The choice is ours

16th May 1997 at 01:00
Adrienne Blake suggests a better way of treating gifted children

As a shy ten-year-old child I discovered what it meant to be socially inept when my parents moved house and I moved schools. Unable to mingle, I sat alone in the corner of the playground with a book - an unwilling outcast.

The reason I was made an outcast was that, academically, I was a "gifted child". It was some time before I matured socially and began to take part in the world of other children. I now feel I have bridged that gap but am still trying to break the image of the socially inept gifted child. Many don't. They are happy to hide from the world. Being classed as "gifted" does not compensate for the alienation which is so often endured. Every child needs to feel accepted.

I recently read George Orwell's Such, Such were the Joys. It struck a familiar note. If the Tories had won the election and extended the assisted places scheme, I might have found myself in Orwell's situation. However, it will be interesting to see if Labour's methods work any better than those of their main rivals.

As a gifted child there is pressure from all sides - your school mates, your teachers, and others. You are a guinea-pig, as every education authority has a different view on how to handle you: take exams early; move up a year; increase workload; ignore you; put you in the assisted places scheme.

I joined Monkseaton High School in September, and here there is a more open attitude to children like me. I am allowed to take decisions about my work, and I chose to take my English GCSE two years early. In my opinion this is how to deal with those categorised as "gifted". Give them a choice, but discreetly, to avoid problems stemming from the reactions of their classmates.

Taking an examination early is as much in my own interest as it is of the school. If I fail, it doesn't matter, though I might feel depressed for a while.

I expect I come across as pompous for a 14-year-old student, especially when I'm writing. When talking, I use the average vocabulary of a teenager - I find it gives me an easier time.

Sometimes I feel so frustrated. Adults don't respect me as much as I'd like, and other children can be so prejudiced. For example, a friend read the first part of this article and said, "Adrienne, you sound like a textbook". I laughed, but I won't make the same mistake twice.

I suppose I must intimidate people. I am tall and initially come across as disdainful, though that is just shyness. At secondary school, friends are more genuinely appreciative of my intelligence - I'm not a freak, it's just part of my character. Sometimes, I suppose it's nice, to be known for being different, but at others, blending with the crowd is all I want to do.

Adults treat you as they see you, a blank mind, which is frustrating. Other adults see you as clay to mould into their ideal. Sometimes I think I'd be better off alone with my book in the schoolyard.

I see the education system so differently from the people who control it. We are the future to them, but in an impersonal faceless, emotionless manner. On leaving school, they seem to forget the immediacy of everything in the child's world. I hope I never do.

Adrienne Blake is a pupil at Monkseaton Community High School, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside

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