Mary Harding School Logo


A Special Needs School in the Athlone District, Cape Town.

Headmaster : Mr A Gradwell
Lower Klipfontein Road, Athlone, 7764, Cape Town, South Africa
Mary Harding School - Image Line

Functional Curriculum and Educational Phases

This section explains the school's different phases:
Functional Curriculum; Foundation Phase; Intermediate Phase;
Senior Phase; Occupation Oriented Phase

The Functional Curriculum

A Functional Curriculum is an Alternate Curriculum. It replaces either in part or the whole of the traditional mainstream curriculum that your child has been struggling with.

A Functional Curriculum is designed to teach learners which skills will allow them to function as competent and accepted adults. It is different from the traditional mainstream curriculum in that it emphasizes independent living skills, vocational skills, and above all communication and social skills.

Life skills require the learner to take into consideration another's perspective, to be self-reflective, to incorporate past experiences into current situations, and to make judgements based not only on past experiences, but also on the particular events occurring in the moment.

Learning a functional curriculum is critical to helping learners who present with intellectual impairment reach their potential as active participants in home, school and community environments. Direct instruction is given in one or more of the following areas:

  • Personal Care Skills (bathing, grooming, toileting, sexuality, medical needs)
  • Domestic Skills (shopping, cooking, laundry, housekeeping)
  • Recreational Skills (swimming, skating, bowling, exercise)
  • Community Safety Skills (street crossing, use of crosswalk, use of walk button, store recognition, public transit use)
  • Employment Skills (pre-vocational/vocational skills, work experience)
  • Behaviour Management and Social Skills (self-regulation, recognition of emotions, social awareness)
  • Modified/Functional Academics (partial integration, small group instruction in areas supporting community life, food recognition, safety signs, time, money)

The Foundation Phase

This phase accommodates learners from the age of 6 until 10 years of age.

In the Foundation Phase, children learn through play and being actively involved in experiences planned by the teacher. They also work on their own or as part of a small group. Learning is hands on and takes place through touching, seeing, hearing, exploring and experimenting.

Some of the activities that learners are exposed to are:

  • Reading books and story telling
  • Designing and creating
  • Dressing up
  • Climbing
  • Dancing
  • Doing puzzles
  • Making collages
  • Listening to and playing music
  • Painting and drawing
  • Playing with clay and play dough, blocks, sand and water

Through these learning experiences the learners will develop skills, understanding values in Mathematics, Science, Technology, Literacy, Health, Physical Education, Safety, Society, the Environment and Life Skills.

The Foundation Phase prepares your child for:

  • Social and personal learning
  • Developing early literacy and numeracy skills
  • Developing language skills
  • Learning about health and physical activities
  • Learn to work individually and in a group
  • Develop problem solving skills

The Intermediate Phase

This phase accommodates learners from the age of 10 until 13 years of age.

The Intermediate Phase has the same educational focus as the Foundation Phase. The abilities of the learners are extended and more complex Numeracy and Literacy tasks are given. Increased demands are made on learners' social skills and independence.

Teaching is often based upon themes. These themes meaningfully integrate all aspects of learning into a personalised programme that enable the learners to practically apply all the Numeracy and Literacy skills learnt, in a meaningful activity.

Theme teaching integrates basic disciplines such as reading, maths and science with exploration of a broad subject such as communities, animals, water, the use of energy and so on.

Themes teaching is based on the idea that people acquire knowledge best when learning in the context of a coherent whole and when they connect what they are learning to the real world. Some themes include, pirates, Easter, winter, books, to mention only a few.

The Intermediate phases prepares your child for:

  • Social and personal learning
  • Developing early literacy and numeracy skills
  • Develop language skills
  • Learning about health and physical activity
  • Learn to work individually and in a group
  • Think actively
  • Develop problem solving skills

The Senior Phase

This phase accommodates learners from the age of 13 until 16 years of age.

The senior phase sees the commencement of the adolescent stage of the learners. The adolescent's growing awareness of self and others makes this a particularly challenging time for both educators and parents. There is a strong emphasis on understanding the needs of the individual and that of others.

There is a strong emphasis on group work since the learner is now more actively being prepared for the world of work and the responsibilities that accompanies being an adult.

Grouping is a common teaching technique, used in all of the phases in the school. Teachers place learners together in groups within the classroom to improve the learning conditions. Traditionally, grouping has been the most effective approach to teaching reading and basic maths. The teacher follows a detailed programme of instruction and examples, and then the groups work together to respond to the questions presented to them.

Grouping allows teachers to place learners of the same achievement level together, making it easier for the teacher to work with them. On the other hand, cooperative learning groups place learners of different abilities together, so that learners within each group can help each other. These groupings are often effective in raising learners' achievement while improving interpersonal skills. Grouping has been particularly successful with hard-to-teach and fast-learning students.

Small group teaching is optimal for active learning, which is becoming regarded as an essential element at all levels of education and which typically is not present in the traditional passive lecture that is typical of the mainstream classroom.

The Occupation Orientated Phase

The age of learners in this phase is from 16 until 18 years.

The name of the phase, namely, occupation orientated is an accurate description of what occurs during the time that the learner is in this phase.

Learners are prepared in a very active and practical manner for the world of work when they leave Mary Harding School. There is a strong emphasis on the following:

  • Work skills
  • Work attitudes
  • Relationships within the working environment
  • The need for taking greater responsibility in all aspects of life
  • Taking charge of one's feelings through conflict management
  • Responsible sexual behaviour
  • Guidance on how to manage peer pressure and the influence of alcohol and drugs on behaviour
  • Strong reward for pro-social behaviour

The occupation orientated phase has forged a partnership with Workshops Unlimited and developed new approaches to preparing our learners for the world of work. This partnership also gives our learners a valuable opportunity to find possible placement at Workshops Unlimited.

The occupation orientated phase currenty has several work based contracts with outside businesses. The fact that these companies return to our school for further work to be done by our learners is a testament of the quality of teaching from the Foundation Phase all the way to the Occupation Orientated Phase.

The highlight of the year is the Graduation Farewell Ball when there is a formal goodbye to our graduates.