James Nottingham

James Nottingham is the creator of The Learning Pit (sometimes referred to as The Learning Challenge) as well as a sought-after keynote speaker and author of eleven books about teaching, learning and leadership. He created a freelance company (The LEARNING Pit) to share some of the best ways to strengthen learning in schools, nurseries, and colleges. 

Growing up, James was one of the ‘naughty kids’ at school; he spent more time in detention than he cares to remember and was expelled twice from secondary school. At sixteen, his father kicked him out, leading to an itinerant life of farm and factory work before finding his feet as a school volunteer in squatter camps in apartheid South Africa. On his return to the UK, he took a job as a teaching assistant at a school for deaf children before training to be a teacher.

In 1999, James appeared in a TV documentary about Philosophy for Children (P4C), leading to an invitation to set up a social regeneration project in North East England. This multi-million-pound initiative won many prestigious awards for strengthening young people’s lives, including “helping young people to become clearer, more accurate, less self-contradictory and more aware of other arguments and values before reaching a conclusion.” Independent research by two universities also found strong correlations between project inputs and national test improvements.

James's work is all about getting children to think more. The following animation explains how it works:

How are we inspired at Hazeldown?

We became of aware of James’s work whilst researching Carol Dweck and her studies; we loved the concept of the ‘Learning Pit’ and the fact that it actively encouraged children to step out of their comfort zones and supported them in understanding that learning new things is tough – and requires resilience!

The ‘Learning Challenge’ is established within our daily teaching and children are encouraged to take risks within their learning and to strive to be ‘in the pit’, where they can then use a range of metacognitive strategies to support themselves (and others) in trying to exit the pit and achieve their own ‘Eureka!’ moment.

The Learning Challenge.png


Hazeldown Primary School
Maudlin Drive, Teignmouth,
Devon, TQ14 8SE
Stuart Ludford | Headteacher

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