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Champion skier spotted age five

A champion skier is being nurtured at a valleys school. The fact he is just five years old does not seem to matter in the eyes of his teachers, who uncovered his unusual talent through a probing questionnaire to parents on children's natural ability - academic or otherwise.

On entering Ystrad Mynach infants school, Hengoed, Caerphilly, all three-year-olds are effectively talent-spotted. Parents are asked to fill out forms indicating whether or not their child is going to be the next Einstein or David Beckham.

The sad fact that some parents do not think their youngsters are talented at anything grates on Catherine Williams, the area's early-years adviser.

So she keeps a close eye on all the children to find their forte, whether it be in singing, dancing or quantum physics.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the National Association of Able Children in Education (NACE)Cymru, in Cardiff last week, she said: "Every child is good at something. It's sad some parents do not even know what."

She added: "Who would have thought we had such a good skier in Ystrad Mynach - it does not snow often."

Teaching staff are also asked to help the children fill in forms. They are asked what they like and what they are good at. Later, the children complete tests to back up their self-assessments.

Those pupils thought to be more able and talented are given an independent assessment plan in addition to the national curriculum. There is no compulsion for children to take part and parents have to agree.

Miss Williams said: "I thought we would have problems in the playground about singling pupils out for being more able and talented - but it has not happened.

"Of course, we have had doting parents who think their child is a genius and they are not. But for most parents it is a relief that their concern their child is different in some way has been spotted by someone else, because they were just too embarrassed to say so."

Johanna Raffan, NACE Cymru secretary, said Caerphilly was leading the way in Wales on provision for more able children.

The authority encourages every primary school to put their pupils through Sats, even though they have not been compulsory for 11-year-olds in Wales since 2004.

Officials are using the results to compile a new database, called Voyager.

The system will detect children showing high ability in different areas and chart their progress.

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