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Gifts that keep on giving

It's talent-spotting time again - when we check that children identified as "gifted and talented" are present and correct and ready to be stretched. I'm not against identifying the most academically able but calling them "gifted and talented" does beg the question of whether the rest of the pupils become, by default, a bunch of talentless plodders.

"Everyone has a talent for something," I was regularly told at primary school by our deputy headteacher (a diminutive Irish lady who commanded the kind of respect rarely seen outside of Mafia films).

"For some of you, that talent is for maths. Some of you will be talented writers or artists. Some of you will be talented at sports. And some of you are talented at sharing your crisps in the playground."

She meant well but I still grew up believing that people who offered you a handful of their Golden Wonder were going nowhere in life.

Her message was regularly backed up with the Parable of the Talents. I'm hazy on the details but the central message was that qualifications and jobs should be given unto those who learned their times tables, whereas everyone else was heading for failure.

I agree that everyone has a talent for something; the tricky part is finding out what that is. I'm still discovering where my pupils' strengths lie. There are the obvious academic high-flyers, then there are those whose talents are less visible.

For example, I've just discovered that Jacob is an excellent figure skater who gets up at 4am two mornings a week to train. I've found out that Lily is a fabulous artist and a cross-country runner par excellence. Matthew has a passion for gardening and can tell you the names of all manner of plants and trees. Priya spends lunch doing amazing French plaits for the other girls.

But there are some who have yet to reveal their gifts. Ibrahim, for example. He finds maths and English a challenge. He struggles with handwriting and spelling, and his books look as though a spider has fallen into some ink before tap-dancing across the page. He is lively and friendly, loves football and reading, and is popular among his peers. He has always had spark about him but I couldn't pinpoint what it was - until last week.

It was fundraising time and the children were running stalls in the hall. Midway through the session, I was accosted by a group of girls complaining that Ibrahim had bought 10 cakes from them and was now selling them on his stall next door.

"Ibrahim, did you buy 10 cakes from the girls' stall?" I asked.

"Yes Miss." He looked at the floor.

"And have you sold them all?"

"Yes Miss."

"For the same price?"

"I sold them for 5p more."

"Well done." I said. "Come and get an excellence sticker from me at breaktime."

His smile was one of pure relief.

I smiled back, delighted: I had spotted another talent.

Jo Brighouse is a primary school teacher in the Midlands

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