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The GT generation

The glass can be both half full and half empty when it comes to dealing with child prodigies, says Sue Cowley.

Many "helicopter parents" consider their children to be prodigies but a glance around the average class reveals a gap between parental perception and classroom reality.

Nevertheless, there are gifted and talented pupils, so work as a school to identify and help them. Introduce vertical grouping, using support staff to stretch the most able as well as helping the strugglers. Use the "must, should, could" approach: divide tasks into those everyone "must" do, others they "should" do and some they "could" do if they have time.

Ask questions that encourage a detailed response. Set tasks that develop higher order thinking, using plenty of open-ended activities. Homework offers a chance for bright pupils to extend themselves, as do extra curricular opportunities. When pupils ask a tricky question, be flexible enough to go off at a tangent.

At secondary level, top sets are the natural habitat of the gifted and talented. The upside: pupils are keen to learn and less likely to misbehave. The drawbacks: you must be hot on your subject, marking work takes ages and some bright pupils have a habit of disappearing up their own posteriors.

And the best thing about the gifted and talented phenomenon? The acronym: GT. Ice and a slice with that for me, please.

Sue Cowley is an author, trainer and presenter. Her latest book is Getting the Buggers into Drama (Continuum). For more information visit

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