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Our Curriculum

See how we are supporting remote learning when pupils are unable to attend school due to the Covid pandemic  here

Joseph Clarke School has developed a bespoke personalised curriculum so that all pupils benefit from truly individualised learning with reference to the National Curriculum.

Teachers' planning ensures that pupils take part in activities which are meaningful and interesting for them and through which they address relevant and challenging learning outcomes. This enables all pupils to maximise their progress.

The curriculum is designed to help our pupils become:

  • Successful learners who enjoy learning and make outstanding progress.
  • Effective communicators who can express themselves, make choices and build positive relationships with other people.
  • Confident individuals who are able to be themselves and feel accepted for who they are
  • Responsible citizens who behave well and make a positive contribution to the school and the wider world.
  • Lifelong learners who leave school equipped for the adult world whether in paid employment, education or supported living.

Early Years

From 3–5 years old, our children follow one of two pathways. Those with profound and complex needs move straight to our specialised Reaching Out pathway (see below).  Those with autism or severe learning difficulties follow our specially adapted version of the national Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum. Each child gets an individually personalised curriculum designed to meet students’ needs as they take their first step into a full time school based education system.  It gives them  the broad range of knowledge and skills needed to build the foundation for good future progress through school and life.


How we teach early reading and phonics

At Joseph Clarke School we feel that learning to read using either braille or print is an essential part of developing independent learners and a life skill that will be used beyond a student’s schooling with us.

Teaching of phonics and the development of reading for each pupil is valued and promoted dependent on individual student’s SEND. This could involve communication development, sound awareness, playing with sounds, reading their name, functional reading skills that will impact upon a student’s independence skills and life or reading to access the curriculum which could then lead to a love of reading for recreation throughout their lives.

Why phonics is used to develop reading and spelling.

Phonological awareness is an important aspect of the development of reading and spelling. It also plays an important role in the development of vocabulary and impacts on the development of grammar and comprehension skills.

During the early stages of reading, phonics is taught as a way of decoding written letters and spoken sounds. As their knowledge and use of phonics is practised and consolidated, pupils will need to focus less on the actual decoding of words which then allows them to focus on the understanding and meaning within a text.

The teaching and learning of phonics 

At Joseph Clarke school we lay firm foundations from the earliest stages of learning phonics and have established a consistent whole school approach to the teaching of phonics.  However, some pupils may use sight vocabulary more than a phonetic approach when learning to read.

At Joseph Clarke we teach synthetic phonics in a structured and systematic approach following the Government Letters and Sounds document. We have short songs and actions to link to each single sound and focus on the correct pronunciation and enunciation of sounds. 

Students who use braille 

When teaching phonics, we include adaptations for braille users; the order of learning sounds in the Letters and Sounds document and learning of the braille letters is different. This means the early stages of phonics for braille readers may involve more oral learning alongside presentation of the braille grapheme prior to learning of the specific recorded braille letters. This stage is carefully assessed and tracked using our assessment materials to show progress and highlight areas to develop further.

We teach using a Total Communication learning environment which encourages the use of sign, gesture, speech/vocalisations, text, symbols and pictures for all cohorts.

Students with complex needs

Communication development is essential for students with complex needs and the daily routines and short phrases that are repeated and linked to the daily routines are essential. Phase 1 play with sounds and words is an enjoyable way of introducing sounds awareness to students with complex needs. The focus can then be on words that are important to the pupil and these words are incorporated into personalised stories as appropriate to their needs.

Pupils with ASC

A range of approaches for teaching phonics are used when working with students with an autism diagnosis because each child learns in a unique way. This may involve use of visual resources, use of simple, concise language and minimal instructions. Depending on the need of the individual pupil they may use phonics using the Letters and Sound approach or the whole word approach which combines concrete objects, photographs and picture symbols where appropriate and whole words in print or braille. 

Phonics sessions at Joseph Clarke are:

  • Always stressing the importance of correct pronunciation and enunciation of sounds.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-eTO8L3t40     
  • Planned and taught daily using opportunities throughout the day to reinforce and consolidate learning in a cross curricular way
  • Using strategies, teaching styles and resources adapted to meet the individual preferences of the pupil
  • Fun and motivating, utilising students’ strengths and interests and using a variety of different media
  • Making use of the Letters and Sounds document

Assessment of phonics at Joseph Clarke:

  • Phonics is assessed formally once a term with next steps noted for planning purposes
  • Uses separate assessment documents for braille and print users that consider the differing order of learning braille letters and print
  • Tracks progress termly for each student
  • Informal on-going assessment is made and next steps changed when necessary to move a child on or address gaps in their learning

Our Pathways

After the age of five, Joseph Clarke School's curriculum is designed around five interlinking pathways each of which is further individualised so that skills and knowledge are built up and consolidated over time.

Each child learns at their own pace. We therefore do not plan content for each year group. The emphasis changes for each Key Stage as children and young people approach adulthood.

Pathway 1 – Reaching Out

A sensory curriculum for life and learning

Pupils with profound and complex needs learn through consistent routines, sensory experiences and interaction with adults. The curriculum supports pupils to:

  • Develop a sense of security through building positive relationships.
  • Develop an awareness of the world around them through sensory exploration.
  • Develop the physical skills through which they can control and explore their environment.
  • Establish behaviours through which they can express their feelings, make choices and communicate with other people.
  • Experience life within the school community, responding to other people and sharing activities with them.

Pathway 2 – Stepping On

An exploratory curriculum for life and learning.

Pupils learn through play, exploration, practical activities and community involvement. The curriculum supports pupils to:

  • Develop communication skills in speech, gesture, sign or symbol so that they can interact with other people, make choices, follow instructions and explanations and access the key concepts needed for learning.
  • Establish key skills in literacy, numeracy, science and ICT.
  • Learn to co-operate with other people, to build positive relationships and to take responsibility for themselves.
  • Learn the skills which will help them be more independent in adult life.
  • Learn about the world around them and the wider community.

The youngest pupils following this pathway will be working within the Early Years Foundation Stage framework.


Pathway 3 – Climbing Up

An academic curriculum for life and learning with provision for pupils’ specialist needs.

Pupils access the National Curriculum Programmes of Study, adapted and augmented in the light of individual needs. The curriculum supports pupils to:

  • Develop effective communication through speech or sign and to interact confidently with other people.
  • Study as wide a range of academic subjects as is appropriate for individuals, leading to accredited courses and qualifications.
  • Develop self-awareness, respect for others and a sense of responsibility, so that they can play their part in the school community and become active citizens as adults.
  • Develop confidence and personal independence.
  •  Learn about the world of work and develop the skills and understanding which will enable them to move into paid employment or voluntary work in adulthood.

All secondary aged pupils access accredited courses including GCSE, GCE and Entry Level where appropriate. Whitefield works  in partnership with local mainstream and other special schools to offer a range of courses to meet individual needs and aspirations.


Pathway 4 Branching Out 

An academic curriculum for pupils who primarily have vision impairment 

The Branching Out pathway closely follows the National Curriculum,  but with special adaptations for pupils with a vision impairment. It is designdd for students in primary and secondary school who's level of academic development is close to  age-related expectations. The Programmes of Study

 Secondary students follow the Schemes of Work from our mainstream partner school with some students accessing their lessons at our partner school and going on to take GCSEs, BTECs and A-Levels.  Functional Skills qualifications and Entry Level qualifications are also offered in KS3 and 4.


Pathway 5 – Taking Off

A curriculum for post 16 pupils equipping them for future choices in work, college and independent or supported living.

Pupils continue to develop their skills within four key areas of learning:

  • The World of Work – our extensive careers programme, which you can find out more about here.
  • Well being.
  • Everyday living.
  • Creativity and spirituality.

Pupils continue to follow accredited courses as appropriate to their needs and their plans for life after school.  


Our Careers Programme

It is important that young people start to think about their aspirations as early as possible. At Joseph Clarke School, our students participate in a programme of Careers Education and Preparing for Adulthood, complementing and supporting the Careers Information, Advice and Guidance provision within school.  The Careers Programme is tailored to each curriculum pathway and then personalised where appropriate. 

Our Careers Programme has been designed to link to the SEND Gatsby Benchmarks.  It is delivered explicitly through PSHE lessons, National Careers Week (where we will be inviting along adults with a vision impairment to talk about their careers in March 2021) and is embedded through the wider curriculum, for example, through:

  • opportunities across the curriculum to develop transferable life and social skills that support careers, employability and enterprise
  • the development of students’ self-advocacy, negotiation, decision-making and transition skills
  • purposeful interactions with a range of trusted and familiar adults including school staff and visitors
  • recognition of the learner voice and the active involvement of young people in decisions that affect their future, both individually and collectively
  • developing the skills for independent travelling

We have an independent Careers Advisor, who works with our students from Year 9 upwards.  The Careers Advisor supports our students in improving their awareness of the variety of jobs and careers available and the skills and qualifications required.  The Advisor is involved in next stage preparation and supports our students when applying for and organising visits to universities, work experience placements, colleges or apprenticeships.

Careers advice and guidance take many forms and is personalised to each individual student, depending on the students’ needs.  This also forms part of the annual Person-Centred Review meetings and personalised outcomes are written accordingly.

Reaching Out Curriculum (KS1 – KS5)

For those students working at the earliest developmental levels, this means engaging in meaningful occupation that allows them to experience the world through their senses.  Learning is based on developing skills in sensory exploration, information gathering, communication, interaction and physical control. Teachers are encouraged to look at the sensory aspects of all activities as a vehicle through which the student can develop and consolidate skills. For example, a student may learn to collect and dry lavender to make lavender bags or use a range of mixed media to produce art work for display or sale. 

Stepping On Curriculum (Up to KS4), Taking Off Curriculum (KS5)

In the Stepping On Curriculum students develop an awareness of jobs and careers requirements.  They are supported to:

  • develop skills to make transitions between situations, e.g. activities, rooms, key stages, school to college
  • develop social skills needed for interaction with peers and with people, both inside and outside of school
  • develop skills to undertake mini enterprise activities in class and across the school
  • experience social situations related to work skills and job applications
  • investigate potential careers, future jobs, college experience
  • attend Waltham Forest SEND Careers Event

The Taking Off Curriculum has been designed for post-16 students working at a wide range of developmental levels.  The World of Work and Preparing for Adulthood Programme of Study (PoS) aims to equip students with the skills and knowledge needed for adult life, whether this is employment, further education or social care setting.  Learning experiences are facilitated to meet the needs of and to challenge the abilities of all post-16 students at Joseph Clarke School. The ability for our students to work and/or contribute to society helps to raise expectations and to challenge misconceptions of disability.

A key focus within this POS is the development of communication and interaction skills. Therefore, all students are encouraged to develop positive working relationships with adults and their peers, to be active participants in activities within the school environment and local community. This includes opportunities for students to complete tasks as a group, to interact with people within the school and community settings, to understand the roles of people at work and the expectations of the workplace.  Students have the opportunity to complete a work experience placement. 

Branching Out Curriculum (KS1 – 5)

Students following the National Curriculum with adaptations for students with a vision impairment.  In Key Stages 1 and 2, students:

  • explore jobs through role-plays
  • have access to careers specific story books
  • celebrate their learning with links made to transferable skills
  • discuss jobs that family members have
  • develop leadership skills within the classroom and around the school
  • learn the value of different coins and notes

In Key Stage 3, students:

  • learn the value of money, earning/spending/saving money
  • explore a range of jobs 
  • learn about qualification routes, vocational courses, apprenticeships
  • have a personal guidance meeting with the Careers Advisor

In Key Stage 4, students:

  • learn about how to create and promote a positive self-image
  • learn about and practise the skills required in the workplace
  • explore the National Careers Service
  • explore post-16 options
  • learn how to write a CV and complete an application form
  • have an interview workshop
  • have personal guidance meetings with the Careers Advisor
  • attend Waltham Forest SEND Careers Event

In Key Stage 5, students have the opportunity to complete a work experience placement, as well as accessing personal guidance meetings with the Careers Advisor and receiving support when exploring post 18/19 options.

Project Search – Supported Internship Programme

Project SEARCH is a supported internship programme for young people with learning disabilities and/or those on the autistic spectrum. It is a unique business-led, one-year education to work programme that takes place entirely in the workplace. Our Project SEARCH programme is a partnership between a host employer (Barts Health NHS Trust), education establishments (Whitefield Academy Trust and local schools/colleges) and supported employment services (Kaleidoscope Sabre Associates). It offers total workplace immersion, facilitates a seamless combination of employability skills introduction, career exploration and hands-on training through a series of job rotations within the host business.


KS4 and KS5 qualifications offered:

Students who take GCSEs, BTECs (Level 2 and 3) and A-Levels at Highams Park School have access to their wide range of subjects.

In Key Stage 4 and 5, we also offer:

  • Functional skills in English
  • Functional skills in Maths
  • Entry Level in English
  • Entry Level in Maths
  • Entry Level in Science
  • Entry Level in Art
  • Entry Level in French
  • Pre-entry Level, Entry Level and Level 1 in Horticulture

We also offer other entry level/Level 1/Level 2 qualifications depending on the students’ interests and strengths.