CAEA CURRICULUM & ACADEMIC PROGRAMMES
CAEA’s curriculum is carefully designed to accommodate students facing a broad range of learning challenges. Working within the National Curriculum students receive specialist tuition and support to develop skills in literacy and numeracy, as well as in a broad range of other subject areas.
The principles guiding our curriculum and, indeed, our approach to learning, are as follows:
–Students have access to a broad and balanced National Curriculum;
–Teachers are highly experienced and hold specialist qualifications in teaching students with a variety of learning difficulties;
—Class sizes are small (maximum of 10 students per class) and are set by ability and level of preparedness, not age or year group;
–All students have access to individual or paired tutorials in English, Maths and other key subjects;
–Teachers employ a wide range of strategies, materials and resources designed for, or adapted to, the needs of students with particular learning difficulty;
–ICT and touch-typing are integrated throughout the school and include the use of a range of software specifically written for students with learning challenges;
–Students are guided in discovering their own learning styles and actively participate in developing strategies to compensate for weaknesses and to capitalize on strengths;
–Students develop skills, strategies and attitudes necessary for independent learning relative to their ages and abilities;
–Learning is linked through whole-school themes, enabling students to apply learned skills and strategies in all lessons, and to knowledge that links curriculum areas;
–Regular reviews of subject themes and whole-school themes ensure that the curriculum is fresh, stimulating and relevant to the needs of all students.
While it is important to note what we do, it is also important to understand what we do not do.
Specifically, we do not use supply teachers. Our students generally do not welcome change and are not comfortable with strangers. In addition, teachers at CAEA must have significant knowledge of special needs and experience in teaching SEN students.
We do not use Learning Support Assistants. All our teachers and therapists must have significant and professional qualifications to deliver lessons or support. This means that they must also be highly experienced with the challenges faced by SEN students.
We do not use a ‘one size fits all’ approach for any of our students. At CAEA, we see all students as individuals. This means that each student learns differently from other students. It is our job to understand how each student learns and then to individualise a programme and appropriate approaches for that student.
THE JUNIOR SCHOOL
In the Junior School, students ages 7 to 13 are taught the skills and strategies necessary for independent learning relative to their age and ability. As you will understand, the Junior School places great emphasis on literacy and numeracy, the foundation for much subsequent learning.
Each class has a Tutor who is responsible for the pupils’ welfare and the delivery of their curriculum. Pupils meet with their Tutor frequently during the day, and this enables the Tutor to be fully aware of the progress and the challenges that each pupil may be facing in a variety of subjects. As you will understand, there is a strong bond between pupil and Tutor, and this enables the Tutor to keep the parent fully informed regarding the pupil’s progress. Tutors are always available to discuss pupil progress. In essence, this reflects the school’s belief that a pupil’s success is based on the partnership between pupil, school and parent.
The Tutor regularly liaises with other teaching colleagues, and in this way helps ensure that pupils get the most out of our Whole School Themes approach. This provides not only focus on a particular subject but also helps the pupil understand the relationship between one subject and another. For example, the theme of ‘Great Britain’ may lead to cross-curricular studies in British History, the country’s geography and its cultural foundations, to name a few. The whole-school thematic approach enables our children to apply learned skills and strategies in both broad and narrower contexts—and in a secure and supportive environment.
In addition, regular reviews of subject themes enable students to see relationships between the various disciplines and topics. Thus, a unit on ‘light, sound and heat’ in a Science class may also generate interest in and exploration of ‘climate change’ in a Geography class.
THE SENIOR SCHOOL, YEARS 10 AND 11
Here, we extend the skills and coping strategies taught in the Junior School to students ages 14 to 16. As you will understand, in addition to the strong emphasis in the Senior School on literacy and numeracy, senior students also gain mastery over other key subject areas, including Science, History, Geography, Current Affairs and Advanced Writing, to name a few. Senior students are also expected to make gains in independence and related skills.
Much of the Senior School focuses on GCSE study in years 10 and 11. Our curriculum enables students to select at least five GCSE courses from a broad range of options, including those that are indispensable: English, Maths and Science.
Other choices include, but are not limited to, IT, Geography, History, Expressive Arts, Religious Education, Music and Drama. The breadth of such offerings reflects our belief that young people should be able to study subjects in which they have a particular interest and in which they are likely to succeed.
THE SIXTH FORM, YEARS 12 AND 13
The overwhelming number of SEN schools do not have a sixth form, and accordingly, their students leave after GCSEs or equivalents. In this context, CAEA is particularly unusual, not only for having a Sixth Form but also for the success that our Sixth Formers continue to enjoy.
The heart of the Sixth Form is the American High School Diploma, the gateway to university. We offer the Diploma instead of A-Levels. Unlike the examination-based A-Level, the Diploma uses a system of continual assessment wherein a student earns credit for research, writing essays, and dozens of other subject-based tasks.
The key point is this: the Diploma removes much of the anxiety and stress that students, and especially SEN students, experience when sitting examinations.
Students completing their GCSEs may be admitted to the Diploma programme for years 12 and 13. The focus is broad, as the Diploma offers courses in English, Mathematics, History, Geography and other Social Studies, Current Affairs, and Environmental Science. In addition, students may also choose from various Electives, including Advanced Writing, Great Books, Environmental Science, ICT, Media Studies, Music and Art.
THE UNIT AWARD SCHEME
We fully recognise that not all students will be able to participate in our more academic programmes such as the GCSEs or the American Diploma. In this regard, we are particularly proud of the Unit Award Scheme.
The Scheme focuses on those students who struggle with purely academic approaches to learning and who are more vocationally oriented. A form of Foundation Learning, the UAS provides students with grounding in the key areas of numeracy, literacy, science and other fundamental studies, while also offering individualised programmes and work experience. Taught in conjunction with one of the major educational boards and featuring teachers with qualifications and significant experience with foundation learning, the UAS offers a learning pathway that will lead to college or other extended learning at post-16.
Especially important for these students is the certificate they receive after completing particular areas of study—concrete statements of accomplishment that boost confidence and self-esteem in these students.
The issue of homework is frequently problematic not only for students but also for their families. That said, CAEA believes homework to be an integral part of the educational process. It augments and reinforces what has been presented in class. It also assists students in developing self-discipline, in organising their work and in cultivating ‘the homework habit.’
Homework for Junior School students reflects age, ability and level of preparedness and maturity. Because we recognise that many of our students require help and support in addressing their homework assignments, we use our daily Prep Periods to help them complete their homework; this ensures that they will receive expert guidance through our teachers to do their homework. In essence, it removes the burden of homework from the parent and places it where it belongs: on the school.
In the Senior School, students also have a daily Prep Period, and this is augmented by additional periods as needed. The Senior Prep Periods are overseen by the appropriate Tutors. The study skills developed during these Prep Periods will be essential as the students move into increasingly more advanced levels of education.
Homework and related assignments are generally given during holiday times, depending on the ages and working levels of the students. Holiday assignments enable students to maintain the gains and overall progress that they have made during term times.