Pathway 1 – Informal Curriculum

Pathway 1

Young people on Pathway 1 are likely to have profound and multiple learning difficulties. Young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) are on a spectrum that indicates that they have profoundly complex learning needs. In addition to profound learning difficulties, they are likely, but not automatically, to have other significant difficulties such as physical disabilities, sensory impairment and/or severe medical condition(s). Consequently, it is likely they will require multidisciplinary input and support and the curriculum delivery is often facilitated on a one-to-one basis or in pairs, therefore, young people with PMLD require high levels of adult support.

Communication and Language

Within Pathway 1 young people follow an informal curriculum using highly differentiated sensory approaches to develop their communications styles. Personalised targets are based upon Footsteps and Stepping Out Assessments as well as their EHCP outcomes. We incorporate a wide range of activities to develop communication including the use of Eye Gaze, switch work, sensory stories, TAC PAC and massage. At Hope Wood Academy we focus on a total communication approach where the preferred communication styles of young people are considered to ensure they can express their wants and needs successfully. Within communication and language young people will develop skills to ensure they have an awareness of others in close proximity to them and responses to their environments. The behaviour of our young people is also closely observed so that we can encourage the smallest vocalisation or change in facial expression to communicate their wants and needs.


Early cognition will incorporate developing awareness of immediate surroundings and help young people to understand the world around them. They will learn about the predictability of things happening and the occurrence and behaviour of objects within given environments. Young people will become aware of multiple objects within their environment and develop their understanding of how these objects can be explored or manipulated, with developing purpose. Their responses to new or unfamiliar stimuli are monitored and assessed to build a picture of what each child’s positive/negative reactions look like. This enables teachers to then build a picture of our young people as individuals, so they are able to plan sessions according to each young person’s motivators.

The expressive arts can offer fantastic opportunities for communication without language necessarily being the prime means. They are also first-rate opportunities to practice inclusive teaching and learning across all intellectual ability ranges, these can include:

Drama is an excellent vehicle not only for teaching non-verbal communication – the expression of the face and the posture of the body when one is frightened for example – but also for setting this in context. Similarly, it is extremely difficult to teach language in the conventional sense to those whose language skills are cursory and usually non-existent. Overt language teaching therefore is often tokenistic and meaningless, merely causing more confusion to those who have no voice.

Art clearly has the potential to be a major vehicle for sensory and cognitive development. Care needs to be taken to ensure that young people are participants rather than merely observers (of the adults making the pretty picture!) or possibly worse, objects to do things to – supporting them to put their hands in paint in order to create a picture full of handprints for example. We need to move away from the idea of conventional paintings, and allow, encourage and facilitate our PMLD young people to make art for themselves. The key to teaching Art is that the process of undertaking the sensory experiences relating to the materials and the cognitive experiences derived from combining materials is far more important than the finished work.

Music is a fantastic medium for motivating young people of all abilities, especially if we get away from the idea of conventional tunes and allow, encourage, facilitate our PMLD young people to make musical notes for themselves. Movement to music sessions are an excellent way of building muscle memory and improving both gross and fine motor control. At its simplest this might take the form of an aerobics session where a particular piece of music indicates a particular movement. At first this movement would need to be very heavily physically supported by an adult and indeed there may be an element of considerable resistance which the adult would need to be sympathetic to. Over time however, we would be looking for a deeper understanding of what might be required, less resistance, moving towards passive co-operation, to active co-operation, to independent movement.

Personal Health & Education

PSHE encourages relationship building as well as body awareness and awareness of the world around them through planned and impromptu experiences. The aim of PSHE for pathway 1 young people is to develop a sense of self and others through developing interactions with others. To understand health care routines as well as tolerance to touch and body awareness through communication. Students should enjoy a range of movement activity that support their health and well-being. Young people encounter activities and experiences where they may be passive or resistant and participation is often fully prompted. They may have moments where they are able to focus attention on certain people, events or objects. They may give intermittent reactions to stimulation.

Physical Development (Motor Development)

Physical Development (Motor Development); incorporating movement opportunities linked to individual EHCP targets, physiotherapy and OT programmes. Young people will also have personalised positioning timetables to ensure there are regular daily opportunities to work on individual movement targets, whilst accessing tailored supportive equipment such as: standers, walkers, wedges and side lyers. Young people will develop their gross and fine motor skills, whilst using and manipulating a range of different resources. They will also access a range of sporting activities that are tailored to their needs, such as rebound and hydrotherapy, where available. The curriculum is delivered through a range of contexts starting with themselves and familiar adults and broadening to experience of their immediate environment inside and outdoors and a range of sensory experiences and access to the wider community. Activities may include: music, cooking, sensory stories, massage, art, sensory integration, switch skills, drama, movement and physiotherapy, rebound and social interaction.