Caroline Roaf, visiting fellow Oxford Brookes University and former Senco
Q This may seem a trivial point, but, as a Senco, I feel frustrated when colleagues (and sometimes students) tell me that something - such as teaching maths in mixed ability groups - can't be done, when what they really mean is that they don't want to do it.
A You've identified a point that is, as your example suggests, actually far from trivial. There may be perfectly good reasons (lack of experience perhaps) why someone might not want to teach maths in a mixed ability group, but it certainly can be done, and is done, successfully. The problem is down to belief and experience - and the extent to which the latter reinforces or challenges the former.
Sencos are constantly in the thick of these linguistic traps - whether with colleagues, parents or students ("I can't do science." "Yes you can - and you do. You learned a lot from experience. But maybe you don't want to do it - shall we talk about why that might be?").
In the generation or so that Sencos have been formally in existence, a central part of the job has been to secure opportunities for those previously denied them.
Little would have been achieved without us being prepared to challenge strongly-held beliefs, such as predetermined judgments of ability. And it remains as important as ever to challenge false assumptions and insist on accurate use of language.