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Alternative provisions can be beneficial when the right support is in place. An engaging curriculum is imperative to encourage reluctant learners to reignite their enthusiasm for education.

What does an engaging curriculum entail? Following guidance, the curriculum should encompass a broad and balanced with sequenced lessons for students. Ofsted’s school inspection handbook outlines how inspectors will consider:

“the extent to which leaders ensure that pupils benefit from a well-planned and sequenced, well-taught, broad and balanced curriculum”

Extending educational possibilities for students can transcend their knowledge and understanding of particular topics, they must get the right support, at the right place, at the right time.

EDClass spoke to Dr Catherine Brennan, an independent consultant and professional trainer in SEND, safeguarding, alternative provision and behaviour. Dr Brennan gained her PhD in literature from the University of Aberystwyth and has worked in supply teaching and for a charity supporting students who struggled to succeed in mainstream education.

Dr Brennan said:

“Students deserve the best, they deserve the best possible opportunities and it’s on us to provide those. It’s our responsibility as the adults and professionals to find solutions. It’s on us to develop curricula which are broad and balanced, which are meaningful and relevant to the students.”

It is important to integrate a curriculum that properly tracks students’ learning efficiently and effectively. Areas for improvement need to be highlighted for students so they can learn appropriate material that accommodates their specific needs and learning styles.

Focus on the specific needs of students

Alternative provisions should be places of personal development and prioritise positive reintegration and should not be looked at as permanent destinations. Essentially, schools should look at implementing a curriculum that is specific to the needs of students and integrate pathways of learning that will support them on their journeys.

Dr Brennan stated:

“As part of my work now we’re looking at the AP improvement plan and trying to work out how and when that’s going to impact. So, what I think about curriculum is that it’s not enough just to engage children and have great experiences with them. The child’s experience has to be warm and relaxed with authentic relationships. Our work must also enable them to make progress in line with their aspirations – and to be able to evidence that is massively important.”

Building rapport with students is crucial. Students need to feel valued and understood about their doubts, worries and anything affecting them. Students will be thankful for a provision and curriculum that addresses their needs and they may cherish one where positive educational experiences have been created for them.

Dr Brennan said:

“They deserve to learn, they deserve to achieve, they deserve to understand themselves as learners who can succeed. Most of the children I’ve worked with haven’t ever had that before. So much about what we do is a social pedagogic approach which relies on authentic relationships with the children. It’s about co-creation of outcomes together.”

Students won’t engage with their learning if mutual respect hasn’t been generated. Therefore, a combination of positive relationships and high-quality content can enable students to have better outcomes when they are in alternative provisions.

In addition to this, the best possible outcomes for students need to be fixated on. The curriculum that students learn needs to have end goals and continuous assessment throughout so that their knowledge can be tested.

Use the advantages of online facilities for engaging curriculum 

The importance of EdTech within the education sector now cannot be unnoticed. Schools and students can both benefit from using technology and curriculum and can also be supported more efficiently.

Online alternative provisions can also greatly benefit students with anxiety, medical absences or any other reason. Dr Brennan stated when referring to her experience when deploying the use of online alternative provisions:

“There were some children who really thrived. Some responded well to the lack of distraction and the focus that it afforded them. For these children online learning worked incredibly well, and they were far more productive online than they’d ever been in a classroom.

I’ve learned enough to understand that there are limitless possibilities. I’m far more confident that tech has to be part of it, that online has to be part of what we do than I was pre-2020.”

Online learning has the potential to break barriers to learning and let children reach their full potential. Curriculum can easily be implemented online with alternative provisions, it’s just ensuring that the provider chosen has the best solutions possible for these students.

Dr Brennan added:

“I think reflective practice is key. I think we have to be continuously reflective in our work in order to generate consistent best practice. I also think collaboration is crucial. I think an openness and an outward-facing approach to the world is important – having relationships with other professionals and understanding what’s out there is the way forward.”

Integrate an effective online alternative provision

EDClass is an effective online alternative provision solution that can support students with specific needs and assist with their personal development all whilst implementing an engaging curriculum.

Schools and MATs can implement their curriculum into the system with an innovative tracking and pathway system that evidences progress and provides effective teaching and learning.

Students can learn from over 17,000 lessons in core subjects from foundational to key stage 4 with other subjects embedded. In addition to this, students can acquire one-to-one support from UK-qualified teachers.

If you would like to learn more about an online alternative provision that can provide an engaging curriculum call 01909 568338, send an email to or book a free online demonstration here.

EDClass would like to extend its gratitude to Dr Catherine Brennan for providing her insight into alternative provisions and how curriculum can be made more engaging.

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