Young and gifted 'failures' prompt reform

30th January 2009 at 00:00
But programme supporters dismiss figures showing that nearly 12,000 participants didn't achieve five good GCSE passes

The measure of success of England's Young, Gifted and Talented programme is set for an overhaul after claims last week that it was failing to boost the performance of its pupils.

The proposed reforms follow criticism of the government after new data showed that 11,628 children on the programme had not achieved five good GCSE grades, including English and maths.

But the figure has been dismissed as a poor indicator of the initiative's success because it rolls together children labelled "gifted" - academic high-achievers - with those considered "talented" - pupils who are particularly good at the arts or sport.

It is expected that the two categories will be split because there is no reason to assume that "talented" children will be academic high-flyers. There will also be more teacher assessment of pupil achievement.

But Elise Lewis, Young Gifted and Talented programme director, said the scheme should be viewed as "holistic" rather than a "hot-housing" process to secure good grades. "We want to raise aspiration and improve motivation and confidence as well as open doors for new opportunities," she said.

"Just using exam results misses the point. We don't just exist to help move students up from an A to an A*.

"We work with children from the age of four to 19 in many different areas, so it's also inaccurate to judge Young Gifted and Talented in this way nationally."

A new programme team took over last August and they have been discussing how to evaluate their work.

For example, free school meals data and comparisons with other children in the same school could be used to measure the success of City Gates, which is the Pounds 160m strand of the Young, Gifted and Talented initiative set up to serve Greater London, Greater Manchester and the Black Country.

National Association for Gifted Children chief executive Denise Yates backs plans for reform. "Identification seems to us to be key to the success of the scheme. Educationalists need to understand gifted children, how their minds work and how they learn," she said.

"If the only objective of the Gamp;T register is to ensure that students get five good grades at GCSE, it is a sorry state for British education. Surely, it is more important to support the needs of these children . so that they have the opportunity to achieve their potential, whatever that may be."

At Simon Langton Grammar School for boys in Canterbury, Kent, gifted and talented pupils have attended courses across the county and have even attracted research funding from universities.

"I don't believe the purpose of Young Gifted and Talented should be to create an amazing statistical improvement, so looking at its effect on exam results can be very misleading," he said.

"The main purpose of the scheme is that it allows you to help all pupils. It's even been a benefit to us in Kent, which has the selective system.

"Young Gifted and Talented is fragmented around the country, you can't look at it as a whole.

"Each school is doing different, but fantastic, things."

HOW TO SPOT ABILITY

Gifted and talented pupils are defined by the Department for Children, Schools and Families as "children and young people with one or more abilities developed to a level significantly ahead of their year group".

Gifted learners are those who have abilities in one or more academic subjects, such as maths and English.

Talented learners have particular abilities in sport, music, design or creative and performing arts, including those who are vocationally "gifted".

Schools organise their own events for Gamp;T children, but there are national initiatives, such as a website which children can use to develop further. In December 2008, the website was used by 32,000 people, up 62 per cent on the last recorded figure.

CfBT Education Trust manages City Gates and ten regional gifted and talented partnerships across England, which are run by local authorities with funding from YGamp;T.

Gifted and talented excellence hubs take place in partnership with university staff from around the country, who run activities, support, summer schools, masterclasses and workshops.

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