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Have a little faith

Trusting pupils can be difficult. Start with an unusual object and see how they go, says Sue Cowley

It's tempting not to offer difficult pupils your trust and to stick instead to tried and tested methods such as whole-class teaching, worksheets and textbooks. I'm not suggesting you leave a wallet bulging with fivers on your desk, but do let children earn your trust.

Trust can be offered in many ways. Ask pupils for input on lessons, allow them to use "adult" equipment, take them on trips and make them mentors to younger children.

Often the most challenging children respond best. Consider my flour babies scheme: each pupil gets a bag of flour to look after for a week, in school and at home. If they go out, they must find a babysitter.

School one: a typical London comprehensive. The bags got names, faces, soft toys and cuddles. My difficult pupils took to the task with the utmost seriousness.

School two: an "easy" international school. At the start of the day I gave out bags of flour. By break time I was confronted with sobbing pupils and bags of flour splattered across the playground. It was the flour baby massacre. My well behaved pupils couldn't cope with being offered my trust.

But I would do it again in a heartbeat. What a dull old world it would be if we never stretched the limits for fear that something might get broken

Sue Cowley is an author, trainer and presenter. For more information, visit

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