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How can we support and celebrate progress for children with complex learning needs?

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It can be challenging to work within the structure of the EYFS and Development Matters when teaching and learning with children with special needs. We want to show progress, but how can we do that when the child’s successes are evidenced in steps that are significant to them, but are small and not easily recordable within the standard framework?

Stephen Kilgour, SEND Advisor and Outreach Teacher at Tapestry has created the Cherry Garden Branch Maps to support teachers, SEND children and their families. Named after, and used by, the outstanding Cherry Garden special school in London for children with severe and complex learning needs, the Branch Maps are designed to offer a child-centred, flexible approach to assessment.

The Branch Maps allow you to record the uniqueness of a child’s learning pathway. In Early Years we know that learning is not linear, it meanders, moves forwards, sideways, perhaps takes a step back or misses one out altogether. Some leaps will be enormous, some will be the lightest tiptoe. This is also true, and all the more so, for children with special educational needs. Timage.pngheir progress is demonstrated in those lateral moves or those smallest steps.

Using the Branch Maps, you can select the areas to assess in that are most appropriate for a child. For example, you may focus on the PSED sections and not use the PD branches, because the child you are working with is developing within the EYFS/National Curriculum stages for PD.

Stephen has also been working with the developers at Tapestry to create an interactive version of the Branch Maps. The result is the Cherry Garden Framework, offering digital visualisations for staff and parents to celebrate the progress their unique children are making.

You can read more about the Branch Maps and Cherry Garden in this FSF article, including free downloadable versions of the Maps and tutorials about how to enable the Cherry Garden if you are using Tapestry.

Stephen Kilgour worked at Cherry Garden School, an outstanding special school in London for children with severe and complex learning needs, for 11 years, 7 of those as Deputy Head Teacher. He now lives in Newcastle with his young family.

Edited by Jules

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