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Gifted can count on family's support

Father of five brilliant children sets up a foundation to help bright inner-city pupils.

AT THE age of five, Samantha Imafidon spotted a mistake in a maths text book and pointed it out to her parents. "My first memory is two plus two,"

she says.

Since then, she has sat and passed maths and statistics GCSEs every year, improving her grades each time. Now, at the age of nine, four secondary schools are offering her a place, but she is in no hurry.

Playing with her younger brother and sister, twins Peter and Paula, in the chaos of their cousins' tiny house in Walthamstow, north-east London, she confessed her main preparation for GCSEs involved Monopoly, Connect Four and Sudoku more than hard swot.

"I find maths like a big game. Other people think it is a problem, all numbers jumbled up, but they don't know the meaning," she said.

The twins, aged seven, have also caught the maths bug, just like Samantha and older sisters Anne-Marie, 17, and Christiana, 15, who were catapulted into the record books with A-level passes in their first years of secondary school.

Peter and Paula both passed their maths GCSEs last year, after honing their skills by racing each other to complete Sudoku puzzles.

This week their proud father, Chris Imafidon, has established a charitable foundation to support other gifted children who, like his family, may not have had access to tutors and private schooling.

"We want to share the difficulties we've had and how we've overcome those,"

he said.

Some might object to children being pushed through exams from a young age.

The cramped study in the Imafidons' cousins' house, just around the corner from the Roger Ascham primary school, which the youngest attend, is full of maths revision books and two photocopiers for running off test papers.

But the children insist the fun they get out of maths is greater even than that they get from skipping, playing football at school or cheering on Arsenal on television.

Their parents emigrated from Nigeria 30 years ago and had little money to support their children's fascination with maths until, four years ago, Mr Imafidon's businessman father died, leaving a legacy.

The Wilson Educational Foundation, named after Mr Imafidon's father, will have an initial pound;1 million, which he hopes to build up with donations until it can distribute pound;5 million a year to help identify and support gifted children in inner-city estates such as the one surrounding his children's school.

The foundation will arrange for gifted children to pursue their interests - whether they be maths, English, science or art - with the after-school support of subject specialists such as retired teachers and university lecturers.

"Exceptional children are frustrated by the English school system," Mr Imafidon said. "It aims at the average. With no systems to support them, children are made to dumb down or get called names at school. There is nothing for gifted children at primary school - and that is when it matters most."

* The National Association for Gifted Children was today encouraging pupils and teachers across Britain to wear colourful clothes to lessons to mark the first Gifted and Talented Awareness Day.

Research, page 30

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