Watchdogs for talented pupils

6th July 2007 at 01:00
Schools expected to appoint leading teacher by September to ensure all staff support gifted children

OFFICIALS ARE urging primaries to nominate teachers to lead their gifted and talented programmes before the end of term.

Schools are already expected to identify around 10 per cent of pupils on their gifted and talented register. By September, they must have a leading teacher on gifted education; if not, they will have to answer to Ofsted.

Carol Singh, project leader of gifted and talented education at the National Strategies, said the key thrust was to make sure that "every teacher supports gifted and talented pupils". Primaries will be expected to appoint one lead teacher per cluster of schools.

The scheme is still regarded as aimed at precocious teenagers. So what does gifted and talented education at primary level, look like?

Every Friday at Rushcombe first school in Dorset, the teachers can be found sitting on the floor while the children lead the assembly.

"Sharing assemblies" at the 320-pupil school in Corfe Mullen, near Wimborne, are created by two different Year 4 pupils each week, as part of the school's programme for gifted and talented children.

The two nominated pupils visit each class to ask what their peers would like to share about the work they have done that week.

Leonie Fawcett, Rushcombe's acting headteacher, said: "They have to think of questions to ask. Asking children to explain their work a bit more is particularly good for the more able pupils."

The event is the kind of gifted and talented exercise that is being promoted: it is accessible to all pupils, but challenging to the most capable.

Julie Fitzpatrick, chief executive of the National Association for Able Children in Education, said lessons should challenge bright children but they should "also enable children who have not been identified as gifted or talented to show what they can do".

Brimington Manor infant school in Chesterfield has only 88 pupils. "Our top 10 per cent is only a very few children," said Jackie Smith, the headteacher, "which is why we want activities which mean something to everybody.

"We do have particular activities to stretch the gifted children. For example, a Year 1 boy who is talented in sport would join in with Year 2 children when they have football coaching."

Mrs Smith said the school also focuses on asking questions and encouraging open-ended responses.

"When Year 2 did their dragons and knights topic, they had to answer questions such as: 'If you were a dragon, who would you kidnap and why?'

"The point is there is no right answer to this. They have to think about it and use their reasoning skills. That is the sort of thing gifted children really excel at."

Leading teachers will be expected to play a more strategic role than gifted and talented co-ordinators, training their peers and ensuring that talented children are stretched in every lesson. The National Strategies will provide training, which begins in the autumn. Staff can be paid more for their role, at the schools' discretion.

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