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Toothache to extract the best from pupils

Exam watchdog introduces tests to help gifted and talented children.

Cherry Canovan reports

PHARAOHS who died of tooth decay, asteroids plunging to earth and conjoined twins are among the subjects being used to challenge gifted and talented children.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority this week published a series of tasks to motivate pupils working above national curriculum test levels.

The optional tasks are available in English, maths and science at key stages 2 and 3. Tasks have also been set for gifted students at KS1 in English and maths, for example when the class is studying Goldilocks, more able pupils are asked to analyse the moral dilemmas facing the characters.

One of the English tasks for pupils working above KS3 level involves the case of conjoined twins Jodie and Mary, separated after a lengthy court case prompted by the fact that the operation would kill Mary.

Pupils have to write a newspaper article which must "present their analysis and views expressing complex issues in a formal style with care and sensitivity".

Those working above KS3 in science are asked to imagine that an asteroid could hit the Earth in 25 years and plan a mission to colonise another planet.

Their answers are expected to tackle food production and the effects of different gravities on human physiology.

Bright KS2 pupils of a more macabre turn are catered for by science tasks, which look at the death of Egyptian king Amenhotep III. He is thought to have died from an infected tooth eroded by grit and sand in bread. Children explore various aspects of his death and preparation for burial.

Dr Ken Boston, chief executive of QCA, said: "These materials will provide support for teachers to ensure that pupils across the full spectrum of ability are nurtured, stimulated and encouraged."

Belle Wallace, president of the National Association for Able Children in Education, called the publication of the new tasks a promising step. She said: "Bright minds need complex problems to solve."

The association held its annual conference for education authority advisers this week on the theme of "Keeping gifted and talented on the teaching and learning agenda".

Delegates from across the country attended sessions including talent development in PE and sport, and issues surrounding able underachievers.

* The Government is to cut the cost of places at the new summer school for gifted and talented pupils. A pound;360,000 cash boost will lower the maximum cost from pound;1,000 a pupil to pound;600 this year.

There are also tasks for pupils working below the level of the tests which can also be downloaded from below_level.asp, while those for gifted and talented pupils can be downloaded from catestsabove_level.asp

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