New test shows hidden talents in poor areas

18th May 2001 at 01:00
A problem-solving test has yielded surprising results, reports Julie Henry.

PRIMARY children in a deprived London borough have outscored the brightest pupils from a high-performing surburban school in a new, world-class test.

The controversial tests to stretch high-flying nine and 13-year-olds in maths and problem-solving will be available from September. Critics say the tests are too narrow for judging intelligence and will only be taken in top-performing schools.

But the Able Children's Education Centre at Brunel University, Twickenham, suggests that the problem-solving test could be used as an inner-city talent spotter.

In a recent trial of the test, five nine-year-olds from some of the lowest-performing primaries in Lambeth did better than the top five pupils from an "affluent, leafy suburb" school where 90 per cent of 11-year-olds achieved level 4 in maths. The Lambeth children scored 134 points, compared to the suburban pupils' 119.

Dr Valsa Koshy, centre co-director, said: "No one expected these results. The children from Lambeth were selected on the basis of their potential ability, not their performance in written tests. The five were chosen from a short-list of 20, drawn from 10 schools.

"The results, although from a small sample, show how the problem-solving test can reveal natural ability in children that might normally be passed over. They should be used as a means of allowing submerged talent to float into the top 10 per cent."

Lambeth tachers had been dismissive of the tests before the study. One said: "It is unlikely that any of our children will get anywhere near them. There will be a stampede of middle-class and independent-school parents wanting to enter their kids."

Another claimed there were no "really gifted pupils" in the school. But, after reviewing the test material on the web and seeing how the children performed, they felt the test could serve as a "means of identification".

Dr Koshy said once world-class tests were introduced, the number of poor pupils sitting them should be monitored and steps taken if the take-up was low.

The Lambeth pupils did less well in the maths test, scoring 107 points against the suburban children's 157.

A group of 20 children are now attending Saturday maths master classes run by the centre as part of the LEA's gifted and talented programme.

For test papers see www.qca.org.uk

PROBPLEM-SOLVING POSERS

1.Tom finds that seven pears weigh the same as four bananas, and five bananas weigh the same as six apples. Which single piece of fruit weighs most? Which single piece of fruit weighs the least?

2. The children in Mr Kirby's class voted 'Babe the Gallant Pig', 'Sarah Plain and Tall' and 'Stone Fox' as their favourite books with 34 children voting. The winning book got most votes, but got less than 17 votes. There was a two-way tie for second place. Find all the possible ways in which the votes may have been given to the three books.


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