The sky’s the limit

There is no limit to what someone can achieve. LWL from the research to the ideal school

The Learning Without Limits (LWL) project is based on the idea of transformability and by the concept of learning capacity that is very different from the concept of ability.

Transformability is a firm conviction that there is the potential for change, that things can change and be changed for the better, sometimes even dramatically, as a result of what people do in the present.bookcover1small Learning capacity is transformable because the forces that shape it are, to an extent, within teachers’ control. In contrast with the implied fatalism of ability labels. Teachers who built their pedagogy around ability labels influence negatively in young people’s self-belief, sense of personal competence, attitudes, expectations and hopes for the future. Ability labels explain differences in young people’s learning and attainment due to fixed differences in intellectual endowment. A young student with ‘low ability’ now, in the present, is assumed to have more limited potential than others who are judged to be ‘average’ or ‘more able’ and the expectation is that these differences will persist and be reflected in comparable differences in academic performance in the future: the self-fulfilling prophecy (achieving fulfillment as a result of having been expected or foretold).

bookcover2_smallCreating Learning without Limits (CLwL) builds on the Learning without Limits study by exploring the wider opportunities for enhancing the learning capacity of every child that become possible when the educational community work together to create an environment free from the limiting effects of ability labels and practices.

CLwL was set up to explore the process of whole-school development driven by the core idea of transformability: the conviction that all children (not just some children) can become more powerful, committed, successful learners given distinctive supportive conditions and generous opportunities for learning.

Wroxham classroom

Mr Davy at Wroxham school

CLwL builds on the Learning without Limits study by exploring the wider opportunities for enhancing the learning capacity of every child that become possible when a whole staff group works together to create an environment free from the limiting effects of ability labels and practices.

The Creating Learning without Limits project was based at the University of Cambridge, Faculty of Education, in collaboration with colleagues at The Wroxham School, Hertfordshire. Dame Alison Margaret Peacock is co-author of Creating Learning without Limits, and Executive Headteacher of The Wroxham Teaching School. 


“Dame Alison Peacock” by Lee Allan – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The following short passages are taken from an interview with Dame Alison on The Guardian on March 29th.

The headteacher [Alison Peacock] says she never set out to get rid of ability labelling at the school. It grew from conversations with staff, and when it worked the idea was developed. Pupils are never set tasks by ability. Topics are taught to the whole group and students are then chosen from a range of activities of varying complexity. If they begin a piece of work and think they could try something more difficult, or need something easier, they can change”… “The assumption that you can reliably put a number against what a child is capable of is flawed and dangerous. Potentially, it leads to the individual and the people around them having a very limited set of expectations.” She believes it is detrimental even if the student is given a high grade, pointing to research by Carol Dweck from Stanford University to illustrate this. When two groups of children were given a complex mathematical task, the group that was told they had good problem-solving skills progressed much further than the group that was simply told they were very good at maths…. “If teachers feel constrained, judged and labelled, then they can’t lift the limits on pupils,” she says. Extracts from

Taking inspiration from the book Creating Learning without Limits, the University of Cambridge Primary School (UCPS) is the first primary to open as one of the government’s flagship university training schools and was set up as a free school. The UCPS will be governed by a charitable trust, UTS Cambridge. The school will be a mixed-ability co-educational school for children aged three – 11 and it will be highly inclusive where pupil diversity is welcomed and children will be encouraged and enabled to excel.The school will focus on exemplary teaching, high-quality governance and innovative learning practice. The Trust is delighted that these plans have been approved. They are high-quality, innovative and inclusive, reflecting the planned character of University of Cambridge Primary School.Uni Cambs primary school 01 site plan

The three-form entry primary school will open in phases from September 2015 and will serve the development site and a local catchment.

The information used in this post is excerpted from the following sites with non-commercial purposes: