A fair deal for bright kids

20th May 2005 at 01:00
MOTs are the bane of school life for some of our ablest pupils. An informal survey in North Wales revealed that their hearts sink when they finish an assignment before the rest of the class and are lumbered with dreaded MOTs -"More of the Same". More sums they've proved they can do. More answers to too easy questions. More pointless copying out.

This small cohort of more able and talented pupils have special needs as surely as their less able classmates. They, too, are at risk of underachieving - even if they coast through school winning all the prizes.

The North Wales survey is quoted in A Curriculum of Opportunity, a handbook commissioned by the Welsh Assembly on what schools can do to ensure the brightest kids get a fair deal. Its co-author, Johanna Raffan, will be highlighting its main recommendations in a seminar at Wales Education 2005.

She is director of the National Association for Able Children in Education which in February of this year launched Nace (Cymru) - a necessary move as the Welsh Assembly's approach to the issue differs in some respects from that of the Department for Education and Science. Nace doesn't campaign for selection but for an ethos in which every child is stretched and stimulated.

It's a tall order as it's not easy to spot who are the most able. In England, they are regarded as the top 10 per cent, but in Wales it is 20 per cent. That includes the all-rounders who shine in everything as well as those with an outstanding talent for one subject or in the creative arts.

Some are late developers; a few don't discover their potential until they're excited by science or a foreign language; others have decided that the way to survive school is to hide their light under a bushel.

In A Curriculum of Opportunity, Johanna Raffan outlines methods for identifying the most able. There are tips on how their learning can be enriched through extra-curricular activities and links between schools, colleges or universities. But what makes the publication invaluable is the advice on an imaginative approach to teaching which, she argues, will benefit not only the top 20 per cent but every pupil in the class.

It's the sort of thing that will excite those teachers who realise that the best way forward for schools in Wales can't possibly be MOTs.


* If you want to find out more about any topic from workforce remodelling to the power of song in the primary classroom, the Wales Education 2005 seminar programme has something to offer. These are some of the sessions:

* Early years Thursday 26 May 10am: An introduction to the Reggio approach to young children 12.30pm: Storytelling without the book

2pm: Pat Brunton and Linda Thornton on encouraging young children's exploration

Friday 27 May noon: Can young children really cope with different languages? (In Welsh)

* Primary

Thursday 26 May 10am: Learning about learning, Sue Dean on thinking processes and strategies

2pm: Su Hart on the power of song Friday 27 May 10.30am: Getting boys to write

Noon: Quality circle time

* Secondary

Thursday 26 May 10am in English and 2pm in Welsh: Improving take-up of modern foreign languages at KS4

3.30pm: Thinking skills in every classroom

Friday 27 May 1.30pm: Qualifications update from Arthur Parker, WJEC

* Special needs

Thursday 26 May 12.30pm: Building a dyslexia-friendly school

3.30pm: Strategies for reluctant writers

Friday 27 May 10.30am: ADHD: strategies for and stories from the chalk face

1.30pm: Difficult and different children

A Curriculum of Opportunity is published by ACCAC (pound;6.95).



Johanna Raffan will be speaking about A Curriculum of Opportunity on Friday, May 27 at 3pm.

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