Expand gifted minds

15th June 2007 at 01:00
We joined the London Gifted and Talented learning network because we wanted to find new ways of stretching our most able pupils. As well as several training days, the network gives you access to online resources, blogs and discussion groups. It's a great way to share ideas with other schools.

We used to be quite narrow in our approach to identifying gifted pupils. It was a case of measuring children against a checklist of criteria. But we're more confident now and go with our gut instinct. You're just looking for anything out of the ordinary. If a pupil turns up to school with a model of a castle she's made at home, without anyone telling her to do it, then you've got a gifted child on your hands.

There's no doubt talented children benefit from breaking free of the constraints of the timetable. We're introducing a number of special weeks, where normal lessons will be replaced by cross-curricular projects. Right now, we're taking part in the National Gallery's Take One Picture scheme - where all the work we do for a week, in every subject, will be inspired by one piece of art.

When you give talented children more freedom it brings out the best in them. Even in ordinary lessons, we're looking to create more open-ended tasks. We often say: "This is the answer. Now what's the question?" It gets them thinking.

We've also invited high-flying GCSE pupils from a local secondary school to work with small groups of our gifted and talented children. They deliver modules on anything, from tectonic plates to musical composition. It works brilliantly because primary schools are so dominated by literacy and numeracy, children with talents in other areas get overlooked.

We're trying to offer a broad range of project work, with a strong emphasis on sport, music and the arts. The curriculum is important, but gifted pupils need so much more if they're to fulfil their potential

Clare Mangan is gifted and talented co-ordinator at St Mary's Catholic Primary School, London Borough of Bromley. She was talking to Steven Hastings

The details

Effective Primary Practice Learning Network is run by London Gifted and Talented, and is free to primary schools in the London area.

It will be repeated from October to December 2007 and January to March 2008. www.londongt.org

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