Discovery Curriculum

The curriculum at Discovery offers a stimulating, nurturing and safe environment in which pupils can develop socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually. It is focused on ensuring that pupils are effective communicators, supporting their learning with objects of reference, Makaton, visual cues and communication aids.  

The academy aims to help every child develop as successful, happy and independent learners by:

  • providing a broad and balanced curriculum;
  • providing a safe, caring and stimulating learning environment, with a variety of educational experiences, that increases the range of pupils’ educational achievements;
  • providing a personalised approach to learning that caters for all needs and learning styles; 
  • ensuring a flexible approach to curriculum planning underpinned by the academy curriculum pathways as well as developmental and sensory curriculum foundations; 
  • developing a learning journey based on personal outcomes and intentions drawn from a range of sources and expertise to ensure progression for each pupil according to their needs; 
  • using a wide range of academic and therapeutic areas, both inside and outside, and a range of state-of-the-art resources that support learning and emotional wellbeing; and
  • promoting equal opportunities and providing access to all areas of the curriculum.

Curriculum provision and delivery

Curriculum provision at Discovery is dependent on the needs of the child.  Our philosophy is that all pupils can make great progress and that they can take control of their own learning when provision is tailored to suit need and ability.  We have high expectations of every child academically, physically and therapeutically. 

Within the Discovery curriculum, we ensure that new knowledge and skills build on what has been taught before. Careful selection and sequencing of the curriculum for individual children means focusing on the most important aspects for a child with complex SEND to learn through a personalised pathway, as well as deciding the best way to teach this. Therefore, we do not prescribe to one specific delivery approach or pedagogy, as what works for one child may not work for another.  This means that we draw on a variety of pedagogies, including traditional teaching methods for those pupils who are able to access subject specific learning.  There is a deliberate use of repetition, over learning, planned transfer of skills and knowledge as well as the teaching of generalisation.  This allows a holistic approach centred on personalised learning.

This, alongside an embedded approach to therapies and a focus on social and emotional development, supports children to build up knowledge and skills over time to develop fluency, so that by the time they leave to begin their secondary education journey, they know more, can do more and remember more.


In EYFS, the core academic curriculum is based on the early year’s foundation stage profile.  This curriculum begins at 0 years and therefore all pupils joining the academy in reception are able to access this.

The EYFS curriculum follows the principles of play based, multi-sensory and exploratory learning. Activities in each area are informed by both baseline and continuous assessment and purposefully designed to teach the foundation skills needed to progress. 

As well as the EYFS curriculum, learning intentions may be taken from a range of therapeutic sources including but not limited to, sensory integration, speech and language, BLAST and physiotherapy.


The informal curriculum is entirely personalised to need.  Knowledge is taught through a continuum of skills development as set out in the MAPP approach.   Key areas of knowledge are repeated and revisited.  In this way, repetition of learning and overlearning leads to generalisation, fluency, independence and maintenance of knowledge over time. 

For informal learners, we draw on appropriate, recognised frameworks including the Autism Education Trust framework, Mapping and Assessing Personal Progress (MAPP) as well as therapeutic intentions.

Semi-formal/semi-formal plus

For semi-formal primary stage pupils, the core academic curriculum is based on curriculum 2014 (revised national curriculum). This framework sets out the nationally recognised learning and development stages for pupils in key stages 1 and 2.  This is taught in a stage appropriate manner, using age appropriate content and personalised to each individual child or small group of children.

In the early stages of the semi-formal curriculum (year 1/2), subjects will be taught through a combination of subject experiences and the teaching of key facts (including key vocabulary) with an emphasis on knowing more and doing more, building the foundations of the semi-formal curriculum.  As pupils progress through the semi-formal curriculum, the teaching of key subject knowledge will be fully developed and pupils will know more, do more and remember more over time.

Phonics Schemes

Phonics Schemes

Discovery Special Academy have developed a phonics progression programme that is used throughout the academy.  Phase one of the programme uses a multi-sensory approach to teach children how to recognise sounds in their environment including the sounds their own voice can make. These are essential pre reading skills. Once embedded, children will be able to retrieve this learning to support them with the structured synthetic phonics approach (Read Write Inc.) in phase two.     

From phase two onwards, children follow the ‘Read, Write Inc.’ synthetic phonics scheme (link below) to develop their phonic skills of blending and segmenting at their own pace.  A range of resources complements this approach.

The Discovery phonics programme aims to build children’s speaking and listening skills in their own right as well as preparing children for learning to read by developing their phonic knowledge and skills. It sets out a detailed and systematic programme for teaching phonic skills for children, with the aim of them developing early reading skills and working towards becoming fluent readers.

To support children in reading words, all sounds within the phases are taught in a specific order and separated into sets. Each set contains some sounds with two or three letters representing one sound (digraphs and trigraphs). When teaching the children, we call these sounds ‘special friends’ and children learn that together these letters produce one sound, for example sh, th, ng, nk (in Set 1).   

During all phases, children read texts to suit the sounds and words they are learning. All books are read twice in school before being sent home to share. This supports parents when sharing a book at home and children have the opportunity to ‘show off’ their reading skills  in a different setting, encouraging them to become confident, fluent readers. Children progress through reading books at their own pace ensuring they have learnt previous sounds and words before moving on. This gives children the opportunity to retrieve embedded prior phonics knowledge as well as make connections with new learning so that reading becomes easier and enjoyable for them.

PhasePhonic Knowledge and Skills
Phase OnePhase One phonics at Discovery includes seven areas of learning (steps);  
Step 1: Sounds in my environment
Step 2: Sounds of instruments
Step 3: Using my body to make sounds
Step 4: Nursery rhymes and rhythm 
Step 5: Initial sounds
Step 6: Making sounds with my voice
Step 7: Oral blending and segmenting  
A Phase One assessment determines if children are ready to move onto Phase two of the Discovery phonics programme.
Phase Two                              

In Phase Two, children learn the corresponding sounds for the letters of the alphabet and how to blend these sounds together. This helps children to read words. Children also learn how to segment words into their separate sounds. This skill helps children to read and spell words.   
Set 1 sounds are taught in this order: m a s d ti n p g o c k u b f e l h sh r j v y w th z chq u x ng nk.   
Words in this phase include three and four sounds, some with letters representing more than one sound,  for example, ‘bell’, ‘fluff’ and ‘bucket’.    Children read Sound Blending books 1-10 and Red ‘ditty books’ with corresponding story books.  

Phase Three

In Phase Three, children are taught the following sounds whilst still practising previously taught sounds and words.
Set 2: ay  ee  igh  ow  oo  oo  ar  or  air  ir  ou  oy.  
During this phase, children are taught letter names through singing songs and using alphabet cards. This is done in isolation so children do not become confused with the sounds used in their phonics lesson.
Children read Green, purple and pink story books. Non-fiction texts also complement each colour band. 
Phase Four
Children are taught the following sounds whilst still practising previously taught sounds and words.
Set 3:   ea    oi    a-e    i-e    o-e    u-e    aw    are   ur    er   ow    ai    oa    ew    ire     ear    ure    tion     tious/cious     
Children read orange, yellow, blue and grey story books.

Links to national Frameworks

For more information about the Early Years curriculum, please follow the link below

For more information about the national curriculum, please follow the link below

For more information about our phonics scheme, please follow the link below

Key academy curriculum documents

Discovery Special Academy Curriculum 2021 - 2022
Reading Progression
Informal to formal curriculum pathways
Tees Valley Education Curriculum Intent
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