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New gifted policy to back social mobility

Ministers have pulled the plug on the national scheme for bright children after finding the Pounds 42 million programme was making little impact - and deciding it did not fit into the target-led world of education.

It is the third time in seven years changes have been made to national gifted and talented (Gamp;T) policy. Almost 12,000 children on the current programme did not achieve five good GCSEs last summer.

Provision for Gamp;T pupils will now be linked to social mobility - with those running it tasked with getting more teenagers from deprived families into top universities.

Teachers now face vigorous monitoring from other schools, Ofsted, local authorities and the Government when they take over responsibility for England's Gamp;T programme from the previous centralised scheme.

Commentators have claimed the change is a way of cutting Gamp;T spending, which will be Pounds 42 million from 2007 to 2009. Ministers now want to move away from the current system, which works through a website, to focus instead on gifted children from poorer homes only in their last years of education. Schools will be expected to run more activities themselves.

The changes come after the company which currently runs the national programme, CfBT, admitted publicly that the programme's work "lacks coherence and clarity" and that communication was weak.

The programme run by CfBT's predecessor, Warwick University, was also criticised for being elitist.

Experts expressed concern that clever younger children will be left behind by the reforms, especially if their school does not view additional education for them as a priority.

There will be 150 specialist Gamp;T schools - chosen from high-performing secondaries that already have specialisms. They will support other schools. About 140 National Challenge schools are also taking part in a pilot scheme, which aims to improve their Gamp;T provision. The project started in the spring and will run until summer 2011.

There will also be an expansion of the City Gates project, which encourages children on free school meals from challenging schools in the Black Country, London and Manchester to go to university. A separate scholarship scheme will give Pounds 250 to 2,000 needy teenagers in Year 10 and above.

Schools minister Vernon Coaker said the reorganisation will ensure "no child is held back by the luck of the draw in their circumstances". Analysis, pages 16-17.

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