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Pre-Formal Sensory

Pre Formal curriculum overview Sensory


Joanna Grace described pre-formal learners as ‘’sensory beings’’. Successful teaching and learning experiences for all the pre-formal learners need to be multisensory. Pupils need access to a wide range of sensory stimuli that are presented in motivating, accessible ways. There is a careful balance between providing new and exciting experiences and allowing pupils to become familiar with sensory inputs so that they can learn from them.

Many of the pupils on the pre-formal curriculum pathway will have specific sensory needs. These may be impairments that need to be supported such as visual impairment, hearing impairment or multisensory impairment or sensory diet needs that have to be addressed so that the pupils are able to optimise learning.


A rich sensory environment.

Classrooms provide a reactive sensory environment for learning and include

Visual stimulus – displays, mobiles, lights, sensory art sessions, sensory room

Auditory stimulus – varied music to listen to, music sessions that include instruments and singing, sounds of intent work, sound cues, quiet times, sensory room

Tactile stimulus – massage, dance massage, sensory cooking, sensory art, messy play, position boards,

Stimulus of taste and smell – use of smell cues, massage, sensory cooking, messy play

Vestibular/ proprioceptual  stimulus – PE activities, rebound, hydrotherapy, dance,

Learning outside the classroom   Daily opportunities to be outside, on the school grounds and in the wider community.

To maximise engagement most activities presented to pupils will be multisensory in nature, for example

  • Sensory stories
  • Sensory drama
  • Sensology
  • Dance massage

Sensory impairment

Many of the pre-formal pupils who have sensory deficits have a cortical loss. We support these pupils to develop skills in looking and in listening by providing highly structured learning opportunities to help them learn to

  • Fixate
  • Track
  • Accommodate
  • Move attention between stimuli
  • Look or listen to choose

Positive Looking provides a clear framework to develop these learning opportunities.

Sensory diet

Many pupils on the pre-formal pathway have significant difficulties in regulating their sensory needs. We acknowledge that in order to learn these pupils need to be able to regulate themselves by taking part in a diet of sensory activities. These sensory diet activities are woven into the pupils’ school day and are planned in conjunction with an OT.

Care Routines

Pre formal learners need a high level of support throughout the school day to manage their care needs. These care routines are not seen as sitting outside the curriculum, they provide valuable learning opportunities.

Curriculum coverage

Pupils with a sensory deficit will have a session each day around this need.

Planning for sensory diet needs will be integral to daily planning and reflected in STP.

All pupils will have a daily multisensory story activity.

All pupils will have 1 session per week of

  • Music
  • Sensory Art/ creativity
  • Sensory cooking/ messy play

Sensory sessions have a process, not a product focus.


The impact of learning opportunities is assessed on an ongoing daily basis through careful staff observation. Learning is evidenced using video and photographs. From September 2021 impact will be evidenced using the Evidence for Learning online system. We acknowledge that high levels of engagement are essential to optimise progress and use the engagement model to allow us to modify experiences and approaches for our pupils to support them in maximising their engagement.  We expect at least 2 observations each week for each pupil using the engagement model and use the approach as a basis for our moderation process.

We work collaboratively with parents and other professionals including VI, HI and MSI teachers and OTs to set long-term targets as part of pupil EHCP reviews. If pupils’ have a sensory loss or significant sensory diet needs they have an EHCP target and an individual plan for learning in this area.