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'Disastrous' gifted venture gets an overhaul

Changes come as only one-third of schools identify their brightest

THE GOVERNMENT is overhauling its gifted and talented programme after criticism that it has failed to involve enough bright children.

The scheme was set up in 2002, to much fanfare, due to concerns that mixed-ability teaching was not challenging the most intelligent pupils. One of its aims was to provide a fillip for middle-class parents to stay in the state system.

But now the Government has announced a shake-up. Summer schools, which have been the programme's centrepiece, will be sidelined in favour of e-learning and vouchers for extra lessons. The Department for Education and Skills also announced that it would expand the target group from 5 to 10 per cent of pupils.

The changes are believed to be a response to the fact that three in 10 secondary schools have failed to nominate a single child.

Tony Gardiner, former president of the Maths Association, said the initiative had been an "utter disaster" and had failed to make an impact on schools.

Warwick university, which ran the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, did not bid for the new scheme. Centre for British Teachers, an education charity, has taken it on. Tim Emmett, its director of development, admitted it would be tough.

There were concerns that summer schools favoured the middle classes, who could afford transport. Mr Emmett said the programme needed to be "more year-round, more local, and with more online opportunities".

Sir Cyril Taylor, director of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, has recommended increasing spending on the able to pound;100 million. In a report submitted to Lord Adonis, the schools minister, he advocated more setting, online learning and school counsellors.

"It's not only in the country's economic self-interest to do this but in the interests of social justice, so that bright pupils, whatever their background, get the best opportunities," Sir Cyril said.

But David Reynolds, of Plymouth university, said ministers should concentrate on improving provision for gifted pupils in day-to-day lessons.

Tony Gardiner, page 33

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