.
  • Short term plans show how lessons will be carried out and specify the pupils’ individual targets which are being addressed through differentiation. Pupils are unique and this needs to be reflected in teaching and learning considering areas demonstrated in the diagram below.
  • Core Skills Progress against individual targets is noted in each pupil’s Progression Framework and academic progress is tracked through our accountability system.
  • All staff have an important role to play in the assessment process.
  • Where possible learning activities are sequenced to ensure progression.
  • Educational visits and computing resources are used to extend and generalise learning.

Long-Term planning is a four-year cycle for key stage two and a three-year cycle for key stage three.

Medium term planning is in the form of half termly or termly units which are devised by teachers across the key stages.  A base framework of learning intentions is described at this level which can then be used for short term planning by the class teacher.  The units are used as a ‘vehicle’ for the delivery of core learning skills for our pupils.

Short term planning takes the form of a topic learning plan that describes:

  • The learning objectives for the pupils involved.
  • How it is intended that these objectives will be achieved for different groups of learners, for example, who are described as having High Functioning ASC. how the learning objective will be shared and evaluated (introduction and plenary), how the learning objective will be delivered and differentiated as part of main activities.
  • How the children will be involved as part of planned activities, for example, how the children will be involved in evaluation, how the independence of children will be promoted, will they work in pairs or groups, and how adults will support them.

Key Stage 2 and 3

Our curriculum incorporates a variety of strategies and approaches personalised to small group and individual needs.

Adapted National Curriculum subjects taught at Harbour School are delivered through curriculum which reflect the national curriculum and national strategies but also allow for the developmental learning of core skills at an appropriate level.

In Numeracy, planning reflects the changes in the National Curriculum and considers the mastery approaches to Mathematics, for example, the importance of developing reasoning and problem-solving skills.

In Literacy the school literacy strategy establishes a framework for the delivery of English which will underpin our work.  Teaching phonics: We argue that synthetic phonics is unlikely to succeed with pupils who have difficulties perceiving and articulating speech sounds, and for whom form meaning disconnection is an ever-present danger (for example – pupils with autistic spectrum conditions).  We will use phonic work with pupils for whom it is appropriate, aiming to expose pupils to letter sounds and recognition of initial sounds and beyond where appropriate.

In PSHE (including sex and relationships education) planning is in place within topics built in to meet the needs of the pupil population.

Social Moral and Emotional Development:

Significant dates in the religious and cultural calendar are included into our Rights Respecting Programme and within our Projects which ensures that there is a focus in the school on important cultural and religious festivals and commemorative days. Pupils of any faith and those of no faith are encouraged to value everyone and their beliefs equally. Parents have the right to withdraw their child from Religious Education.

Regular audits will demonstrate where and when SMSC is found. British Values are closely linked to the values of the school and demonstrated throughout school life.

Our PE/Aweigh School is designed to motivate pupils to become more active and more resilient. Swimming will be offered to all pupils on a rolling programme.

Assessment, Recording and Reporting

Assessment, recording and reporting are essential elements of good teaching and allow for reflection upon the pupils learning experience as well as the dissemination of information about progress. The short-term planning as described offers inbuilt opportunities for continuous assessment.

Ongoing assessment feeds in to a half-termly record of progress.

Passport Plus

PP+ are live documents with regular reviews that reflect the targets they contain. Reviews must take place no longer than 6 weeks apart, though targets may be completed and renewed at any time.  The PP+ is used to plan for both personalised targets and curriculum targets for individual children.

The Role of Therapies in Pupil Learning 

Therapeutic support as required, initially through a pupil’s EHCP, is included under the guidance of therapeutic professionals.


Supportive Strategies/Interventions

The community provides a great place in which to generalise and transfer new and emerging skills. We are always interested in increasing the type of experiences that we can expose the children to as well as working with many partners in support of the development of community cohesion.

Additionally, pupils have access to a number of targeted supportive strategies that support them in overcoming potential barriers to their learning. Some of these strategies are:

    • Forest School
    • Horse Riding

Key Stage 4

The Key Stage 4 Curriculum will enable the strengths of our older students. KS4 students will continue to be supported in all the areas of enrichment that KS2 and 3 pupils enjoy as well as having different pathways to ensure purposeful and individualised learning.

Pathways will be based upon Academic/Vocational or blended options.

Options currently available for HSD pupils can be seen in the table below:

English GCSE English Language (AQA)/ Functional Skills English (AQA)
Maths GCSE Maths (AQA)/ Functional Skills Maths (AQA)
Science GCSE Biology (AQA)
CoPE Certificate of Personal Effectiveness (ASDAN)
ICT Function Skills (AQA)
Photography GCSE Photography (AQA)
History Entry Level (OCR)

Pupil Groupings

In order to deliver the curriculum effectively pupils are grouped as much as possible according to their learning needs as well as chronologically within the appropriate key stage.  Currently this results in two classes of Y5+6, two of Y7+8 and one of Y9.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The Senior Leadership will co-ordinate the monitoring cycle in partnerships with the Middle Leaders.

This will include:

  • auditing planning
  • moderating assessment data
  • analysing progress data
  • observing lessons
  • learning walks
  • work scrutiny

Equal Opportunities

The school supports the rights of all pupils to equal access and opportunities regardless of age, culture, religion, gender, ability, disability or sexuality. The school promotes an ethos of respect for everyone through its Rights Respecting Agenda.