About Us

The Pod


In proactive measures to accommodate the growing number of children with complex needs that are on role at our school we have developed the Pod provision. Children in the Pod are considered to be accessing the Pre-Formal Pathway at Priory.

The Pod has now been successfully running for 4 years and has supported many children either to transition into specialist settings or to integrate back into mainstream.

This is a provision designed to support (currently 17) children who are struggling to manage/thrive in the mainstream classroom. These children will all be in receipt or in the process of an EHCP.Our Experience shows us that a substantial number of these children will need to access special school provision long term.

Who can access the Pod?

For children from the Reception intake, information is gathered from visits to nurseries, conversations with supporting adults and baseline data to determine suitability of placement.

For children who are currently in school, information is gathered via conversations with staff, SENDCo’s, in school data and SLT to determine suitability of placement.

Children accessing the Pod must have an EHCP in final or in Process.

A panel will then meet from SLT, SENDCo and Pod lead to review each child using the entry/exit criteria developed for the Pod. Please refer to the Admissions Policy for the Pod.

The Pod is line managed by the SENDCo for EYFS/KS1 with support from the Deputy Head for EYFS/KS1 and KS2 SENDco.

We look to reintegrate children into their mainstream classrooms when sufficient progress has been made and it is deemed appropriate to do so. This often requires 1:1 support initially to ensure a successful transition. The length of time this takes is dependent on the needs of the children reintegrating.

Children have successfully reintegrated back into their mainstream home classes with a better set of skills and higher levels of independence.


The Pod Lead is a Thrive practitioner with experience in teaching special needs children with autism and complex needs for over 20 years.

The Pod have 7 staff to support the 17 children who are currently accessing the Pod. 6 are full time and 1 post is full time but fulfilled by 2 part time adults.

All staff who work in the Pod have weekly CPD delivered by the Pod Lead and supported by the SENDCo who line manages the Pod.


 For all children accessing the Pod it is essential that they have access to a specialised curriculum in order to ensure their needs are met. Functional skills are a core focus for all children in the Pod to develop independence and skills needed for life.

The Pod is divided into two rooms, the Orca room has been organised to specifically support the Engagement model and EYFS curriculum for those children who benefit from that way of learning. This group have a sensory rich curriculum that supports their development appropriately. The Dolphin room is supporting the pre-formal curriculum also, however more of a focus is on Pre-key stage learning outcomes.

Both rooms are using the 7C’s assessment model developed by Judith Carter. This assessment framework allows staff to support the children’s learning and development through a strengths based approach which captures wider aspects of a child’s educational experience. The 7C’s are made up of 7 areas with a total of 7 sub categories in each area. Totaling 49 areas of opportunity to capture a child’s progress. These are measured each term and progress is measured through smaller detailed steps.

For all children in The Pod there is a detailed class visual timetable that is interacted with throughout each day. The children also have their own visual supports to help them access a lesson/activity or transition. We have adopted a Total Communication approach to support children using objects of reference, Widgit symbols, Makaton, communication boards.

The 17 children that access the pod take part in activities such as suitcase time (attention autism) special time (thrive) singing, story beat (rhythm and repetitive pattern stories) as well as continuous provision, RWI, maths and literacy.

Soft Start

Each morning the children begin their day with some physical activity outside for 5 minutes, this could be on the Gym equipment, bikes, swing, balls etc. Then all the children come into their rooms in the Pod and access some set out activities to settle them into the day. The children may choose which activity they would like, however it has to be one of the ones that is out. All children will receive some 1:1 from an adult during the soft start. The activities that have been put out for children may include some fine motor activities, sound recognition, turn taking games with adult support, construction, puzzle, problem solving/maths.


During soft start some adults will be focusing on supporting the children with specific targets from their EHCP, SALT targets or learning plans. Other planned opportunities for Therapy are made during the week also. The Pod lead will have planned activities that will support a child with these specific targets, over the course of the year they will change and new focus will be planned for. Records are kept of the activities and progress made. Therapy is nearly always 1:1.


Literacy is supported in the Pod through story. Carefully planned and considered stories are used for ‘Story Beat’ with a heavily sensory rich focus for the children accessing the Engagement Model.


Fine motor development is an integral part of writing development and for all children they have the opportunity to access daily dough disco. Many other planned opportunities to support fine motor development are planned in throughout the year. All children have daily opportunities to mark make and use tools to support writing.

For the children who are accessing pre-key stage learning they may have further planned opportunities for writing and functional real life reasons to write. RWI supports the development of letter writing alongside reading.


Read, Write Inc (RWI) is taught daily in the Pod, even for the children who are accessing the Engagement Model, it is an opportunity to sit and listen and engage in something adult led, for many of our children this is a challenge.

Reading expectations are bespoke for each child and staff have opportunities for regular 1:1 reading during the week. Guided reading for children is individualised and staff are highly skilled to support reading through different means. For some children they work with adapted books based on interests and motivations. This is proving to be an effective way to support early reading.


Maths is again for some children around the pre-key stage standards and these are worked on with links to real life maths opportunities where possible.

Other children benefit from a sensory or song based approach to learning functional maths skills. This is done in line with the Engagement Model, EYFS and/or Pre-Key stage expectations. Functional maths is a vital life skill the Pod staff support throughout the day through hands-on and practical experiences.


All children have access to a PE specialist who plans for and makes adaptations to the PE curriculum to meet the needs of all learners in the Pod. The Pod staff support this specialist lesson using the skills they have in order to meet the needs of individual children. For some children they may need to wear headphones to manage the noise of the hall, or for some moving to a different space in school can be challenging so a green and red individualised board is needed.

In addition to PE sessions, the children have regular access to large sensory circuits in the Hall. Most mornings during soft start a smaller sensory circuit is put out in the corridor in the Pod.


Children in the Pod have access to specialist music that is delivered by our music lead across the school year. This has been tailored to suit the needs of the children who access the Pod.


Cooking is a vital life skill that all young people need in order to be able to live independently in adult life. This is a valuable skill that we want to grow for the children accessing the Pod. We are keen to have

Outside Learning

The outdoor learning environment is currently being enhanced and developed. Children will have access to a purpose built sensory cabin and investment in specialist outdoor equipment is being purchased. The outdoor area is a key learning resource for children to develop their gross motor skills among other important skills such as co-operation, turn taking and independence.


Snack is an important motivator for communication and is a valuable session that is timetabled in daily. Children have access to PECs and communication boards, they are able to independently request and select their own snack. Children have access to a wide range of healthy snacks each day.

Quiet Time

Meditation and mindfulness are vital to support regulation in the Pod. Several opportunities are provided to ground and regulate the children after/before certain transitions each day. Children have visual and sound stimulation at this time and staff using visuals and timers to support the children to access the session successfully.

Attention Autism

‘Suitcase’ time is used in the Pod to engage and promote attention for children. This a key opportunity for children to engage in adult led sessions that are designed to motivate and engage them using sensory resources and actions. All children have regular opportunities to access these sessions. These sessions encourage communication, social interaction, attention, turn taking and engagement.

PECS and communication

A ‘Total Communication’ approach is used in the Pod. Children are encouraged to use visuals/PECs to support their communication needs. Visuals are used throughout the day in the Pod and communication core boards are in key areas of the classroom. Choice boards are in use in the Ocra room to support the needs of these children where verbally communicating may not be present. Intensive interaction is used in the Orca room to engage and connect with individual children.

Thrive Fridays

Thrive is used all day everyday in the Pod, in every interaction that is had with a child, staff are supporting Thrive. Fridays are special in the Pod where a day is dedicated to Thrive. For most of our children they are at ‘being’ in their Thrive assessment. Through skilled teaching on Friday’s staff are able to plan and deliver activities to enable children to make Social and Emotional progress in order to support their EHCP and personal learning plan targets.

Below is a list of strategies used to support children accessing learning in the Pod (please note this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Attention Autism
  • Speech and Language
  • PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System)
  • Sensory Circuits
  • Visual Timetables
  • Individual Work Stations where appropriate
  • Tactile/Moon/Braile
  • Sensory Integration
  • Intensive Interaction
  • Now & Next boards
  • Green & Red boards
  • Makaton
  • Mobility & Orientation
  • Life Skills



 The Pod summative assessments are made termly and are supportive of the judgements made throughout the term.

As mentioned above the 7Cs developed by Judith Carter is a key assessment tool for the Pod as it assesses many other functional aspects of a child’s development.

Also where appropriate in relation to age some children may be assessed using the Pre-key stage standards.

The Engagement model is used more widely in the Pod now with many children accessing this way of learning, observations are made using the 5 areas in this model, however judgements are professional narratives rather than attainment measures.

Some children may be accessing the EYFS curriculum and this is assessed termly also.

In addition EHCP annual Reviews are also held to formatively feedback to families on progress towards the EHCP outcomes.