Last Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A creative and nurturing curriculum for complex needs - St Columba’s High School

What is this?

​Creative planning built around the young person. The plan was devised in full consultation with the pupil and parent/carer, looking carefully at what is going well and where change needs to happen with the aim of:

  • building a bespoke support package around the needs and interests of the young person
  • supporting making better choices in terms of behaviour and self-regulation strategies
  • creating a safe, consistent environment with familiar staff
  • helping the young person to understand their emotions and find ways of dealing with them
  • fostering trust and improved relationships with key adults
  • promoting improved communication and partnership working with parents/carers
  • developing core and life-skills to help young people towards a positive destination.

Who is this for?

​This exemplar will be useful to all secondary practitioners looking to further develop inclusive practice.

How to use this exemplar to improve practice?

This exemplar could be used as an example of how a personalised and targeted curriculum can be built around the needs of a young person. The young person has complex needs and has a range of agency input to support the school and family. The exemplar highlights how an intensive programme, involving nurture support, creative curriculum strategies and selective curriculum inputs, can make a difference to the outcomes of one pupil.

Improvement questions

  • How can we ensure consistency of approach across the school – in all faculties/departments?
  • How do we improve our knowledge and understanding of the support available through partner agencies to address the needs of the learners?
  • What CPD opportunities can we offer staff to improve inclusion and curriculum accessibility?
  • How can we further improve and develop partnership with parents/carers?
  • Have we successfully established an inclusive learning environment? How do we know?

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What was done?

An individualised and targeted timetable has been built around the young person at St Columba’s High School. The pupil continues to attend timetabled classes which are going well. Where areas of difficulty were identified, additional supports have been put in place. A Nurture Base has been created to provide a safe, consistent and predictable environment. Activities have been carefully planned around the young person’s interests. Support remains consistent with two key members of staff assigned to support the young person. Classes such as life-skills, cookery, outdoor learning, and RUTS Bicycle Project have helped to engage and motivate the young person. Communication with home is daily. School and carers work together to encourage and support the young person and share successful strategies.


Through discussion and reflection we recognised that a ‘traditional’ school timetable does not meet the needs of all pupils. We recognised that we did not have effective support in place to meet the needs of some young people affected by stress. We wanted to be creative, reflective and flexible when planning support for our young people who are struggling with their timetabled classes.

What was the impact?

  • Reduced incidences of classroom disruption.
  • Ensures a calmer working environment.
  • Allows the young person time to think about and verbalise their emotions and reflect on their behaviour.
  • Supports the young person in making better choices.
  • Helps the young person re-engage with learning and have a more positive attitude towards school.
  • Supports the young person in developing key skills and feeling more confident about their ability to achieve.