Tomorrow (Monday 13th) I’m speaking at my school’s inaugural teach meet, #TeachMeetTorquay, about teaching to the top. The focus for the evening is how to stretch and challenge the most able, but I have a bit of a problem with this, not because stretching and challenging are bad things – they aren’t – but because of the zero-sum game for the other children, played by saviours, superheroes and sycophants.

There seems to me to be a misunderstanding when considering challenge which implies that children who, perhaps, struggle with writing or recall, are unable to access lots of knowledge: that, because remembering is more difficult for her, little Carly Carrot should be given less to do because it’s difficult.

I can’t begin to express how unfair and wrongheaded this is, though I’m going to immediately contradict myself and attempt an explanation anyhow. If Carly struggles then she needs more, not less, knowledge; she needs more, not less, time reading slightly difficult texts; she needs greater expectations, not meaninglessly high aspirations, because there’s a difference between wanting to do something and actually bloody doing it; she needs encouragement and patience and care and a certain bloody-mindedness from her marathon-running teacher.

She also needs teachers who know their stuff, and a behavioural system which is consistent, clear and fair. Because Carly’s dyslexia should not, and must not, preclude her from knowing the best that has been thought and said.

At Torquay we’re beginning to introduce this to KS3 and, I think, the results are slowly emerging. It’s exciting, but also liberating for both teachers and children – all children.

You can watch the stream live here (I’ll be on just before 7pm). I’ll add my one slide to this post after the presentation.

I speak here and you can find my one slide below.

Teaching to the top