If I were Secretary of State for Education

If I were Secretary of State for Education I would reboot teacher training colleges, cutting their numbers and requiring far more selection and rigour to improve baseline professional standards and prestige. We need more intellectual heft in the profession (based on the simple principle that you cannot teach what you do not know) and we […]

Why Is Risky Teaching Better Than Cruise Control?

A lacklustre syllabus Having worked as a teacher in inner city comprehensives for twenty years, I have no doubt at all that such schools can and do work minor miracles with students. Particularly with those students who are more likely to underachieve. Teachers work incredibly hard to motivate students to ‘get’ their subject, and to […]

Why Invest in More Able Education?

In all of the work I have been involved in with many thousands of schools nationally and internationally I have constantly asserted my belief that any school policy on the more able is far less significant than the school principles that underpin (or undermine) it. And that these principles should be clear and succinct and […]

Why are difficult texts necessary?

‘A copy of Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations was thrown at me inscribed with the message: “Dive in and dig deep, in here is everything you need to know.”’ This is surely just too pretentious for words… except when you realise that the thrower of the said text was one Danny Baker, and the recipient was Chris […]

What strategies work elsewhere in the world?

Although, in the end, the seeds of excellence must lie in individuals themselves, we cannot afford to be complacent. Society has a vital duty to provide the framework, the teaching and support, and even the incentive, to enable people to develop themselves and their abilities to their fullest possible potential. It is a criterion by […]

What do we really mean by differentiation?

Differentiation is a strand in creating high challenge – low threshold learning. How whole class teaching can engage all learners, irrespective of their ability in challenging and enriching experiences depends largely on how differentiation works.  Balancing challenge and support in response to meaningful differences between groups or individual students, such as prior learning experience, prior […]

What do we really mean by classroom challenge?

How we can enable learners to take themselves more seriously as students? How we can encourage them to take more responsibility for their own learning and what can we do that will help to make risk-taking a safer option in our classrooms. If we agree that we want our learners to see themselves, for example, […]

What do we mean by task differentiation? 

What do we really mean by task differentiation, and how can we match tasks to the needs of individual learners? How do richer tasks and contexts enable teachers to avoid the rigidity of tiered task differentiation. In some guidance on provision for more able learners, a simple set of continua is suggested. I would like […]

What do we mean by Rich Tasks?

Rich tasks A ‘rich task’ is one in which a wide range of abilities is catered for, that allows a range of responses. We have found that a well-written rich task will stimulate interest and enthusiasm in all learners, can provide the means for gifted learners to engage alongside their peers without the dubious rewards […]

What do we really mean by independence?

There are some key symptoms of dependent but able learners regarding the level of engagement that students can have with high challenge. One of the most significant factors that emerged was a ‘learned helplessness’ demonstrated by students, which is characterised by a dependent attitude, and a lack of initiative. A good example of the dangers […]

What are the Subject Specific Big Ideas?

Generic guidance can be useful, but to ensure colleagues are on board with the more able education agenda it is essential to frame it in subject specific terms, which focus on the Big Ideas that define how a subject sees itself. And that doesn’t mean pointless complication, rather the reverse. What is it that makes […]

So why are the top performers worldwide so successful?

In England the top performers are according to PISA and the Sutton Trust almost exclusively in independent and grammar schools. Since those pupils perform far above those in the general run of schools and so few in this country attain PISA Levels 5 and 6 in maths and reading, it is likely that hardly any […]

How does G&T education justify its own existence?

Gifted education has many unfortunate associations for colleagues in terms of elitism, giving more to those that already have, the concept of chosen ones and the lack of focus on commitment. It also hasn’t appeared to address itself to the big “so what” and “why bother” questions. How do we frame G&T and how do […]