Vast differences among local authorities in the identification of gifted and talented (GT) pupils have been revealed for the first time.
According to new statistics - published by the Government following a parliamentary question from the Liberal Democrats - the range stretches from 2.2 per cent of maintained primary school pupils in Bury to 15 per cent in Southend-on-Sea.
The situation is similar in state-funded secondaries. In North Lincolnshire, just 6.2 per cent of pupils are earmarked as GT, compared with 23 per cent in Enfield.
The new figures coincide with last week's publication of an Ofsted report that damned schools' failure to engage with the GT initiative.
Government policy claims that GT pupils form the top 5-10 per cent of every school - meaning schools should all have an identified cohort. The most recent statistics show that about 820,000 pupils have been identified as GT - some 10 per cent of the school population.
However, the range of identification has infuriated campaigners. Denise Yates, chief executive of the National Association for Gifted Children, which claims to receive more than 3,000 calls a year from parents complaining about GT provision, said there was a "postcode lottery".
"It's clear the new student and parent guarantees will force schools to look again at what they are offering," she said. "We hope Ofsted looks at GT provision when inspecting in the future."
Julie Fitzpatrick, chief executive of the National Association for Able Children in Education, agreed: "It's clear more needs to be done to help schools make GT provision a priority. The skills they develop in doing this are a useful tool for improvement in all areas."
Ofsted's report criticised schools for not engaging children and parents in their work for GT pupils. The worst schools were led by staff who lacked "drive and commitment". and even those with well-meaning staff often lacked coherence.
"Many teachers were not convinced about the importance of making differentiated provision for these pupils, either because they thought it would be at the expense of other pupils or because they felt there was insufficient support," the report says.
"All the headteachers felt that their task of improving provision for GT pupils would be easier if there was a clearer and stronger message from (the Department for Children, Schools and Families) that this focus should be a high priority for all schools."