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Tom came to teaching with one goal in mind – to be an inspiration. He continues this mission by providing workshops for students and teachers in all aspects of learning to learn.


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Differentiation - good enough for pupils so why not for CPD?

Tom Barwood


February 24, 2015

Yesterday I spent the day delivering a workshop on differentiation to teachers from the Association of Muslim Schools at Birchfield Independent Girls school in Aston, Birmingham.

My brief told me that there would be 40 teachers and although I had a chat with the head beforehand and found out that there would be other speakers there too I knew very little else. I found it a little hypocritical to try and deliver a one size fits all presentation when the workshop was about avoiding precisely that!

So, after delivering a brief idea of what my definition of differentiation was I then set about discovering more about my audience.

It turned out they were from schools all over the country; there being 400 schools in the Association. Some taught primary and some secondary. There was a mix of about 40:60 men to women, 6 had EAL, half were born outside the UK, there were six different first languages. They had qualifications ranging from no GCSEs through CSEs (remember those!) to degrees, masters degrees and one person with a Phd. The only common link was that they were all Muslim.

Why is it that people seem so scared to ask these type of questions? Once I had established the composition of my audience I was able to progress but also acknowledge them for what a wonderful kaleidoscope of resources, ideas and experiences they brought to the event and how much I was looking forward to learning from them.  The day went really well, I learned a lot and had a good fun.

To date I have worked with the 7th Day Adventist schools, a Catholic and Anglican high school, the Exclusive brethren and obviously the AMS. Being outside of the mainstream system I have researched each one carefully to make sure I fully understand their backgrounds and taken the time to question as I went along.

From now on I have decided that being asked to work and present for a whole day off the back of a few line brief on something like differentiation is basically lazy and irresponsible of the school. I will only work with those schools who are prepared to share with me sufficient contextual information as necessary to do the job properly. Otherwise they can stop being so lazy and do what the rest of have to do - read a book on the subject and then try to put it in to practice.