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Parents fret most about struggles of gifted boys

A helpline receives far fewer calls about girls' problems, reports Ceri Williams.

Parents who worry that schools are not spotting their children's talents are more likely to be concerned about their sons than their daughters.

An analysis of calls to a helpline has also revealed that parents often believe that their bright boys are suffering because they are bored.

The helpline got roughly six times more calls about boys not being accepted as bright by a school as it did about girls - with 19 calls on the issue for boys and only three for girls.

Jo Counsell, education consultant at the National Association for Gifted Children, which runs the helpline, suggested that the calls reflected the fact that gifted boys struggled more to cope with school.

She said: "We get more calls to the helpline about gifted boys than girls. I don't think that means there are more gifted boys - it probably means that they have more problems in school than girls."

The survey was based on 200 calls out of a total of 2,800 to the helpline between September and July. Calls were mostly from parents and relatives but also from teachers, educational psychologists and social workers.

The analysis also found that there were nearly three times more calls about gifted boys becoming bored in class. And there were roughly seven times more calls about bright boys aged 5 to 11 experiencing "low-level" behaviour problems at school.

Ms Counsell said: "Boredom is one of the most common problems for very bright children because it seems work is not always tailored for them. Bright kids might try to find something more interesting to do, so start fidgeting."

Handwriting is a particular concern for boys. Parents of gifted boys are around four times more likely to think that their child has handwriting problems in school than parents of bright girls.

The association found that some 31 callers to its helpline said that boys, between five and 11, had experienced problems with their handwriting compared with only seven calls about girls of the same age.

"It seems that at key stage 1, where there is a great emphasis on handwriting, a lot of the boys feel they have failed because they cannot cope," said Ms Counsell.

She said that policy-makers should try to relieve the handwriting pressure on that age-group and perhaps emphasise word-processing skills, which may be more relevant in the future.

NAGC helpline: 0870 770 3217website: www.nagcbritain.org.uk

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