University hits back at criticism of its academy for gifted pupils

6th February 2009 at 00:00
Academics who set up England's first national scheme to boost the achievements of gifted and talented children say they are "dismayed" by a report which claims the legacy of their work is "thin".

Academics who set up England's first national scheme to boost the achievements of gifted and talented children say they are "dismayed" by a report which claims the legacy of their work is "thin".

Teachers were initially unwilling to support the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, the report says. It was set up by Warwick University in 1999 and closed in 2007. But staff did not do enough for pupils, the study says, so it was not value for money.

The report, commissioned by the Government, says the academy did raise the profile of gifted and talented pupils and inspired participants, but its remit was too narrow to make a profound difference.

But the findings have been questioned by Nigel Thrift, Warwick University's vice-chancellor, who defended the role of the academy. It has been replaced by Young Gifted and Talented, a programme run by the CfBT Education Trust that operates regionally, on the internet and through university-run excellence hubs providing extra classes. It works with the top 10 per cent of pupils, where the academy was open only to the top 5 per cent.

The success of the academy was also hindered by lack of co-operation from teachers, says the report. Reluctance to identify the brightest and most talented pupils still exists, it says, and many teachers still do not understand the role that special support can play in helping pupils.

Professor Thrift said he was "dismayed" at the "discourtesy" of the report's authors, who did not show it to the university before publication. Nor did they consult with Warwick's senior management while compiling the report.

"We are not surprised at the skewed perspective reflected in the report and it is for that reason, alongside the lack of input from senior Warwick staff, that we do not accept its findings," he said.

Professor Thrift added that the university had the goal of reaching 20,000 pupils when the academy was founded but staff had worked with more than 100,000 by 2006.

10% of pupils reached by the Young Gifted and Talented programme - twice the previous number.

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