CPD Briefing: Stretch and Challenge


We all know that we need to be stretching students whatever their starting points, we know that we have to challenge every child in a class. This however has to be achieved without increasing work load or work sheets.



Pygmalion in the Classroom (Pygmalion in the Classroom Rosenthal, R.; Jacobson, L. (1968)


I have spoken about this before – the bottom line of the research was that teachers expectations were the key factor in students performance.

The researchers randomly allocated students to a group using a fake test they then labelled these children as high ability’ bloomers’ . All of the students received the same teaching and yet the bloomers made significantly more progress.

The research looked into possible reasons why but came to the conclusion that it was the interactions between the teacher and pupils.

The teacher believed they had potential —> The pupil believed the had potential —> The pupil made progress…

Recent work by Carol Dweck on Growth Mindsets supports such conclusions with an emphasis on providing high challenge and positive, specific feedback.

In June 2013 research by Ofsted The Most Able Students painted a fairly damming picture of current practice. Some of their recommendations are below.

  • develop a culture and ethos so that the needs of the most able students are championed by school leaders
  • help the most able students to flourish and leave school with the best qualifications by providing first-rate opportunities to develop the skills, confidence and attitudes needed to succeed at the best universities
  • improve the transfer between primary and secondary schools so that all Year 7 teachers know which students achieved highly, know what aspects of the curriculum the most able students have studied in Year 6, and use this information to plan and teach lessons that build on prior knowledge and skills
  • ensure that work continues to be challenging and demanding throughout Key Stage 3 so that the most able students make rapid progress
  • evaluate the quality of homework set for the most able students to ensure that it is suitably challenging
  • give the parents and carers of the most able students better and more frequent information about what their children should achieve and raise their expectations

Prompts for Questions

  • Do all students on our classes make good or better progress?
  • Do we meet the needs of every student?
  • How do we cater for high ability EAL students?
  • How do low expectations affect progress? (the Golem affect)

Further Reading

Golem and Pygmalion

Golem affect

Growth Mindsets Video




Stretch and Challenge without Handouts