Pathway 2 – Pre-Formal Curriculum

Pathway 2

Young people following Pathway 2 are prone to having intricate needs, including severe learning difficulties and complex autism. They may utilise gesture and sign, symbols, and/or spoken language for communication, although all will experience severe communication challenges to varying extents, impacting both expressive and receptive skills. Complex autism is characterised by difficulties in social interaction, communication skills, sensory integration, and repetitive behaviour patterns. Often, children with autism struggle to filter input from various sources, leading to an overwhelming sensory experience. Given these complexities, it’s crucial to explore more effective ways of supporting autistic children throughout their educational journey, recognising their needs, assisting them through daily challenges, and fostering their independence.

Our Pathway 2 is summarised on this page but for more information please follow the link below.

Pathway 2 Handbook

Communication & Language

Within Pathway 2, young people engage in a pre-formal curriculum aimed at supporting them to be understood by others and to express themselves safely and effectively to the best of their abilities. At Portland Academy, we adopt a total communication approach, where we consider the preferred communication styles of young people to ensure successful expression of their wants and needs. Opportunities are provided for young people to develop functional and intentional communication skills, supported by Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) methods such as switches, gestures, signs, and pictures.

Key communication skills, including getting attention, requesting, rejecting, and seeking help, are taught and practiced in context. Individual targets are planned based on Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) assessments, Education Health Care Plans (EHCP), and personalised targets derived from relevant progression statements. Young people have access to opportunities to learn communication skills and preferred ways of communicating. Communication and language are taught through engaging themes, involving activities such as talk, communication games, storytelling, drama, and role play. Early fine motor skills are promoted to support writing development when appropriate.


Pathway 2 emphasises practical learning to encourage young people to utilise their early reasoning and problem-solving skills. They will participate in a variety of activities such as cooking, simple experiments, practical learning, and sensory experiences to foster early counting, spatial awareness, and a sense of time, change, and routine. Additionally, young people will engage in activities involving number, quantity, pattern, and change within practical contexts.

Young people will have the opportunity to follow a range of instructions presented in their preferred communication method, aiding them in independently engaging with and completing tasks. The focus revolves around repetition and revision to bolster memory and understanding, thereby promoting the development of persistence and resilience.

Personal Health & Social Education

Throughout the day young people are supported to develop self-care skills, participate in small group and activities with the aim of develop the emotional resilience needed to manage change, wait, and try new things. Topics to promote PSHE and RSE are delivered to develop students’ knowledge, understanding and preparation for adulthood. Students access a variety of role play and work experience activities to develop their participation in the word of work. Students develop enterprise skills through a variety of activities to develop purposeful employment experiences.

PSHE Pathway 2

Physical Development (Motor Development)

For young people in pathway 2 physical development incorporates movement targets linked to individual EHCP targets, movement programmes, physiotherapy, and OT programs. Being able to move and explore our environments is key to learning. Young people access a range of gross motor activities to develop fundamental movement, promote balance, coordination and body awareness based upon developmental milestones. The aim is to secure an awareness of the body in space, secure balance and coordination that enable young people to move safely and independently in their environment. 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 activities that are tailored to their needs, such as rebound therapy and hydrotherapy, where appropriate. This also supports healthy lifestyles.   Young people should access a range of physical development activity that may include, swimming, walking, running, dancing, managing obstacles, body awareness activity, balance and co-ordination skills, climbing stairs, jumping, trampolining, fitness activity, cycling and ball skills.

There are key benefits of outdoor learning: supporting the curriculum (bringing the curriculum to life); skill development (social skills, communication, exploration) and personal, social and health education (movement and well-being). We recognise the importance of varied learning environments and the need for more creativity and variety in the curriculum and the outdoors can play a vital role. For autistic young people it can reduce the sensory impact of buildings and people. The confines of an indoor classroom can often feel formal and pressurised. Young people don’t have the space they need to let off steam or to relax into the task in hand. The outdoors offers them a sense of space and freedom.