Best Practice

Quality first teaching: Three principles for maintaining high expectations

We would all agree about the power of high expectations for all students. Robbie Burns offers three broad whole school principles for ensuring high expectations, as well as suggested actions and questions for reflection


Do we know what high expectations look like when we see them? Can we articulate the tangible action steps to make them happen at key stage and whole school level? Before I introduce three broad principles and related actions for primary schools, let us first clarify this important but often illusory idea.


The Pygmalion Effect and where high expectations begin

The word “expectation” stems from the latin word “expectare”, which means to “desire or long for” beginning with the common latin prefix, “ex-“, meaning “out from” and “upwards”. So, to translate literally, expectation means “coming out from desire, or longings”.

The word expectation, in its original meaning at least, tries to express an engrained hope that a person has for their lives and the lives of others, rooted deeply in their beliefs. All of their later priorities, words and decisions flow out from their “expectare”.

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