CURRICULUM

Overview

Allenvale School believes that the principles, values, key competencies and related learning areas which give direction to the curriculum in New Zealand schools are fundamental and that the individual student is central to all learning and teaching.

Our students present with a range of complex learning needs. For us to be able to meet those needs, our school curriculum has been divided into specific programmes of learning, where literacy and numeracy are interwoven throughout. Students’ level of academic ability range from below Level 1 of the New Zealand Curriculum to Level 2.

FOUNDATION LEVEL

The curriculum being delivered below Level 1 is the Foundation and Foundation 14+. The students at this level vary in age range from 5 – 21 years and learning programmes are highly specific, based on developmental learning. Communication skills feature prominently for this population. Specialised communication programmes such as Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) are considered vital to enhancing learning. There is a strong commitment in our school to ensure students can communicate using a range of strategies, (refer to the school’s communication strategy). The key competencies have been integrated into the Foundation Curriculum and form the core component of all planning.

The Foundation Curriculum has been recently reviewed and altered to ensure that fundamental skills are taught in a manner that is practical and that previous learning is built upon. The ‘Carolina Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers’ was adapted and re-worked to enable the developmental stages to fall under the five key competencies; Thinking, Using Language, Symbols and Texts, Managing Self, Relating to Others, Participating and Contributing.

LEVELS 1 and 2

Planning for students in levels 1 and 2 covers all learning areas, with a major focus on literacy and numeracy. Key competencies are integrated into the programmes of learning so that all competencies are covered over the course of a year. The learning areas such as social sciences, the arts, technology and science are delivered through an integrated approach involving units of work (topics).

The Integrated Curriculum is seen as part of the whole-school curriculum. It has been developed and adapted to meet the teaching and learning needs of junior and intermediate aged students. Units of work are planned around the NZC learning objectives and key competencies. Assessment of selected goals is undertaken to measure the level of achievement and the level of participation.

SENIOR LEVEL

paintingOur level 1 and 2 senior students undertake the SPEC (South Pacific Educational Courses) programme as their base curriculum.
SPEC is a New Zealand owned, NZQA approved, course provider.
SPEC courses “enhance the New Zealand curriculum with a specific focus on the Key Competencies … aim to promote and demonstrate personal growth, self management, self esteem, motivation and a sense of self worth.” (SPEC Teachers Guidelines).
SPEC courses are based on a negotiated approach to learning. Students are always encouraged to be an active participant in their learning, from planning the work to the conclusion, self-review and reflection. Outcomes are specific to the individual student and are realistic and meaningful.
NZQA supported learning unit standards are offered to senior students either as a support to the SPEC programme of learning or as stand alone units as part of the transition pathway. All supported learning unit standards are at level one.

Best practice in supported learning unit standards integrates teaching, learning and assessment with providers deciding what to teach and how to teach, then selecting the unit standards which best meet the learning outcomes of their programme. When students achieve 40 credits they will be awarded the National Certificate in Work and Community Skills.

LITERACY

student reading

Our school ensures that all of our students will explore literacy experiences to enrich their lives and be guided to learn how to access literacy for functional and recreational purposes. Meaningful learning experiences, well planned and taught across a range of contexts, enable our students to achieve a measure of independence in everyday life.

Creative ideas and methods of teaching literacy encourage our students in;

“making meaning of ideas or information they receive” (listening, reading and viewing)
“creating meaning for themselves or others” (speaking, writing and presenting)

The Literacy Unit plan (for each term) requires the teacher to establish common goals for the class, achievement objectives and learning experiences for individual students and identifying related key competencies. Evaluation of the plan at five week intervals enables teachers to reflect on their teaching and pedagogical practice.

NUMERACY

The teaching of and planning for mathematics skills varies markedly across our school. Programmes are planned to meet student’s needs, often as part of an IEP. There are a number of fundamental areas in mathematics which our students need to understand in order for them to function as independently as possible. For our students to make connections with the world around them, learning experiences need to be practical and authentic using everyday materials and situations.
We endeavour to provide our students with learning activities which develop the basic skills across the three areas of the New Zealand mathematics and statistics curriculum:

  • Number and algebra
  • Geometry and measurement
  • Statistics
  • Key Competencies

The New Zealand Curriculum identifies five key competencies:

  • Thinking
  • Using language, symbols and texts
  • Managing self
  • Relating to others
  • Participating and contributing

Our curriculum embraces the premise that the key competencies are the key to learning in every learning area. With knowledge of students’ strengths, needs and interests, we aim to engage students with the key competencies. This is particularly evident in the learning stories written for individual students, where through formative assessment, the development of key competencies can be built upon.

ASSESSMENT

Assessment practices at Allenvale are varied according to the specific needs of our student population. Assessment procedures and practices are currently under review and a great deal of time and effort has gone into sourcing appropriate assessments, particularly for the students learning within the foundation level. This area has always proven difficult in terms of effective assessment because of the complex nature of these students who present with severe and challenging learning needs. Assessments have had to be adapted to serve this population as it is difficult to source appropriate commercially available tools to provide the assessment information required.

Currently, assessment falls into the following domains:

Curriculum based assessments – literacy and numeracy (STAR, Benchmark, NumPA and internal assessment)
Integrated topic assessment – currently covering all learning areas
Learning Stories – narrative assessment
Development of learning progressions and exemplars in writing
Allenvale has been involved in the Assess to Learn (AtoL) contract during 2009 and 2010. The major focus of this programme is to assist teachers and students to improve learning and teaching through deepening their understanding of formative assessment.

The five programme goals are as follows:

  1. Improved student learning and achievement
  2. Shifts in teacher’s assessment knowledge and practice
  3. Coherence between assessment processes, practices (including purposeful use of assessment tools) and systems in classrooms and schools so that they promote better learning
  4. Strong cultures of continuous school improvement that reflect an inquiry based approach
  5. Strong professional learning communities regionally and nationally

The introduction of Learning Stories as a method of narrative assessment has been extremely positive. Learning Stories are shared with students, their families and whanau as a means of celebration, to inform and to identify next steps.

Communication

TOTAL COMMUNICATION APPROACH

At Allenvale School we use a total communication approach to enable our students to:

  • express wants and needs
  • make friends
  • be included
  • make choices
  • achieve independence
  • learn
  • express feelings
  • feel less frustrated
  • understand others

Total communication may include using a combination of:

  • vocalisations / speech
  • facial expressions
  • gesture / makaton / sign language
  • symbols / visuals
  • communication books
  • low and high tech communication devices

We assess students and advise and support families/whanau, teaching staff and support staff with:
– developing students’ understanding of language
– how to use the above modes of communication
– how to provide communication opportunities throughout the day
Speech Language Therapists also assess and advise on safe eating and drinking in the school setting.

SPEC

South Pacific Educational Courses

SPEC is a New Zealand owned, NZQA approved, course owner.

All senior students access SPEC courses as a component of their curriculum.

SPEC courses “enhance the New Zealand curriculum with a specific focus on the Key Competencies … aim to promote and demonstrate personal growth, self management, self esteem, motivation and a sense of self worth.” (SPEC Teachers Guidelines).

SPEC courses are based on a negotiated approach to learning where students are encouraged to be an active participant in their learning . The process is a cyclical one where students select a module of work relevant to their own needs, plan what to do, complete the required work and then self-reflect on their learning in order to choose what to study next. Outcomes are specific to the individual student, are realistic and meaningful.

There is no fixed time frame for the completion of any course although there are suggested guidelines.

Allenvale students access those SPEC courses written for students who require supported learning.

These courses are:

TRUMP

TRUMP consists of five modules, one for each of the Key Competencies found in the N.Z. Curriculum document. Generally, it is aimed at students aged from 13 to 16 years of age but this can vary. TRUMP takes two to three years to complete. Modules can be assessed individually and there is a full award for the completion of all five modules.

Headway

Headway modules are normally done by students from about the age of 16 years. Completing TRUMP is not a prerequisite for starting any Headway modules.

Headway modules fit into four broad areas:
Life Skills,
Environment,
Vocation and
Leisure.

There are forty modules available at present with new ones being developed. Six of these modules are written specifically for students with severe and complex needs.

Headway modules focus on skills and topics that prepare students for transition from school and for post-school options. Each module could take from ten to twenty weeks to complete.

Ready For Work

This is a module for students who are carrying out work experience over an extended length of time and can take up to a year to complete.

It covers many of the prerequisite skills and attitudes required to fit successfully into a work environment.

VERIFICATION OF WORK FOR AWARDS

Students compile a folder of evidence during their time of study and upon completion this is moderated by a group of teachers from the region. Successful moderation of a student’s work means the student receives the programme award and a certificate from SPEC. The folders are a wonderful record of work with students and families treasuring them a great deal.

A NATIONAL AWARD

In April 2008 NZQA approved a national qualification called the “Certificate In Learning Support” for students who complete the required amount of work from each of the above programmes.

National SPEC award

Allenvale students were among the first in New Zealand to receive certificates for their achievements in SPEC.

Specialist Classes

Classes for students with Autism

SPEC is a New Zealand owned, NZQA approved, course owner.
All senior students access SPEC courses as a component of their curriculum.
SPEC courses “enhance the New Zealand curriculum with a specific focus on the Key Competencies … aim to promote and demonstrate personal growth, self management, self esteem, motivation and a sense of self worth.” (SPEC Teachers Guidelines).
SPEC courses are based on a negotiated approach to learning where students are encouraged to be an active participant in their learning . The process is a cyclical one where students select a module of work relevant to their own needs, plan what to do, complete the required work and then self-reflect on their learning in order to choose what to study next. Outcomes are specific to the individual student, are realistic and meaningful.
There is no fixed time frame for the completion of any course although there are suggested guidelines.
Allenvale students access those SPEC courses written for students who require supported learning.

Classes for students with physical disabilities and high health needs

These classes provide specialised programmes best suited for the students.

While the New Zealand Curriculum is followed there are specific programmes that are incorporated throughout the day.

For the senior students the specific programmes consist of:

  • QUEST for Learning – Guidance and Assessment for students with PMLD
    SPEC – South Pacific Education Courses – NZC links
  • Lilli Nielsen programme (sensory programme)
  • Holistic sensory programmes aimed at all senses, integrated with movement
  • The use of switches, iPads and PECS for communication
  • Visual Therapist from Elmwood Visual Centre
  • Supported integration with other classes

For the junior PMLD class the programme is developmentally based with a strong sensory learning focus.

Satellite Classes

A satellite class is a class that belongs to a special school but is located in a ‘mainstream’ school.

Our school currently has one primary school satellite at Westburn School. The students participate in some of the ‘mainstream’ school activities as well as still being involved with our school activities.

As part of the national review of special education Allenvale is to have a double satellite unit at Ashgrove School in Rangiora by 2017. Satellite classes will be developed at Burnside Primary and Cobham Intermediate in the future.

Specialist Programmes

MUSIC

Music is seen as an important component of our curriculum. Three quarters of the students in our school have access to either Music Therapy or the specialist music programme. The programme is run 3 days a week by a staff member who has completed Orff training. Students may be involved in group activities or for students with complex and challenging needs the sessions may be on a 1:1 basis.

Music Therapy is offered three days a week with a trained therapist. A designated space allows students freedom of expression and the opportunity to interact with a wide range of instruments.

I.C.T.

All students at our school have access to computers to enhance their learning. As part of the Burnside Cluster of schools, Allenvale have embarked on a Digital Learning with Technology MOE initiative run by CORE Education. This is a major focus for our school. All teachers have iPads and there are pods of iPads for students to acces. Further, all classes have at least two desktops for their exclusive use. Senior students from our Tertiary Education Centre TEC have access to a suite of computers. All students are encouraged to become as independent as possible with ICT, and this often involves them completing community based computing courses as part of their curriculum.

All classes have access to data projectors or interactive whiteboards, which allows the teacher to provide the class with access to interactive websites. Further, for classes who have students with more complex needs, data projectors are used for developing communication skills through programmes such as Writing with Symbols, Clicker and international sites such as Priory Woods.

RDA (Riding for the Disabled)

We have a group of students attending RDA every week. The children participate for a year and not only get enjoyment, but improve their physical skills too. The benefits of RDA include:

  • Balance and co-ordination, posture and muscle tone.
  • Perception and spatial awareness.
  • Communication and social skills.
  • Independence and encourages decision making.
  • Concentration, self discipline and self – esteem.

SWIMMING PROGRAMMES

The BOT has supported all students to receive two terms of swimming programmes.

It is seen as very important that all our students develop water confidence. Senior students participate in our school swimming sports and Special Olympics ribbon days. For junior students with sensory needs and autism the swimming programme occurs in as quiet a venue as possible indoors and well heated.

Instruction is on a 1:1 basis for those students.

Swimming

AFTER SCHOOL CLUB – Basketball and Athletics

We offer a chance for students to participate in a basketball and athletic after school club.

The students attend each week where they are coached in the appropriate skills necessary to play the sports. Our athletics teams participate in secondary school athletics, attending the regional championships, the South Island and National Championships. This involves travel to other major cities. The Allenvale basketball team partcipates in an annual interchange with other special schools either here or in Nelson and joins the Special Olympic tournaments.

SPORTS OPPORTUNITIES

We are a recognised ‘Sportsmark’ school with SPARC and participate in the Special Olympics ribbon days.

Physical fitness and sport are seen as very important to our students’ wellbeing. Our school has a dedicated sports coordinator on the staff who oversees a wide range of opportunities.

KAPA HAKA

Kapa haka group is an extension of our Te Reo Maori and Tikanga Maori programme, and performs every second year in the Christchurch Cultural Festival.

As a school we are committed to extending the level of te reo in our school, with staff professional development, signage and inclusion in all class programmes. Each week a number of classes gather for a whakahuihui. Music and movement is featured and students are encouraged to use poi and engage in Maori action songs.

At least once a term we invite classes from other special schools to participate with Allenvale School.