A wider view of high-flyers

2nd February 2007 at 00:00
Children who are good at computer games, prolific blog writers or perceptive film watchers should be considered as gifted English learners, an influential body has concluded.

A group linked to the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth believes that traditional definitions of what constitutes such pupils have been too restrictive. It said that teachers tend to have categorised as more able those children who are fluent readers, especially of fiction, who can write essays with confidence and who can "speak on selected topics with interest".

However, a "think tank" set up by the academy says the proliferation of different means of communication necessitates new thinking on high-ability children.

"Today, 'more able'... might equally apply to those who are very adept at computer gaming, who display excellent insights about moving image texts and use cameras with flair," it says. It has produced broad definitions of giftedness: able pupils should be good at making connections, at responding well to unfamiliar situations and questioning and challenging ideas, among other things.

However, this more liberal interpretation potentially puts it in opposition to government thinking. This is heavily influenced by performance in national tests.

Last year, Lord Adonis, the schools minister, wrote to secondary schools asking them to identify the top 5 per cent - since doubled to 10 per cent - for a national register. Schools were told which pupils had been in the top 5 per cent of their age group on the basis of their combined maths, English and science key stage two test scores.

The group said that such criteria had some use , but there also needs to be choices made "outside the examination box".

The paper is available from the National Association for the Teaching of English.l www.nate.org.uksiteindex.php? NewsID=000071 or www.nagty.ac.ukenglish

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