Ahead of the rest;Cross-phase;Reviews;Books
The unique demands of more able children are attracting increasing interest. Growing official awareness is reflected in the formation of a Commons committee and a Department for Education and Employment expert advisory committee, as well as the publication of Educating the Very Able, OFSTED's recent evidence-based overview for teachers.
The number of publications and independent commercial advisers to schools has also risen. But the problem forpractitioners is knowing whom they should trust, because although everyone agrees that the very able have special educational needs, there are considerable differences of approach about what these are and the best ways of providing for them.
The National Association for Able Children in Education is co-publisher of Catherine Clark's and Ralph Callow's book on provision for ablechildren in mainstream schools.
Resources for this relatively neglected aspect of teaching are financial and human, and schools that make no special allowance for their most able pupils will find this a worthwhile introduction. The authors aim to be practical, and to stimulate debate.
Their excellent suggestions on teaching methods can be applied to a wide range of children.
They are particularly good on the process curriculum, such as problem-solving, communication and observation, and they suggest guidelines for school organisation and policy.
Hilary Lee-Corbin and Pam Denicolo focus on primary schools. Theirs is a more anecdotal approach, stimulated by their own experience. They researched three schools of varied social class, and interviewed 12 teachers and 54 children in the top 10 per cent of intelligence.
Their concern with varied early years and home life is particularly valuable.
Most of the teachers, they found, had received no guidance on educating the most able, and so had difficulty differentiating their style and level of teaching. Consequently, many able children found work unchallenging, which led to underachievement.
Although this is only a small sample, teachers will be able to identify their own problems and learn from these examples.
Joan Freeman is a professor at Middlesex University's department of lifelong learning and education.