Pre-Formal Pathway

Pre – Formal Learning Pathway Curriculum Map   

The Pre-Formal pathway is for pupils who have profound and complex communication and Interaction needs. It is designed to meet the needs of pupils through a highly personalised approach. It focuses on engagement and the early communication, social, emotional and cognitive skills that are the foundation of learning. The pathway recognises the importance of movement and early exploration in children’s development and the need for sensory and multi-sensory approaches to learning. Opened ended opportunities for building positive relationships, trust and engagement in social experiences are priority and key to all areas of learning. Pre-Formal learners require a higher level of adult support, both for their learning needs and their personal care.  


Child Centred Curriculum  

Learners on our Pre-Formal pathway are; 

  • Pre -Subject Specific Learning Stage 1-6 (Performance Level 1-4) developmentally they are working at birth to18 months 
  • at a ‘Social Partner’ Stage using the SCERTS framework – pupils are learning to link photos with real objects i.e., Objects of Reference (OoR) and use these to communicate intentionally 
  • reactive in their responses to their own emotions and sensory processing needs 
  • use behavioural strategies to regulate their arousal level and self soothe 
  • learning to respond to a wider range of emotional regulation strategies to regulate their emotions and manage their sensory processing needs which can be significant barriers to their learning and physical and/or mental wellbeing 
  • learning to share attention, share emotion and share intention with others through social experiences with others. This links to the development of the Fundamentals of Communication (FoC) 
  • provided with opportunities to make meaningful choices throughout the school day. Pupil voice is heard, valued and respected through the use of pupil motivators / special interests (recorded on Pupil Motivator Sheet) 
  • have a Personalised Pupil Profile and Positive Behaviour Support Plan which reflects strengths, needs and motivators  

 The school ensures that there is fluidity between pathways, allowing for a personalised approach, that enables pupils to benefit from approaches from other pathways and to move between pathways if they develop. 


EHCP Focus 

EHCP > End of Key Stage Targets > Annual Targets > Progress in Provision (PiPs) > Evidence of Progress > Formal Assessment 

The EHC Plan is Golden Thread that weaves together our teaching and learning and our therapeutic core. It is integral to each pupil’s provision and planning. EHCP outcomes at the centre of the curriculum with pupils’ interests as the teaching vehicle; these are developed with parents during Annual Review meetings as we discuss our Aspirations and Hopes for each pupil as they journey through their education. 

We believe that the most effective support for our complex learners happens when their aspirations are linked to their strengths and needs (with a clear focus on lifelong learning) and then to outcomes and support (through a holistic, highly personalised provision). 


Autism Practice/ Key documents 

EYFS Development Matters (July 2021), Engagement Model (2021), Fundamentals of Communication (FoC) Nind & Hewett 1994, 2001, 2005), Hewett (2018), SCERTS Framework (2007) Autism Education Trust Progression Framework (AET) (2019) 


Core Therapeutic Strategies 

Personalised curriculum that priorities the importance of our Core Therapeutic offer: communication, emotional regulation, and independence 

Opportunities to build trusting, positive relationships are priority and key to all areas of learning. 

Intensive Interaction, Objects, Objects of Reference (OoR), Photos, Choose Boards, OoR Visual Timetable, Core Vocab (more/finished/wait), OoR Now/Next, a balance of calming and alerting sensory activities for regulation, activities for physical development, Core Occupational Therapy (OT) equipment, massage, deep pressure touch. 


Planning (Thematic Approach) 

Learning for Life – We have an ambitious three-year thematic sequenced curriculum differentiated to reflect the age of pupils and breadth of opportunities which is the vehicle to develop the skills, knowledge and cultural capital pupils need to succeed in life beyond school (Preparation for Adulthood).  Lateral and linear progress is reflected in planning and individual target setting. 


Engagement in Learning 

The curriculum is adapted to maximise engagement and learning opportunities taking into full account each child’s motivators and bespoke learning pathway. “Without engagement, there is no deep learning” (Hargreaves, 2006) 


NC Coverage 

Pre-Subject Specific Learning – The development of Communication and Interaction skills underpins learning in all other areas of the curriculum. All areas of the National Curriculum are planned for to provide a rich and comprehensive curriculum offer for our Pre-Formal learners. This ensures an inclusive educational provision intended to improve the experiences, skills and engagement of all.  



Opened ended opportunities for building positive relationships, trust and engagement in social experiences are priority. Motivators/interests form the basis of learning at this stage. The curriculum is broken down into very small steps. 

The overwhelming majority of learning for our Pre-Formal learning is Child led learning where an adult joins the pupil in their self-chosen activity/exploration, playful approach.   

Opportunities to engage in multisensory extended provision – the focus being on Intensive Interaction, opportunities for choice and spontaneous learning.  

Highly familiar structure, sufficient time built into embedded routines linked to identified visual support (OoR) are key to ensure the repetition, rehearsal, consolidation, and transference of skills.  Pupils will need to be implicitly taught how to generalise and transfer skills.  


Stretch & challenge 

For learners who follow our Pre-Formal pathway their progress equals increased active engagement in meaningful and functional daily routines and activities with support.  

Progress may not follow a straight, linear pathway because of their individual needs and strengths. Lateral progress where pupils begin to generalise their learning into new contexts and to develop a more even profile of responses is recognised and valued.  

The overwhelming majority of teaching and learning is Child-Initiated, with appropriate opportunities for Adult-Led learning to extend learning particularly linked to pupils’ areas of interest (adult joins the child at their highly preferred activity and makes suggestions on how to extend their exploration e.g., gives a sieve to a child who is sprinkling the sand to promote ‘Enquiry’/problem solving and to extend engagement 

Pupils are encouraged to have independence in familiar, predictable routine tasks with support particularly where there is a tangible natural reward. 

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