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Brentwood College

Skills For Life

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Functional Skills

Maths, English and, for students working at lower levels, communication and calculation are taught functionally across the curriculum to increase students’ skills, knowledge and independence. Opportunities are taken in all areas of the curriculum to maintain and develop functional skills and for students to learn concepts that enable this, for example, how to use money. Progress is recorded and evidenced by teachers on our small steps assessment system and in addition students keep any work produced in students’ work folders.


Teachers and support staff identify where functional maths, English, communication and calculation concepts can be delivered across the curriculum.  Students have an initial baseline assessment in these areas from which appropriate and challenging targets are set.  This contextualises the learning within subject areas.


Students are supported to develop appropriate communication strategies according to their needs, which may include speech, symbols and photographs, sign and assistive technologies. All students have communication targets and we work alongside the Speech and Language team to develop their communication skills. A key aim is to provide opportunities for student voice, and for our PMLD students to have choice and control in their adult lives. Progress in communication is recorded on our communication strand of our assessment system.


Examples of the specialist SEN strategies we use include: PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), Social Stories, Signalong (an adapted signing method to support the development of language), Intensive Interaction, Proloqo to go, Lego therapy, Switches and Big Macs. Increasingly, technology is used to support students and promote their independence both within college and out in the community.


Students are supported to develop social skills and encouraged to engage in appropriate social interaction. Students are given opportunities to use their functional communication in a range of situations and wherever possible to express their preferences and make choices about activities they find rewarding. The importance of learner voice is prioritised at all levels of learning.


Students are supported to use their maths, English, communication and calculation skills both within the college environment, and whilst out in the community or on work experience. Examples of maths opportunities include teaching students to understand money, and applying this understanding to transactions out in the community, and carrying out work experience in the College Café. Students will have the opportunity to increase their number skills in horticulture, counting seeds or selling produce in the farm shop. During gym sessions they will use equipment for a set period of time, or count the number of repetitions they complete. Where students have reading targets, they are encouraged to read whenever the opportunity arises, for example when reading instructions, menus or when ordering food. The college also has a reading corner which provides students with the opportunity to read books and magazines linked to their own personal interests. Those students with writing targets will be given the opportunity to write lists, work experience diaries and to complete worksheets relevant to their accredited learning.