Alternative Curriculum

The alternative curriculum at White Trees Independent School.

As each of our students has a curriculum constructed to suit their interests, aptitudes and abilities, we dip into a wide range of learning opportunities. Many of these are ones that students may not have access to in mainstream settings. Currently our students are learning both on our school site near Bishops Stortford, but also at Writtle College, at a local stables with which we have grown a learning link, Pet’s Corner and a variety of other places described below.

Keeper for the day at Colchester Zoo

We have been lucky to have been able to organise whole day experiences of being a keeper for the day at Colchester Zoo. This has allowed our students to have a hands on experience behind the scenes at the zoo, preparing food for and hand feeding some of the animals. These have ranged from hyenas to leopards and penguins. As a result of these experiences we have adopted a tiger and an orang-utan.

Theatre visits

We love going to London to the theatre, and we have also been lucky enough to go on a back stage tour to see the costumes and meet the actors from Wicked. As well as going to the theatre we went to the British Music experience at O2 before it closed, where we recorded our own moves to classic British music tracks.

Pet’s Corner at Harlow

Our students are able to take part in the certificated courses on small animal care, at Pet’s Corner, where they are taught how to care for all the animas both small and large. They are able to work with snakes, horses and even the ‘TOWIE’ micro pig that turned out not to be quite so micro! Work here involves both practical and theory work

OCR, Assessments and much more at WhiteTrees

2017 has seen White Trees become an accredited OCR centre to deliver Functional Skills in Maths, English and ICT, additional to this Becky & her deputy have linked White Trees with Skills Builder one of the most comprehensive e-learning solutions for functional skills and GCSE that incorporates Ofsted compliant assessments. It was a real joy to see our confident post 16 students leave White Trees in July with formal qualifications, having also secured themselves college placements on the back of their qualifications. Becky and Lukas strongly believe these achievements were a direct response to White Trees providing a safe and secure learning environment, subsequently creating successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens. Who are now embarking onto further education.

White Trees delivers education both at the school, but also away from the setting, catering for the variety of behaviours that our students present. No two days are ever the same, students are offered a bespoke package, which will include maths & English, and can include cookery, art, work experience and music lessons, boxing, gym, kick boxing, swimming or trampolining. There is also opportunity to gain additional qualifications like this year’s student body who left with a first aid qualification. Educational trips and access to the wider curriculum in the form of ‘Topic work’ is available, building in science, history and geography and some social action projects like this year’s link with the Essex Braintree food bank and wider projects like our Christmas shoe box appeal with young people living in very rural Kabale in South Western Uganda. We cover a variety of PHSE topics that are very applicable to our cohort such as:

  • Personal and online safety
  • Sexual health
  • Health relationships
  • Positive body image, self-esteem, emotional health, anger management, and positive thinking
  • Resilience and adapting to change
  • Dealing with stress and anxiety
  • Substance misuse and awareness including alcohol, drugs and smoking
  • The criminal justice system
  • Self harm

White Trees is flexible in their approach and the teaching team are skilled in adapting their planning to suit the changing mood and cooperation levels of the students they are presented with.

Learning beyond the classroom

As an organisation we believe that beyond the school gates lie treasures which can be used to engage young people in learning. We try as much as possible to make our learning rooted in real situations and contain a healthy mix of book based learning and active learning. PSHEe is the foundation for our planning as we aim to help our students develop skills they have and those they haven’t realised yet.

Physical activity

We encourage physical activity in as broad a sense as we can. We have a structured swimming morning once a week, which is run by a trained swimming instructor on the staff. Programmes are tailored to individual needs. We take the students cycling, assault course training and we have a small garden project too. To us physical activity is part of a healthy lifestyle for all, and is not just competitive sport.

Holiday activities

School may be out for summer, but we keep in touch with our students through the offer of exciting activities they can take part in during the holidays. This summer we have an offer of Rock climbing and bouldering at Mile End, Quad biking at Danbury and Free running. These activities are developed in response to student discussions.