Mrs Sahota's Blog - The… | Independent Primary School Buckinghamshire

Mrs Sahota's Blog - The importance of challenge

‘Strive’ is such an important ASPIRE value at Gateway. It encompasses our ethos of ambition, aspiration and passion for learning. Challenge in the classroom is used to create such a climate where all children can make rapid progress, moving beyond their own comfort zones, aiming higher and developing resilience in the process.


Socrates used the term ‘Ex duco’ which means to ‘lead out’ and is at the root of education. At school, we use probing questions to draw out children’s thinking and build on solid foundations so that new learning develops from previous experiences. For example, what assumptions can we make about a character from their actions? How might our work on factors of 32 help us to compute 16 x 16? We can see that asking those ‘why’ questions help children become critical thinkers; they evoke curiosity and support them to make sense of the world around them.

Making links and connections

Children make links across the curriculum which help to deepen their understanding about a topic. In Year 4, work on volcanoes has spanned a range of subjects such as emulating a volcanic explosion in Science using bicarbonate of soda, water and food colouring causing great excitement to depicting erupting volcanoes in art experimenting with texture and ink blowing techniques. Precise questioning helped children to consider which ingredients caused the bubbling effect and how a build up of pressure might relate to a real volcano and the work by artists Turner and Warhol were explored and discussed to create the fabulous finished masterpieces in art. Carefully chosen resources, both written and digital, helped to extend understanding of volcanic eruptions around the world as children evaluated critically a range of research material to answer questions and to pose new ones.

Our mastery approach in Maths provides opportunities for children to apply their knowledge and understanding to new situations. Year 6 have made connections with Geography, using six-figure grid references, moving into Year 7 work, to site location. In Games lessons, they have been challenged to analyse and improve their own technique and position by replaying recorded video footage. There is a seemingly endless list of inspiring activities across the school which nurture so many special ‘aha’ moments!

Thinking skills

We actively plan for children to improve their thinking skills as they extrapolate from known information to form their own conclusions. Our Year 5 and 6 children have debated a number of topics in Future Skills lessons, from when they should have the right to vote, to whether they should wear school uniform on school trips. In understanding our system of democracy, they appreciate that we all have a right to an opinion. They have formulated their arguments, explained and justified them, whilst working collaboratively with others demonstrating mutual respect.

Children’s viewpoints and opinions are challenged to encourage deeper thinking. Year 1 children have imagined their own unique versions of the story, Man on the Moon, to present different perspectives. By doing this at an early age, they become more aware of the ideas of others, their own preconceptions and how these might shape their views. So, when they are presented with information in the future, they can consider whether there are other sides to a given narrative.

At Gateway School, we actively encourage children to feel successful across the curriculum, to develop their strengths, to find their niche and to explore new ones as they go. We support them in being comfortable to independently select the right level of challenge for themselves and to show the confidence to make mistakes and take risks in their learning. By nurturing this growth mindset they appreciate for themselves that even a small amount of effort makes them stronger and more determined. Challenge is crucial to achieving new learning and success breeds further success.

Mrs Sahota - Head of Upper Prep

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