A contemporary curriculum

The School’s curriculum is based on Ruskin Mill Trust’s Practical Skills Therapeutic Education (PSTE) approach to human development, which has been established through the Trust’s more than thirty years of work with special needs children and young people. Download the curriculum overview here.

The children and young people begin their educational journey of PSTE through an experience of the world and then use this experience as the basis for their physical, intellectual, and spiritual development.

Children and young people are supported to learn as much as possible outside of the classroom, participating in crafts, farming, gardening, and the exploration of nature. From these experiences, individuals come to understand the larger world and their place in it, along with the connections between themselves and their community.

On their journey, children and young people are supported to develop the skills that will enable them to regulate their behaviour and emotions, focus their attention, develop relationships, and to make a meaningful contribution to their community. The result is that each individual develops a new sense of confidence, self-worth, and their own potential.

Planning and assessment

All children and young people have a carefully planned programme of study, developed through collaboration between the education, land, therapy, and care teams, along with the child and young person’s family and wider support network. Each child and young person has termly learning aims in all areas of their education, including maths, science, English, independent living, in addition to their Education, Health, and Care Plan outcomes. These aims are tailored to the needs of each individual in order to assure that they are meaningful, achievable, and ambitious. Progress is regularly assessed to ensure that each individual is moving towards the level of independence that their abilities and aspirations allow.

Class groups

The typical individual level of need means that children and young people each require individualised attention from trained educational professionals, and so class sizes are small, often consisting of groups of only three or four individuals with a teacher and appropriate levels of teaching assistants and support staff. In addition to allowing for individualised attention, classes are designed to foster healthy interactions between peers at a similar level, leading to the development of social skills and peer relationships.

Beginning with the safe and supportive space of the classroom, children and young people are encouraged to develop confidence through moving further into the outdoors, whether in the school’s garden, woodland, farm, or craft workshops.

Through supportive programmes, each individual is challenged to encounter new sensory experiences, which will give them confidence and provide the basis for their educational and therapeutic development. By engaging in activities that have real meaning and purpose, children and young people develop a sense of belonging and of their ability to contribute to their community.

Outdoor Learning

The children and young people spend as much time as possible outside of the classroom, exploring and learning in the natural world. The site and the curriculum are oriented to continually challenge our children and young people to venture further into the world and learn increasingly complex skills, while simultaneously ensuring that they have the appropriate support to remain safe and engaged in learning.

Over the course of their journey, children and young people move further from their classroom and towards the surrounding community, working with highly skilled land and outdoor skills tutors to develop their sensory, emotional, and cognitive profiles and abilities in line with their individual outcomes and aspirations.

A Seasonal Curriculum

The academic year is driven by the seasons and educational teams adjust the delivery of education in relation to the opportunities given by the changing environment. This learning is reinforced and deepened through festivals and seasonal celebrations to which the children and young people contribute and in which they participate. By linking the curriculum to the movement of the seasons, he children and young people develop a sense of time and sequence, as well as their place within a larger cycle of how our culture adapts to the changing of the seasons.

Outdoor learning diagram


Sunfield offers AIM accredited qualification pathways for individuals for whom these pathways are appropriate.


We believe that it is important to always remember that the children and young people we work with are continuously moving towards their life beyond the school. From their fourteenth year onward, each student has a transition plan consisting of the pathways, skills, and steps required to enable them to transition successfully to their next placement, whether in education, care, or the world of work.

We work closely with our children and young people, their families, and their larger support network to ensure that students are learning the skills that are necessary to achieve their outcomes and aspirations.

A holistic approach

The result of our holistic planning and unique curriculum is that children and young people develop as both students and people. We believe that education is about more than academics, and is instead about looking at each individual’s needs and how these can be transformed into developing their potential to be happy and healthy members of their community.

Special Education Needs Progress

All Sunfield learners have a significant level of special education need as outlined in their Education, Health, and Care Plans. Sunfield plans and assesses progress towards the four areas of special education need (Cognition and Learning, Communication and Interaction, Sensory, Motor, and Physical, and Social, Emotional, and Mental Health) using a system of termly targets linked to EHCP outcomes. Progress towards these outcomes is assessed on a half-termly basis.

Progress towards independence in the areas of special education need is assessed in relation to Sunfield’s Being-Exploring-Contributing framework.

In addition, all pupils are assessed in terms of engagement and overall progress on a half-termly basis in order to ensure that Sunfield’s Practical Skills Therapeutic Education curriculum is meeting their current needs and is ambitiously planned in relation to their holistic development.

Academic Progress

Understanding each individual child or young person is the core of our approach to assessing pupil progress. Over the course of the 2019-20 academic year, Sunfield students’ academic progress was measured against one of three assessment frameworks – Milestones, Progression Steps or P Levels. This suite of frameworks allows for accurate measuring of progression depending on the needs of each student.

Sunfield’s indiviudalised approach resulted in all students making progress against their start point within English, Maths and Science in 2019-20. We recognise that for some students, progress may appear incremental; however, all progress at Sunfield is acknowledged and celebrated according to the abilities of the individual learner, meaning apparently small progress in terms of age-related expectations can be a huge achievement for a particular Sunfield pupil.


2019-20 achievement

Students achieved 19 qualification units in 2019-20 through OCN qualifications and ASDANs.

Units are the component parts that make up a full qualification. By achieving units our students can accredit the learning and personal development they undertake through Ruskin Mill Trust’s Practical Skills Therapeutic Education method.

Sunfield offers the following qualifications as part of our land and craft based Practical Skills Therapeutic Education curriculum:

Vocational Qualifications


Sunfield offers students aged 14+ the opportunity to achieve OCN accredited qualifications in Skills for Living and Work and Personal Progress.

Examples of the units in progress for students during 2020/21 are:

  • Working with animals
  • Textiles – Weaving
  • Engaging in New Creative Activities
  • Breadmaking
  • Textiles – Felting
  • Sowing seeds
  • Preparing Drinks and snacks


Students aged 12+ can undertake ASDAN qualifications at Sunfield. Examples of units in progress for students are working during 2020/21 are:

  • Travel within the community
  • Taking part in daily routines
  • Early Mathematics
  • Developing community participation skills
  • Developing skills for the workplace
  • Engaging with the world around you

Functional Skills

All students aged 14 and over are able to achieve Functional Skills qualifications in English and Maths at Sunfield. These are delivered from Entry 1 to Level 2, and students will be given the opportunity to progress through these levels.