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Not so clever to ignore the gifted

many gifted children in Wales could be languishing in lower sets because teachers are failing to spot their potential.

Teachers leading the way in nurturing young talent attacked a lack of emphasis on more able and talented children, many of whom might not be top of the class.

At a conference held at Cardiff's Park Hotel earlier this month, it was claimed that many gifted children were underachieving because they had been forgotten, and England was doing a better job of developing some of the UK's brightest young people.

They said teachers had to forget conventional notions of academic excellence and look for pupils who were independent learners.

Victoria McIntee, senior leader at Cardiff's Fitzalan high school, said:

"We are very good at spotting pupils of lower ability, and the middle group gets a lot of support in our quest for the five A* to C grades at GCSE. But able pupils, who can do things without support, can be forgotten."

Schools in Wales have always been reluctant to concentrate on the most talented pupils, focusing on those from deprived backgrounds and providing equality of opportunity. But Ms McIntee said it was a proven fact that brighter children did well if they were grouped together.

"There's a danger of them becoming mini-teachers in mixed sets," she added.

Good practice described at the conference included a project at Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr, in Cardiff, where pupils are encouraged to become independent learners. Rhodri Jones, a teacher in the English department, said it had been set up because of a lack of independent reading among children.

"We need to have children reading on their own," he said.

The National Association of Able Children in Education Cymru has long called for more funding for gifted pupils. The government gave pound;50,000 for trained assessors to nurture some of Wales's brightest pupils last year.

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