Mensa steps in with 'bright' idea

13th February 2009 at 00:00
High-IQ society responds to parents' complaints about lack of assessments for gifted children with DIY test to use at home

Experts from Mensa have been drafted in to spot gifted children after complaints from parents that teachers are too slow, or unwilling, to diagnose their talents.

The National Association for Gifted Children has teamed up with the high- IQ society to devise new, cheaper intelligence tests which can be taken at home as proof of ability.

The association said the tests, piloted among families last autumn, could be introduced to help parents persuade schools that their child is bright enough to qualify for extra support.

The tests will soon be on sale through the association's website for Pounds 10; a private assessment by an educational psychologist could cost families as much as Pounds 650.

But experts said teachers are unlikely to use a measure of IQ alone to change the way they work with a pupil.

Educational psychology services have traditionally been provided free to schools, but funding rules now allow them to commission services instead.

Denise Yates, the association's chief executive, said this had increased schools' reluctance to spend additional funds on assessing gifted pupils.

"Working together in this way makes sense for us and Mensa. What we want is some kind of measure of being gifted which is recognised, but we don't see this as an alternative to thorough assessment," Ms Yates said.

"We believe if this gets off the ground and it proves useful for parents and teachers, the tests could even be taken in schools with teachers supervising.

"Of course there is always the risk of children failing the test. If this happens, we need to make sure they get positive feedback so it doesn't harm their self-esteem or confidence."

Ms Yates also called for health visitors and educational psychologists to be trained in spotting gifted youngsters before they even start school.

"We have parents of two-year-olds and staff from nurseries who are contacting us to ask for help and we would like the Department of Health to seriously consider coming up with a range of indicators which could be given to professionals looking after young children," she said.

"Gifted children are at as much risk of having problems in school as those with special educational needs."

Charles Ward, general secretary of the Association of Educational Psychologists, said a full assessment would be of more use to teachers than an IQ test.

"Children might score highly according to Mensa but it doesn't show their emotional or social abilities or pick up barriers to learning," he said.

"I think most schools are quite good at picking up when pupils are gifted and it's still usually free for them to get advice and assessment from an educational psychologist.

"We believe even gifted pupils still need to take part in `normal' activities and get their hands and knees dirty. Parents should listen very carefully to what teachers tell them about their child, many are perhaps overestimating their abilities."

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