Staff CPD: Stretch and Challenge

Our 1st session of the year, and we looked at how various ingredients go into creating the growth mindsets and stretch and challenge for all our lessons.

Our role is essential, not surprisingly, and it is the right combination of the circles below that gets the challenge right.

There be challenge – right bang in the middle!


How we communicate is so important, as this will contribute to the establishment of the right ethos and mindset – growth as opposed to fixed.


We start with resilience, and the old straw-through-potato trick. Spit, grit and a whole lot of duct tape was used by some, with varying success, and it was agreed by all that if we are to drive stretch and challenge, a resilient attitude amongst all learners was vital.

This connects with our growth mindset – do we practise and preach this as well? Jodie was a true believer on this…

The areas that we considered really crucial to improving the learning ethos stemmed from  a few key concepts:

“Challenge in education is the provision of difficult work that causes students to think deeply and engage in healthy struggle. If we get this right, all else will follow.”

  • It is not just about the ‘most able’.
  • It is high expectations for all.
  • It is good for students to struggle just outside of their comfort zone – that is when they are likely to learn most.


The next step in the jigsaw was looking at the pedagogy behind Establishing the right ethos: As a group we looked at The Learning Zone Model (Senninger, 2000)

learning zone.png

Comfort Zone Struggle Zone Panic Zone
Low challenge

Low stress

Limited thinking

Limited learning

High challenge

Low stress

Thinking required

Effective learning

Very high challenge

High stress

Cognitive overload

Limited learning

Together we watched this amazing discussion about the difference between a Fixed and Growth mindset. It is important that we, as teacher’s reflect the same positive ethos in our classroom and model high expectations and trust. This video created lots of exciting discussion around our pupils at Westfield and how we can diminish fixed mindsets amongst the most challenging pupils. We very much look forward to putting our ideas into practice.


The next stepping stone on our whole staff CPD session was to get the staff talking about what they key ingredients are; to establish this growth mindset ethos in their lessons. So , of course, we played a game of Pictionary. Special thanks go out to our amazing Art teachers Sam and Leah, who designed our wonderful playing cards.


After a long and healthy discussion and a lot of different diamond nines, we were able to identify the key ingredients necessary in enabling stretch and challenge. It created several debates- but that is good- because every single element is vital:

  1. Working with your LSA
  2. Contact with parents
  3. Listening
  4. Promoting resilience
  5. Clarity of the learning direction
  6. Having strong subject knowledge
  7. Using your class context sheets as a daily guide to planning
  8. Having high expectations of all students
  9. Having good relationships
  10. Creating a safe and inspiring learning environment
  11. Being a strong presence in the classroom, and running the show.

Knowing the students, knowing the subject, knowing what they find difficult

If high expectations are in place, with the bar set high, we can differentiate downwards with the most suitable strategy to hoist each individual child up.

After a fantastic and engaged session, we left our teachers with a few tasks for the upcoming week:

1.Context sheets- know the students you are teaching

2.Read your SEN Booklets

3.Raise the bar for the learning direction of the lesson

4.Stretch their capabilities- put them in the learning zone-not the comfort zone.

5.Settle for nothing but their best-inspire & support them in their learning, every lesson.


ts elliot


30 thoughts on “Staff CPD: Stretch and Challenge”

  1. All in-house, led by team of t and l associates. We used as a foundation Shaun Allison’s ‘Making every lesson count’. We’ve now established a core set of procedures that work for us at Westfield. Happy to share.


  2. Hi – This looks wonderful. I teach in north London and would be really keen to see this – can is end you my email? Would you be happy to share the resources you used?


  3. I am delivering a CPD in a couple of weeks and would be really grateful for a copy of your presentation and resources (cards etc) if you don’t mind sharing? Many thanks, Debra


  4. Hi, I too am delivering CPD on Stretch and challenge in a couple of weeks and your session looks perfect for my school in Norfolk, we also use the Shaun Allison ideas in our development of T & L. Would you be willing to share? My email address is

    Thank you!


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