Informal Pathway

The Informal curriculum pathway is for pupils with complex learning difficulties (CLD) who are at early levels of development. Key focuses are around communication and interaction, cognition and learning, personal, social and emotional development and physical and sensory development. Although routine is important, typical structured teaching is often not appropriate for these pupils and the curriculum is delivered through increased pupil led opportunities which follow individuals’ interests and skills in a meaningful and comprehensible way. Pupils will be supported to increase their intentional social communication, engage with others and their world, co and self-regulate and develop their physical skills and independence.

Pupils will know how to:


Try something new



Enjoy achievements

Increase their gross and fine motor skills

Have their own ideas

Solve problems

Make choices

Know key routines

Show interest and engagement

Be content

Be confident

Explore in new ways


Express themselves

Increase their tolerance of sensory experiences

Interact with others

Communicate their wants, needs and interests to familiar people

Listen and respond

Increase their ability to regulate and manage their emotions

Establish their sense of self

Express preferences

Play with increased confidence

Increase their independence (including dressing, toileting)

Show interest and develop friendships through play

Share and take turns

How pupils will be supported to achieve this:

Key Teaching and Learning Strategies for this cohort of learners

To be ready to learn

To enable this for those following an informal curricular offer, we have fewer structured ‘taught’ sessions to ensure that pupils’ sensory needs can be met and that our pupils are as functional and engaged as possible.  We work with occupational therapists to establish what this is.


For discovery and real learning to occur, our pupils need us to wait and be given the time and space to process and discover. Our pupils are given an appropriate amount of time for their learning needs, not only in readiness to learn, but within each action.


Repetition is key to building our pupils’ skills and understanding; within the structure of the day, sessions throughout the term and within the session itself. ‘Burst-pause’ and its repetition within most sessions gives pupils the opportunity to communicate.  This is used to support pupils to understand that they can be in control of their surroundings and communicate with others.  To progress, our pupils need to revisit activities frequently to consolidate their learning.

Intensive Interaction:

Simple call and response to support pupils to understand that they can control and that they have a voice. They will begin to notice that there is another and the joy of human interaction. This is used to teach the fundamentals of early communication and interaction skills.

Physical support

Some pupils who are following this learning pathway have physical challenges. Pupils need support and adaptation to engage with certain activities physically, however we avoid ‘hand over hand’ support wherever possible, supporting with hand under hand sometimes, but any support is to enable individuals to be physically engaged and as independent as possible and done in response to the intentions that pupils are showing. The principles of readiness to learn, time and consolidation apply here.

Sensory support

Many pupils following the informal pathway have significant sensory needs which need to be incorporated

within their curricular offer. Some pupils may have discreet sessions with occupational therapists (working on pupils’ sensory modulation needs or hand function). This is also incorporated into each pupil’s day within their own class, to enable learning.


Learning palette: 

All lessons for pupils following this pathway need to have repetition and / or connectivity with familiar or previous learning. Learners are learning through this learning palette, not necessarily about.


This session supports pupils to communicate with those around them, whilst developing a greater sense of their own identity and ability to have a ‘voice’. Pupils will use appropriate communication systems and be given time to communicate and realise they can impact the world around them.


Discovery is inspired by scientific and/or geographical aspects of each ‘topic’. This session involves predominantly pupil led exploration, with staff making careful judgements on when to model, support or join in. Pupils will be able to choose what to explore and staff will support individuals to develop their communication and independence, amongst other areas.


Culture incorporates religious beliefs and practices, traditions, traditional stories, foods and home life. This session involves predominantly pupil led exploration, with staff making careful judgements on when to model, support or join in. Pupils will be able to choose what to explore and staff will support individuals to develop their communication and independence, amongst other areas.


This session may focus on an artist, technique or be based on the emotions portrayed in a piece of artwork, depending on the topic. There may be an end product but this is never the primary driver for the activity, as the process is of more value. Depending on the class, art may be delivered as a whole class session or be a standalone activity which runs alongside other provision. Either approach will be led by the pupils and how they choose to explore and discover.


This session will be taken from a poem, story, drama or passage of history. This may be used in full or abridged versions. Teachers will not shy away from using complex language within these stories from pieces of literature, but they always ensure that there is a non-language based means of understanding the context. Stories involve a variety of sensory elements; projections around the room, music/sounds, smells, tastes, textures and movements. The staff team are part of the theatre of the story, and participate using voice, actions, movement and improvisation.  Whilst there is a structure to the story, these sessions are pupil led and the trajectory within the session and over time is led by pupil responses.


This area of learning can take its inspiration from a composer, a piece of music, genre or music traditions of a country or its instruments. Pupils should have the opportunity to listen to a wide range of music and sounds and notice the changes in pitch, tempo and dynamics within a piece. Where possible real instruments should be used as well as voice. Pupils should be enabled, using appropriate technology or assistance to create sounds themselves.

Stop and Go

A communication and movement-based session, where pupils control music and actions when these are paused. Giving pupils the opportunity to show others their preferences and developing their ability to communicate when they want more as well as their understanding of cause and effect, when controlling music via switches.

Community and Travel Training  

It is important that all our pupils have regular access to their local community. This may be to develop skills when accessing a shop, life and safety skills when walking or to widen their experiences of the world. The community is used to support many areas of our curriculum, developing a pupil’s communication skills, their ability to regulate, or in order to learn new routines.  Pupils may go on regular weekly trips, which incorporate individuals learning needs or larger visits which are linked to the theme for that term. Teachers will reflect on the purpose of visits and ensure they are both meaningful and beneficial.

Physical and/or PE

Some pupils may take part in rebound, hydrotherapy and/or work towards their own MOVE targets, which are activity based and goal directed to gain independent movement to the best of their ability.  For some pupils it may also be appropriate to also take part in standalone PE sessions, where they will develop their physical skills or take part in a particular game or sport.


Cooking focuses on the process, instead of the product. Opportunities to communicate, explore independently, respond to or accept new sensory stimuli should be incorporated, particularly as taste and texture can be extremely motivating for many. Tastes, smells, textures, sounds, equipment and processes all provide a rich sensory learning opportunity. Connectivity and repetition throughout a scheme of work supports pupils to develop memory for responses.

Forest School 

Forest School is a child-centred inspirational learning process, that offers opportunities for holistic growth through regular sessions. It is a long-term program that supports play, exploration and supported risk taking. It develops confidence and self-esteem through learner inspired, hands-on experiences in a natural setting. At Ash Lea we have our own forest school area and access to a larger forest school, which is close by.

Attention Autism

Where appropriate Attention Autism (bucket sessions) will be incorporated by using visually based and highly motivating activities, in order to develop natural and spontaneous communication, as well as to increase a pupils’ joint attention and engagement skills. This may be on a 1:1 basis or within a small group.

Individual Activities

This allows pupils to work on their individualised IEP targets and/or a specific area of need, appropriate for that pupil.

Snack / Lunch / Playtime

These are important social and learning times for all pupils. Some may use the motivation of food to practise communication or eating and drinking skills, whilst it is also a time where independence skills can be used practically, play skills can be developed and peers can spend time together. Pupils are also continuously supported to develop their own interests with which they can engage as independently as possible.

Music Therapy

Music therapy supports pupils on an individual or small group basis and is run by a qualified music therapist. This is a therapy based on engagement in musical activities to support IEP targets such as reducing anxiety, enhancing social interaction and encouraging engagement.