Gifted but in care: a generation of talent that's going to waste

6th November 2009 at 00:00

The crisis in the care system is resulting in the needs of gifted children being sidelined or forgotten about, teachers and social workers have admitted.

Heavier workloads caused by the large increase in the number of children taken away from their parents since the killing of Baby P and a shortage of social workers has meant that the brightest children often go unrecognised, while pupils are not receiving extra support in lessons, according to the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC).

Only 14 per cent of looked-after children achieve five A*-C GCSEs - and their performance has hardly changed in the last five years. Just 4 per cent are included in the Department for Children, Schools and Families' Young Gifted and Talented scheme, compared with 13 per cent of other pupils.

A new NAGC report says foster carers do not have enough "time and energy" to support gifted children. They are "rarely" informed that a child is on the gifted and talented programme, and consequently the responsibility falls to teachers.

But schools often fail to spot the foster children's intellect because it is disguised by behavioural problems caused by trauma.

The research aimed to find out what support was given to the carers of gifted children, and what further help is needed. Carers, social workers and heads of local authority fostering departments were interviewed who, together, had responsibility for 1,300 children.

"Children in care who misbehave or turn up at school without the right equipment are often misinterpreted as being naughty or negligent, but in fact it is the result of the trauma they have experienced," the report says.

"While it is for the child's carer to ensure they attend school, the school itself can make this easier by ensuring the school day is as pleasant and non-threatening for the child as possible, so they will not be afraid to attend."

The NAGC found that, in particular, the worlds of foster care and gifted and talented education very rarely mix.

"Children in care are not expected to be gifted, and gifted children are not expected to be in care," the report says. "Consequently, the foster care world is largely unaware of the presence of gifted and talented children, and the world of gifted and talented is only gradually becoming aware that children in care fall within its remit."

Each school has a designated teacher for children in care and the Government provides #163;500 a year for each of those pupils at risk of not reaching the expected standards. Every child in care is also a member of a virtual school.

The Government is trying to help disadvantaged, bright pupils through regional "excellence hubs", which run out-of-school activities for these pupils. National Strategies guidance says provision should be "holistic, dynamic, urgent and practical".

Teachers are supposed to have a "clear understanding" of how being in care could affect a child's education, and know their individual circumstances. There should be liaison between pupil, carer, teachers and the local authority.

NAGC action plan

- The child's class teacher should liaise closely with the school's lead for the Young Gifted and Talented programme.

- Teachers should receive training from the school's designated YGT teacher in how to work with traumatised children.

- Social workers and key workers should provide guidance and support throughout the application process for children who want to go to university.

- Before a child starts school, their social worker should inform teachers of gifts and talents.

- Children should be placed with foster parents who have the same interests, and who would encourage their gifts.

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