Curriculum Rationale

Preparation for their best future

Mill Water pupils range in age from 3 - 19 and have a wide range of learning, developmental and medical needs. Our primary focus is to prepare all pupils for their futures. 

We tailor our curriculum to meet the needs of each pupil so that they can all progress in the most effective, creative and enjoyable way. Our guiding principle is that the pupil, their interests, needs and aspirations should all be at the centre of our planning and provision. We believe that communication, physical development and personal, social and emotional development are the foundation for all learning, and an emphasis is placed on helping pupils to be as independent as they are able to be.

We believe that the curriculum should:

    • Provide learning opportunities that are meaningful for each pupil
    • Engage pupils in their learning
    • Equip pupils with the appropriate knowledge, skills and understanding for their future
    • Develop communication – pupils should be able to make meaningful choices and engage in the world
    • Develop independence
    • Develop an awareness of safety and wellbeing
    • Overcome individuals’ specific barriers to learning


The Mill Water curriculum delivers more than just subject content because learning relies on pupils being able to access an environment in which they feel safe and secure. We offer:

    • a building and grounds with specialist facilities and surroundings in which our pupils can achieve.
    • an ethos in which pupils feel supported, secure and motivated to learn. This comes from having consistent adults, routines and structures in the classroom.
    • a therapeutic, attachment based ethos. We know that for some of our pupils, self-regulation is their biggest barrier to learning; they are therefore supported to feel safe, comfortable and happy before they move on to formal learning.

The curriculum comprises three main pathways. Pupils may not sit within one pathway for all of their learning; they may move between them from lesson to lesson, day to day or over time. The pathways ensure that learning is appropriately scaffolded to best prepare pupils for their destinations when they leave Mill Water.

Learning is delivered through a topic based, rolling programme. The topics follow a general theme each half term, and are progressive as pupils move throughout the school. This progression ensures that learning builds on prior knowledge and promotes a level of overlearning.


The majority of our pupils on this pathway have profound and multiple learning difficulties and complex learning needs. These pupils may also have physical disabilities, sensory impairments and/or severe medical conditions. They require a high level of adult support to access learning. With an in depth knowledge of pupil needs and abilities, adults working with them are skilled in building and maintaining effective relationships to support learning and progress. Pupils follow a specific Nurture & Engagement Curriculum which focuses on Communication, Independence, PSHE, Physical Development and Independence skills. Progress is measured against the five areas of engagement from The Engagement Model. These pupils do not access subject specific teaching in a formal way - learning is embedded into all aspects of daily routines and pupils have an individualised timetable that addresses their starting point and specific needs.


The semi-formal pathway is a combination of subject specific teaching, continuous provision, play based learning and functional activities. The pupils on this pathway access the 7 EYFS Areas of Learning at an appropriate level for each area. Learning is delivered through 1:1, small group and class work. The pupils on this pathway often present with a ‘spiky profile’ and may have significant abilities in some areas, whilst missing basic knowledge and understanding in others. Teachers use the Core Assessment System to gain a detailed understanding of pupils’ strengths and gaps in learning in order to ensure they have achieved the foundations of learning and have a secure knowledge and understanding before moving on to the next step.


Pupils working on the formal pathway follow a combination of the 7 Areas of Learning and National Curriculum according to their developmental level and special educational needs. Core Learning is promoted throughout the timetable, including how knowledge and skills can be applied to ‘real life’ and functional situations. Pupils on this pathway will have the opportunity to sit Entry Level Functional Skills exams and will likely access an external college provider for Post 16 Education.

Post 16 Education

Mill Water offers Post 16 education to pupils who are working towards Preparation for Adulthood but still require a significant amount of support for cognitive, behavioural or medical reasons. The Post 16 Curriculum incorporates BTEC units which offer a highly individualised programme of study focussed specifically on the knowledge and skills needed to successfully transition into the young person’s next destination. The students focus on communication, self-care, independent skills and skills for community participation. They enjoy an active role in the community by regularly visiting the local area and applying the knowledge and skills they have learnt in the classroom to ‘real life’ situations. There is also an opportunity, for those who are able, to take part in weekly work experience in order to develop skills for the workplace.

Programmes and Therapies

All pupils who have support from an external professional (e.g. Speech and Language Therapist, Physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist etc.) access their programmes as an integral part of their timetable; they may have discreet sessions, or access therapy within other learning opportunities. We also offer specialised programmes and interventions where this will support and extend learning such as:

    • Lego Therapy
    • smILE therapy
    • Attention All
    • Intensive Interaction
    • Rebound Therapy
    • Hydrotherapy


All progress is recorded on Evidence for Learning, accessed via iPads and iPods in the classroom. Independent and Practical Learners are assessed against the Mill Water Core Assessment System. This has been based on the Bristol Curriculum and then further adapted to best suit the majority of the cohort at Mill Water. We use the Engagement Model to assess the suitability of the curriculum and the small steps of progress for the pupils working on the Nurture and Engagement Pathway.

Personal Learning Goals

Every pupil has their own Personal Learning Goals that are completely individualised. These are taken from the outcomes written in EHCPs which are then broken down into annual targets, and then further broken down into Personal Learning Goals. These are reviewed 3 times a year in line with the annual review cycle. Where a pupil has a lot of EHCP outcomes, or outcomes are no longer relevant, annual targets are set based on a conversation with the team around the family about priorities for the coming year. This ensures that there is a very personalised programme of study for each pupil that works specifically on overcoming their barriers to learning and records progress in areas that may not otherwise be covered by the curriculum assessment systems. 

Setting Personal Learning Goals and targets against the Core Assessment system is done in collaboration with parents and other professionals as part of the annual review cycle. Targets are ambitious and challenging, whilst ensuring that pupils are able to celebrate success. Evidence for Learning is shared with parents so they are able to see the progress their child is making, and are able to input their own evidence where they see the progress demonstrated at home. This ensures that learning is across all settings and places an emphasis on mastery and generalisation in order for it to be meaningful. 

Pupils working on the formal Pathway will have the opportunity to achieve an Entry Level Functional Skills qualification in Year 11 if appropriate.

All pupils leave Mill Water having gained a National Qualification or a Mill Water Certificate of Achievement This provides them with a record of the learning they have done, the achievements they have made and informs future destinations about what they are able to do and ensures that they are ‘prepared for their best future’.