Imray P, Kossyvaki L and Sissons M (eds) (2024) A Different View of Curriculum and Assessment: for profound and multiple, complex and severe learning disabilities.

London. Routledge.

This book is about children, young people and adults (CYPA) who consistently and over time, reveal themselves to be working at early, and sometimes very early developmental levels. We use the word ‘developmental’ cautiously however, because we do not mean to imply that the CYPA who are described as having global learning disabilities are the same-but-delayed.  Learning for those with PMLD, CLD and SLD (all of whom have a global learning disability – GLD) is different, precisely because we cannot base notions of progression on schedules which are founded on the development of a different population, namely neurotypical conventionally developing infants and children.

We have used the commonly understood UK descriptors of PMLD (profound and multiple learning disabilities) and SLD (severe learning disabilities), and to these we have added a new descriptor, CLD (complex learning disabilities). Since a National Curriculum (NC) was instituted in the UK in 1988, all 21 authors’ teaching experience has come (officially at least) entirely within it. Although all schools and all teachers and TAs within these schools have tried to make the best of the NC2, all 21 authors reject it as an appropriate model. Irrespective of the level of differentiation, all national curriculums remain academic, upwardly linear in progression and start at levels that confound all but the highest achievers amongst those with global (rather than specific) learning disabilities.

Learners must achieve a level of fluent mastery in both literacy and numeracy merely to engage with the other subjects, never mind succeed within them. This is described in the levels achieved by neuro-typical 10/11 year olds, which seems to be the universally accepted age to move from the primary (generalist) phase to the secondary (specialist) phase of education. In other words, the purpose of any NC is to achieve at least the levels attained by the end of the primary phase, and if this cannot be attained by an individual because of the depth of their learning disability, the curriculum must axiomatically, be purposeless.

In response to this, Equals, a not-for-profit charity based in England, has over a five year period between 2016 to 2021, developed a multi-tiered curriculum model relating to PMLD, CLD and SLD. References to these separate, but very much related, curricula are common throughout the book and we make no apologies for this; schools cannot be expected to deliver the different curricula this book argues for, if there are no different curricula available. We have made no particular effort to go into the considerable detail and depth held within each curriculum (they are all available at and free downloads can also be had of the Basic Principles of all of the very detailed schemes of work by application to the lead author3) but it should be noted that these are all-age curricula, and are certainly not confined to school age alone. The descriptors are fairly obvious, and the arrows relate to any defining characteristics being fuzzier at the edges; it is therefore possible that some learners working at the edges of the definitions noted below may be working within more than one curriculum for some or all of the time.

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