Gifted but forgotten

1st August 1997 at 01:00
The gifted are often the forgotten. Miraca Gross, an Australian academic born in Scotland, believes (page 28) that for working-class families, the chances of giftedness being spotted and nurtured are less than when she was at school in the 1950s.

She is not referring to able pupils underachieving, a problem identified by the Inspectorate. The curriculum is no doubt at fault, especially in S1 and S2, for not encouraging teachers to stretch pupils for whom learning comes easily. The gifted are at best a subset of the able, at worst a problem group in their own right. Where they are not identified, they can become disillusioned with the routine work given them, and the result is apathy, trouble-making or a wasteful attempt to "dumb down" to acceptable peer levels.

Dr Gross recognises such symptoms in her own school history. She also contrasts disregard for the gifted with the training given to teachers of the deaf. Hearing impaired herself, she believes that special needs should be catered for, whatever their nature. She was lucky in that her abilities, though ignored and disdained at primary school, were evident enough for her to be selected for senior secondary school. In today's comprehensive system, she is doubtful if children from working-class backgrounds would be similarly identified.

If she is right, the comprehensive ideal is being betrayed, and if that is so, pre-service and in-service teacher training has to focus on the ablest pupils as well as on the strugglers and the middle-of-the-road groups who receive most of the attention.

H 13 TES August 1 1997 "What good is a Standard grade pass in science if the recipient is illiterate"

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