Sports model could help gifted pupils

15th May 1998 at 01:00
Able children need extra coaching, says new research. Nicholas Pyke reports.

. Schools could be ignoring many thousands of talented pupils because teachers are not properly trained to notice them, according to a report from the Office for Standards in Education.

High intelligence is complex and widely misunderstood, says Educating The Very Able, a review of current international research.

As a result, girls and pupils from minority groups are more likely to be passed over if judgments are left to the teacher alone.

The author, Professor Joan Freeman of Middlesex University, believes that academic subjects should be tackled in the same way as sports - where everyone, including the most gifted, is encouraged to participate.

She recommends that schools set-up after-school and weekend clubs, offering the same sort of coaching and competition as, say, football.

"Just as those who are talented and motivated can select themselves for extra tuition and practice in sports, they could opt for extra foreign languages or physics. This would mean, of course, that such facilities must be available to all, as sport is."

The report attempts to dispel many common assumptions, such as the belief that intelligent pupils are more likely to be introverted and have emotional problems. Research shows this to be untrue, Professor Freeman says.

Intelligence is no guarantee of success in later life. But the report also concludes that IQ tests, if properly used, are a good method of identifying academic talent.

'Educating The Very Able' is available from the Publications Centre, PO Box 276, London SW8 5DT

Traits of the very able

* Memory and knowledge - excellent memory and use of information

* Self-regulation - they know how they learn best

* Speed of thought

* Dealing with problems - spot what is irrelevant and get to the essentials more quickly

* Flexibility - they can see alternative solutions

* Preference for complexity

* Exceptional ability to concen- trate at will and for long periods of time

* Early symbolic activity - they may speak read and write very early

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