Learning to learn:

A special pathway enabling all our young people

to achieve as much as they possibly can and to flourish in adult life



Curriculum & Qualifications

Ambitious about outcomes

By the time children leave us we want them to be:

  • Good communicators
  • Socially proficient
  • Happy and able to emotionally self-regulate
  • Literate
  • Numerate
  • Independent
  • Ready for secondary school and beyond with a lifelong love of learning

To deliver these outcomes our ambitious curriculum:

  • Is appropriate, broad and balanced
  • Integrates therapies via a multi-professional team approach
  • Fosters the characteristics of effective early learning through: playing and exploring; active learning and creating and thinking critically
  • Is learning, not content led to achieve mastery
  • Is underpinned by a deep understanding of research of into how our children learn
  • Assesses and plans for each child’s holistic outcomes
  • Creates planned opportunities to develop independence, community participation, and functional social and communication skills
  • Is supported by effective policies to support outcomes e.g. behaviour and teaching policies

The extended curriculum
Staff at West Hill believe that all appropriate opportunities to enhance pupil learning should be explored. We aim to make learning activities relevant and meaningful to real life in and out of school. Here are some ways in which the curriculum is enhanced:

  • Lunchtime and after-school clubs
  • A wide range of SEN programmes
  • Taking the classroom out of school – to art galleries, theatres, historical sites, shops, local amenities, countryside habitats, sports fixtures
  • Bringing the outside world in – theatre groups, visiting speakers, local councillors, football and other sports coaches
  • Involvement in a range of sporting activities and competitive events

Our curriculum is organised into a 20-lesson timetable with three lessons per day before lunch and one afternoon lesson. This is supported at either end of the day with a tutor-focused session to ensure all pupils are prepared and ready for learning.

Each lesson is between 50 and 60 minutes long and pupils are taught in a range of settings, including specialist rooms, by the appropriate staff to meet their learning needs. There are typically 10 pupils with one teacher; teaching assistant support is included as needed. Subjects taught on the timetable are: Maths, English, Science, PSHCE, ICT, DT, Creative Arts, PE, Time & Place (History & Geography), RE and Music. Drama is not taught separately as it is taught across the curriculum.

Curriculum at KS3
The curriculum offer at West Hill is guided by the National Curriculum document and provides opportunities for curriculum entitlement for all our pupils. We currently disapply all of our pupils from Modern Foreign Languages in order to focus on improving literacy. You can read West Hill’s curriculum overview for the next three academic years here.

Thematic and topic-based learning is becoming a feature at West Hill. Cross-curricular days and embedded links across subject areas are strengths of our curriculum. This approach enables pupils to have a ‘real-life’ context for their learning and provides the key links to life after West Hill. This is balanced with a regular offer of the core subjects.

A typical learning journey in each lesson asks: “What are we learning?” “How are we learning it?” “Why are we learning this (linked to adult life)?” and importantly “How do I know I have achieved this?”

Years 8 and 9 are included in our Key Stage 3 offer, but for some pupils, accredited qualifications may start in Year 9 in preparation for their pathway at Key Stage 4.

“Reading is taught extremely well to all students. It is the key to students’ increasing successes because it helps them to achieve better in all subjects. There is a very strong focus on regular spelling and writing tasks, with a clear emphasis on the teaching of grammar. Students write in a wide range of subjects and for many different purposes.” Ofsted 2014

Pupils arrive at West Hill having had at least seven years of reading instruction and phonics input, but in the majority of cases they still have severely limited reading ability. Our challenge was to research and select a reading approach which would have the biggest impact on, and suit, the wide range of children’s special educational needs. The reading approach selected is Optima, and it was introduced in September 2012 to Years 7, 8 and 9.

Optima is unique in the area of teaching reading in combining two approaches that are typically seen to be mutually exclusive, real books and phonics. Research conducted by Optima demonstrates their compatibility and impact in raising standards of reading, writing and spelling. The framework for teaching literacy includes the following:

  • a 15-minute teaching session that is presented three times a day (distributed practice) covers:
    • synthesis and segmentation of small and large units
    • letter sounds, phonically regular words, 30 letter combinations and 30 prefixes and suffixes
    • 100 high frequency words
    • seven minutes of reading with children where children are taught to apply their skills to a wide variety of real books
  • listening to children read
  • spelling
  • vocabulary
  • writing

The approach is underpinned by Instructional Principles, which West Hill wholly supports:

Effective teaching, effortless learning    

Interleaved learning 

Teaching generalisable skills: more through less    

Distributed practice 

Contextual diversity 

Teaching one skill at a time 

Phonic self correction    

Teaching, learning and assessment 

Instructional hierarchy 

Whole-class teaching 


Learning difficulties 



Tutors, who are also subject specialists, deliver the programme, thereby ensuring consistency of teaching reading across the curriculum.

Curriculum at KS4
The Key Stage 4 Curriculum at West Hill School is designed to meet the needs of all learners and is reviewed regularly to match pupils’ needs and strengths. Pupils have opportunities to gain nationally accredited qualifications. You can read more about the content of the KS4 curriculum here.

As a school we are committed to the development of appropriate learning programmes focusing on appropriate pathways to adult life, designed to increase the participation, achievement and progression of all learners. Our aim is to provide all our learners with a range of qualifications that meet their different needs and prepare them for adult life and lifelong learning.

Colleges and Sixth Forms
West Hill School has close links with a number of Surrey colleges and SEN Further Education provisions, including vocational taster courses at NESCOT. Our leavers move on to a wide range of 16+ destinations and the close links we have established with these providers enable us to support our learners in making successful 16+ transitions.