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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

Whitefield Schools 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 take a full part in activities within school and the community.
  • 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

We have a full detailed document on our approaches reading, including how we use phonics here Reading for the children and young people at Whitefield  relates to enjoying and gaining information from all forms of symbolic representation – pictures, photos, symbols, diagrams and print – either independently or with a reading partner. Before and alongside accessing written information they also access oral stories, rhymes, songs and information in speech and sign. 

Synthetic phonics

Synthetic phonics is just one of the approaches we use to develop literacy and  is based on the knowledge of sounds in spoken words  –  phonological awareness. Words are made up from small units of sound called phonemes. Phonics teaches children and young people to identify the phonemes that make up each word. This helps them to read words and to spell words. They need to develop
•    awareness of rhymes and alliteration
•    awareness that words can be broken into sounds and that sounds can be put together to make words
•    the ability to blend and manipulate sounds by adding, deleting or substituting
•    an understanding of the relationship between spoken and written language
Adults say phonemes as shown in this clip and this clip, taking care not to add extraneous sounds.

In phonics lessons children and young people are taught three main things:
•    Grapheme phoneme correspondence - they are taught the phonemes in the English language and how they are written down 
•    Blending - they are taught to say the sounds that make up a word and to merge the sounds together until they can hear what the word is e.g.  s-a-t or sh-ee-p
•    Segmenting - this is the opposite of blending. They are taught to say a word and then break it up into phonemes. 

Children and young people at Whitefield Schools are unlikely to address phases as whole units. Teachers plan for them to work through each phase at their own pace and break down the learning goals into achievable steps – for example, starting phase 2 by working on initial letters or concentrating on a small group of letters at a time. It may be most effective to start with initial letters of key words such as familiar names or activities rather than using the order given in published schemes.

Teachers use published resources alongside individualised materials. Books and other materials are matched to the sounds and words which a child or young person knows.  Some children and young people will benefit from working through the first two or three phases only and others may use phonics to support a whole word approach.

The Pathways

After the age of five, Whitefield’s curriculum is designed around four 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.

See our Curriculum Framework  attached to the bottom of this page for more details.

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.

In Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 Climbing Up students work towards taking Entry Levels in

  • English
  • Maths and
  • Computer Science.
  • Some students also work towards AQA units in
  • Science
  • Physical Education and
  • Horticulture.

In Key Stage 4 some students go on to take Functional Skills in

  • English and
  • Maths.
  • Students may also study for specific qualifications at local secondary schools. 

Pathway 4 – Taking Off


Article on helping young people with SEND to find work

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

The Taking Off Post-16 curriculum provides students with a structured and challenging learning programme which supports their development and progression towards positive destinations, including employment, further study and greater independence and wellbeing.  Study programmes are individually tailored but will typically combine the elements below:  

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

Qualifications offered

  • ASDAN Towards Independence Modules,
  • Edexcel Unit Awards,
  • NVQ Level 1 at Waltham Forest College,
  • GCSEs

2020 has seen a development of the Taking Off curriculum into 3 separate pathways which correspond to the Reaching Out, Stepping On and Climbing Up pathways of key stages 1 – 4.  This change allows for more precise focus on and individualisation of the desirable skills for development within the 5 curriculum strands - Communication, World of Work, Everyday Living, Wellbeing, Creativity and Spirituality - as students prepare for their next steps.  

Where our leavers go

In 2019 - 20  we had 24 leavers

  • 11 students enrolled with social care centres.
  • 11 students enrolled for courses at a range of different colleges.
  • 1 student entered an internship with Mencap.
  • 1 student is awaiting assessment in a new borough.

Our careers programme

Whitefield Schools is very are proud of the very effective work we do preparing our students for paid employment 

below you can find out about: 

Careers as a core part of the curriculum

We initially start the discussions about life after school from year 9. During annual PCRs we complete Pathway Plans; exploring options for the future of the student.  Our post-16 curriculum is divided into various ‘pathways’ one of which is called “World of Work”.  A key part of this sees class teachers work with students to  broaden their horizons –  challenging stereotypical thinking about the kind of careers which they might aspire. Teachers identify each student's interests, strengths and motivations and use these as a basis for planning support.

The pathway also covers the core activities students will need when seeking work including:

  • Curriculum Vitae (CVs) 
  • Covering Letters 
  • Interviews techniques 
  • Job searches 
  • Making telephone calls for information and advice 
  • Attire 
  • Volunteering and Work Experience 
  • Online portals 
  • Career talks 
  • Role expectations 
  • Work related skills and knowledge 
  • Open days/experiences

Students are also  encouraged to access the provides over-the-telephone and online careers services to 13-18 year olds with information, advice and guidance on learning, training and work opportunities.

Work Related Learning in the classroom 

There’s a difference between being able write a CV and being ‘work ready’. Helping students become work ready, means developing an understanding of the expectations and responsibilities that a job brings. This can start around school by being a simple job such as being in charge of collecting home-school book. As students develop, they may move on to: 

  • Classroom Assistant – helping with students and organising resources in another class or base room 
  • PE assistant – helping students from classes warm up, organise equipment for the next session 
  • Library assistant – helping in the library with admin duties and organising books resources for visitors

Mini Enterprise – students also  have regular opportunities to make, sell and use proceeds from mini enterprise projects through curriculum activities in Post 16. Students take part in end of term celebrations where they will host pop up stalls and cafes to raise money to fund future projects. 

Work Experience in the local community  - who we work with

Students identified in year 12 as developing their employability skills, undertake a real-life supported work experience placement within the local community.  We work with a wide variety of organisations and are always  interested in expanding our base


Clarity Employment For Blind People is a registered charity and one of the UK's foremost social enterprises, employing, training and supporting people with disabilities to create high-quality toiletries, soap and cleaning products. The students are able to work on developing skills such as: 

  • Market Research (planning, economics)
  • Product Development
  • Design & Packing
  • Pricing
  • Purchasing
  • Training
  • Manufacturing (Procuring)
  • Marketing
  • Sales Planning

Business Education Partnership (BEP)

The Trust works with the charity to find appropriate placement for our students at Whitefield Academy Trust

They will be given the opportunity to attend a work experience placement within the community for a minimum of a week and a maximum of two weeks. ​


OrganicLea, is an organic food co-op based in Waltham Forest which works with the schools on our own allotment,  growing beds and at the charity’s main growing site,at The Hawkswood Community Plant Nursery in Chingford. 

These activities turn the garden into an effective teaching and learning tool throughout the school year and offering accreditation that enables students to gain entry level qualifications through the AQA Unit Award Scheme and ASDAN short courses. 

Barts NHS Trust - and Project Search

Project SEARCH is a supported internship programme for young people with learning disabilities and/or those on the autistic spectrum. It offers one-year education to work programme that takes place entirely in the workplace. It runs with  a host employer (Barts Health NHS Trust) and supported employment services (Kaleidoscope Sabre Associates) and 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. Approximately 70 % of the graduated interns are now in full time paid employment, working for Barts Health NHS Trust and in community work settings, since the start of the programme in 2013.

Waltham Forest Careers Service

We contract the service to  provide face-to-face and over the phone advice to students and parents that  includes  information on training and employment opportunities. We ensure that parents are part of this process to ensure a collaborative approach. 

Parents, teachers and students can request a careers appointment at any time, when they think it would benefit transition, progression or pathway planning. The Careers Advisor will draw on the SEND local offer published by the local authority.  The service we buy in is external to the school ensuring impartiality, ensuring no bias or favouritism towards a particular path of education, training or profession.

Preparing for Work

Using what we learned from the excellent Action for Kids programme, which provided individualised work experience placements, students in post-16 now complete a 6 week unit away from the classroom each year,  visiting a range of different working environments as well as completing set tasks around school and assessing their own set of work skills that include:

  • Teamwork
  • Communicating in the workplace
  • Problem solving
  • Making decisions

Career Contacts and getting involved

We welcome other educational bodies who can tell our students about approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships likewise we are always looking to broaden our base of employers who are interesting in

  • volunteering or attend events 
  • mentoring and give students/staff advice 
  • delivering business presentations or workshops 
  • provide students with a taste of life at work 
  • offering mock interviews 

Providers or employers  who would like access should contact the Careers Leaders listed below. 

Career leaders

  • Kayleigh Hardy – Whitefield Schools Careers Leader – contact Tel: 020 8531 3426

Project SEARCH manager

  • Janet Wingate-Whyte –

How we measure the effectiveness of careers  work

We are committed to continued improvements and quality assurance at Whitefield Academy Trust and to our Careers Strategy. The Trust aims  to carry out a self-review and evaluation of the school’s programmes and gain national validation known as the Quality in Careers Standard, as recommended by the Government.  We also measure our programme against the 'Gatsby Benchmarks' using the Compass online self-assessment tool.

1. A stable careers programme. Every school and college should have an embedded programme of career education and guidance that is known and understood by students, parents, teachers, governors and employers. 
2. Learning from career and labour market information. Every student, and their parents, should have access to good quality information about future study options and labour market opportunities. They will need the support of an informed adviser to make best use of available information. 
3. Addressing the needs of each student. Students have different career guidance needs at different stages. Opportunities for advice and support need to be tailored to the needs of each student. A school’s careers programme should embed equality and diversity considerations throughout. 
4. Linking curriculum learning to careers. All teachers should link curriculum learning with careers. STEM subject teachers should highlight the relevance of STEM subjects for a wide range of future career paths. 
5. Encounters with employers and employees. Every student should have multiple opportunities to learn from employers about work, employment and the skills that are valued in the workplace. This can be through a range of enrichment activities including visiting speakers, mentoring and enterprise schemes. 
6. Experiences of workplaces. Every student should have first-hand experiences of the workplace through work visits, work shadowing and/or work experience to help their exploration of career opportunities, and expand their networks. 
7. Encounters with further and higher education. All students should understand the full range of learning opportunities that are available to them. This includes both academic and vocational routes and learning in schools, colleges, universities and in the workplace. 
8. Personal guidance. Every student should have opportunities for guidance interviews with a career adviser, who could be internal (a member of school external, provided they are trained to an appropriate level. These should be available whenever significant study or career choices are being made.