One of the joys of the Huh series has been talking with colleagues who are at the top of their game. Mary and I find, repeatedly, that they use metaphors and similes to describe what they do which are striking, original and illuminating.

In AP Huh, our final book in the Huh curriculum series which is published this coming Friday, Alison Woosey’s bus stop simile illustrates how she designs the curriculum for pupils in alternative provision.

Mary Myatt: How do you think about the curriculum for your children with a wide range of both needs, but also starting points? How do you go about that?

Alison Woosey: The job is to meet children at the differing points in their curriculum journey and to plan for that. It used to be the case that APs would aim to fill the gaps and to just squeeze education into them before they left us. What was missing was thinking about the curriculum journey they had already experienced, and we didn’t think enough about sequencing the curriculum, for example. I think we’ve come a long way in recent years, and there’s now some nuanced thinking about the curriculum for pupils in AP.

I find it helpful to compare the curriculum in mainstream schools as being like a plane flight. The curriculum in mainstream which can be planned, and pupils encounter the milestones over the key stages to a destination at the end. In alternative provision, it’s more like a bus route. We have a beginning and an end, and we plan for that. However, there are many stops in between, and pupils can get on and off the ‘bus’ at any moment. This means that the quality of the journey is massively important. It might be a one stop short journey, or it might turn into a lengthy journey. This means it is crucial that we plan that whole route well and sequence it carefully. The short stops need to be well planned and sequenced as well. We’ve got to give our pupils a rich experience, for however long they’re with us.

When they get off the bus and hopefully and return to mainstream or another setting, we aim for them to be able to join and leave at any moment and this is through a knowledge rich curriculum.

MM: That’s a very helpful way of framing the curriculum for young people in AP. How do you go about planning for this?

AW: When we are planning for the medium term, we make sure that the distance between the two stops is very rich and is not dependent on previous stops. It means that pupils get a solid experience of a topic in depth and we plan the topics in a cycle. This means for pupils staying with us for more than three terms, they will revisit the same concepts but at a deeper level. The units are underpinned by a degree of repetition and knowledge retrieval. Pupils are able to hop on and hop off depending on the length of time they are with us because the sequence is cyclical rather than going towards a single endpoint.

For example, identity is a theme that we look at in autumn because identity is huge for our children; they often come to us quite confused about who they are and have quite often been rejected for who they are and how they behave. We explore identity with them, and we do this through a lot of the subjects, including English, humanities and PSHE. We aim for the theme to be interweaved across the subjects so that their depth of knowledge, experience and understanding is likely to be more coherent.

You can pre-order a copy of AP Huh here.

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