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Routes for Learning

Routes for Learning materials support practitioners in assessing learners with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD). They focus on learners’ early cognitive development, their communication and social interaction skills, and their interaction with the environment.

The Routes for Learning materials were first published in 2006 and were well-received nationally and internationally. As part of our wider reform of curriculum and assessment arrangements in Wales, a range of practitioners and academic experts have worked together to update the materials. This was done to reflect the latest research in the field, as well as our new educational context.

The Routes for Learning Advisory Group were at the heart of updating the materials and we are especially grateful to members for their commitment to this work under challenging circumstances during COVID-19. An all-Wales network of schools has also played a key role in gathering videos to exemplify the descriptors on the Routemap, helping to bring these materials alive to practitioners. These schools are listed below:

  • Canolfan Addysg Y Bont
  • Crownbridge School
  • Ysgol Crug Glas
  • Ysgol Heol Goffa
  • Ysgol Heulfan: Y Canol
  • Ysgol Maes Hyfryd
  • Ysgol Maes y Coed
  • Ysgol Pen Coch
  • Queen Elizabeth High School
  • St Christopher's School
  • Ysgol Tir Morfa Community Special School
  • Ty Coch School
  • Ty Gwyn Special School
  • Ysgol Y Deri

Updating the materials has been an iterative process with draft materials published and feedback gathered in April 2019 and January 2020. The feedback received from both educational and health practitioners has been invaluable in helping to finalise the updated materials.

The Routemap provides an overview of the three strands of development: cognitive development, communication and social interaction, and environmental interaction and shows the most important milestones as orange boxes.

Every box on the Routemap is numbered for ease of reference, but although behaviours which are developmentally earlier have lower numbers the numbering does not represent an expected sequence in which behaviours are likely to be learned or in which they should be taught. Learners should not be expected to achieve them in strict numerical order.

The evidence suggests that every learner is likely to pass through the key milestones, although the routes they take may vary according to their physical, sensory and learning needs.

Here, you will find the Routemap along with an explanatory note which outlines the changes made during the updating process.

  • Routemap pdf 1.11 Mb This file may not be accessible. If you need a more accessible version of this document please email digital@gov.wales. Please tell us the format you need. If you use assistive technology please tell us what this is
  • Routemap explanatory note pdf 353 Kb This file may not be accessible. If you need a more accessible version of this document please email digital@gov.wales. Please tell us the format you need. If you use assistive technology please tell us what this is

The interactive Routemap brings the Routemap itself, the content of the assessment booklet and the exemplification videos together at the click of a button.

The assessment booklet below provides practical support on how to use the Routemap through examples of assessment activities, teaching strategies and an indication of what to look for when assessing. It is presented according to 12 themes.

  • Assessment booklet pdf 1.12 Mb This file may not be accessible. If you need a more accessible version of this document please email digital@gov.wales. Please tell us the format you need. If you use assistive technology please tell us what this is

Below you will find videos exemplifying 38 of the Routemap milestones and boxes. They are arranged according to the 12 themes that are reflected in the assessment booklet.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on schools, we have been unable to work with practitioners and learners over this last year to complete the full suite of videos. This work will therefore continue until we have a full suite of videos.

  • Routemap milestone 1: notices stimuli

    Routemap box 3: responds to very obvious stimulus

    Routemap box 6: responds to range of stimuli

    Routemap milestone 9: responds consistently to one stimulus

    Routemap box 12: responds differently to different stimuli

  • Routemap box 2: responds to close physical contact with familiar person

  • Routemap box 14: anticipates repetitively presented stimulus

  • Routemap box 7: supported 1:1 turn-taking with adult

    Routemap box 11: responds to some stimuli in a way that can be interpreted as rejection

    Routemap box 22: responds in ways that can be interpreted as meaning ‘more’

    Routemap box 28: communicates 'more / 'no more' through two different consistent actions

  • Routemap box 10: briefly follows moving stimulus

    Routemap box 20: looks briefly after object disappearing from their field of vision

    Routemap milestone 34: object permanence

  • Routemap box 16: with support explores immediate environment

    Routemap box 21: in a reactive environment repeats action which obtains sensory feedback

    Routemap box 24: in an everyday environment repeats action which obtains sensory feedback

  • Routemap box 17: anticipates within familiar social routines

    Routemap box 30: in the context of a familiar social game, perseveres by repeating action in order to get reward

    Routemap box 33: initiates social game

    Routemap box 40: joint attention

  • Routemap box 18: redirects attention to a second object

    Routemap box 25: changes behaviour in response to interesting event nearby

    Routemap box 29: 'looks' backwards and forwards between two objects (knows two objects are present)

  • Routemap box 19: accidental actions cause effect

    Routemap milestone 23: responds to cause and effect

    Routemap milestone 26: shows understanding that their action causes a specific effect

  • Routemap box 15: objects to termination of interaction

    Routemap box 32: attracts attention

  • Routemap box 31: repeats action when first attempt unsuccessful

    Routemap box 35: does two different actions in sequence to get reward

    Routemap box 38: modifies action when repeating action does not work

    Routemap box 42: early problem-solving – tries new strategy when old one fails

  • Routemap box 36: selects from two or more items

    Routemap box 37: communicates choice to attentive adult

    Routemap box 41: expresses preference for items not present via symbolic means

The guidance below enables practitioners to assess learners with PMLD and identify how best to support them in their learning.

  • Routes for Learning: guidance pdf 454 Kb This file may not be accessible. If you need a more accessible version of this document please email digital@gov.wales. Please tell us the format you need. If you use assistive technology please tell us what this is

The professional learning materials have been designed to enable practitioners to engage actively in observation of learners with PMLD and to do so collaboratively using the Routes for Learning suite of materials as a framework for interpreting behaviour. These resources consist of an introduction together with an introductory module for each of the three strands of development shown on the Routemap.

A virtual engagement event was held in December 2020 to engage practitioners with these materials.

The glossary will provide support to practitioners in using the Routemap and wider Routes for Learning materials. Below, you will find some examples of definitions for your consideration.

We are continuing to develop the glossary and would like to invite you to comment on the content. We would also welcome suggestions of additional terms to be included.

All comments should be sent to assessment@gov.wales

  • Glossary pdf 372 Kb This file may not be accessible. If you need a more accessible version of this document please email digital@gov.wales. Please tell us the format you need. If you use assistive technology please tell us what this is

The document below sets out the various sources of feedback received following the publication of draft materials in January 2020. It outlines the key themes arising from the feedback, and the work that has been undertaken to refine the guidance to address the feedback.

Exemplification videos

We are continuing to gather videos to exemplify the milestones and boxes on the Routemap. Should your setting/school wish to contribute videos please contact assessment@gov.wales

Professional learning materials

In addition to the introductory modules for the three strands of development, we are considering the development of theme modules to follow the themes as presented in the assessment booklet. We have developed the first of these, Theme 8: Changing focus, which we will be trialled with a working group and the feedback on this will be integral to how we shape the work going forward.

Should you wish to express an interest in being part of this trial please contact us at assessment@gov.wales

      Research

      Some research has been conducted using the 2006 edition of the Routes for Learning materials. This is summarised in this article.

      Further research is currently being conducted to further develop our understanding of the nature of the progress made by learners with PMLD in relation to the Routemap.

      Updates on this research will be accessible from this page. If you wish to contribute to research on Routes for Learning, please contact assessment@gov.wales

      The case studies provide first-hand experiences from two practitioners using Routes for Learning assessment tools and materials in Special Schools. Both case studies discuss how using Routes for Learning effectively can be a benefit for learners, parents, carers and practitioners alike.