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Gifted Pupils’ Scheme


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David Bell, chief inspector of schools, has written an interesting article on the Gifted Pupils’ Scheme in this month’s edition of Education Review. He claims that the government’s “gifted and talented” programme has had little impact on teaching in everyday lessons.

The £800 million EiC programme has been designed to provide extra support for the most able 5% to 10% of pupils as part of an overall effort to address social imbalances in the educational system.

However, a study commissioned by the National Foundation for Educational Research last year suggested that white middle class pupils were dominating the scheme. John Bangs of the NUT recently said that “The scheme has appeared to be more a token of the government’s anxiety about the attitude of more well-off parents towards comprehensives in inner cities than meeting the needs of pupils”.

I am sure that this money is being well-spent in some schools. Would be interested in anyone who has got any examples of this.

I am also interested if other countries are dealing with the problem of helping educationally able children from deprived areas.

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One of my roles is co-ordinator of the Gifted and Talented program and I was interested in the comments that David Bell made. At my school we take a twin track approach to G&T - inside (I hesitate to label this as 'extension') and outside ('enrichment') the classroom. We have had a number of excellent projects this year including a Science exchange with a Beacon School that we are in partnership with; year 10 students from my (boys) school worked with students (girls) from our partner school in a lower 6th electrochemistry lesson and had a very positive experience in terms of their educational and social development; the MFL department embarked upon a cross curricular project - 'History through French' in which key stage 3 students studied the impact of WW2 in ocupied France and delivered their Powerpoint presentations in French to an audience of Staff and Parents at the local City Learning Centre (CLC).

In my experience it is (perceived as) easier for teachers to set up projects for students outside the classroom, where they can spend time working with small groups and closely monitoring their progress than it is to plan the kind of thinking skills type of activities that really stretch (all) pupils in the classroom. This would tend to support Bell's idea that the G&T program is not raising standards in the classroom. However, the most effective teachers of G&T students are the ones that have integrated thinking skills into their everyday classroom teaching. We have a number of teachers that have really grasped this and the results have been amazing - I am thinking in particular of a science teacher who has worked on the CASE program (Cognitive Acceleration in Science -I think! ) and a Maths teacher who has worked on the CAME program. They have consistently achieved higher grades for the majority of their students. One of the strategies that I have used as co-ordinator has been to encourage the use of Thinking skills inside the classroom and used as INSET material the excellent seminar on this topic from the History Teachers Discussion Forum, written by Lesley Ann which you can read here: http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/forum/index...?showtopic=1564.

However, a study commissioned by the National Foundation for Educational Research last year suggested that white middle class pupils were dominating the scheme. John Bangs of the NUT recently said that “The scheme has appeared to be more a token of the government’s anxiety about the attitude of more well-off parents towards comprehensives in inner cities than meeting the needs of pupils”.

Whilst this may well be the case nationally, this absolutely does not apply in my school - the majority of G&T students are from ethnic minorities, or are recent immigrants or refugees, many with English as a Second Language and they are overwhelmingly from working class backgrounds. I am also the Aimhigher co-ordinator (a scheme to encourage students to go onto FE/HE) and this in combination with the G&T program has really encouraged students to actively pursue College / University placements, many of whom would not have thought about this before.

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Guest ChristineS
In my experience it is (perceived as) easier for teachers to set up projects for students outside the classroom, where they can spend time working with small groups and closely monitoring their progress than it is to plan the kind of thinking skills type of activities that really stretch (all) pupils in the classroom. This would tend to support Bell's idea that the G&T program is not raising standards in the classroom. However, the most effective teachers of G&T students are the ones that have integrated thinking skills into their everyday classroom teaching.

I can only be anecdotal, but as an experienced ground floor teacher who is genuinely interested in G & T I have to confirm that this has been so in my limited experience of one school.

Target departments have certain teachers who are part of a working party and they have gradually altered their teaching practice to include thinking skills; other teachers in the same department have made very limited changes only when materials have been supplied by those target teachers and they were told they were being observed using them. Their overall practice has not altered because they haven't been provided with enough materials/G & T schemes to use and even though they agree the methods are good, they are not willing to spend their own time on re-planning schemes and creating the materials. Money was spent in sending them on courses so they all know the methods, but applying them is another matter. Other departments, such as my own, have made no changes at all because we didn't even get the training.

I know that relatively large amounts of money have been in the school for this and I wonder if it was directed in the right direction? What seems to me to have been needed was planning time to create the resources and alter schemes of work to include more of these types of activity - and then money spent financing lots and lots of lesson observations to make us use them!

These sorts of real changes take time; time we are never given. But even if we were how often should teachers be absent from lessons to do this sort of thing? I piloted the Literacy Strategy and it took two years before teaching methods altered and three for schemes to be rewritten sufficiently (not wholly uselessly, but almost, as it happens). G & T involves a real re-think for many teachers of teaching methods, but most of all such changes in teaching style require TIME, and with the pressure of work as it is, it cannot happen in a school where staff are expected to fit it in on top of all the other initiatives and regular work. Another factor mitigating against teachers altering how they teach is in a school that is driven by results for PM/league tables, they are afraid to take what feels like risks with their better classes. Thus the G & T Initative inevitably remains a patchy, sparse and at times mere paper exercise.

That brings me to what I consider a final key factor in how easily these methods are adopted into teaching practice - the efficacity of decent equipment: G & T methods are easier if a teacher has the right tools and that is not happening in schools. I have recently been given equipment from G & T money because I showed an interest, however, the money has all but run out so I am not actually being trained to use it and am having to teach myself - again in my 'spare' time. But it is worth it. Before I got it a particular G & T lesson I prepared on a poem from GCSE Different Cultures using visual images took me 20 hours to plan and prepare for; after I got the equipment I was able to prepare three other mini-units using images in just six hours because I had a classroom projector and internet access in the classroom and didn't have to do all the print outs and copies and laminating. In fact I added extension lessons too. Sad that I am currently the only one in the Department with this basic equipment (a computer, internet connection and projector) in my room!

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As part of my responsibilities I am both the E-learning Coordinator and the Gifted and Talentented Coordinator. The role of E-Learning Coordinator is not new to me but I have only coordinated the Gifted and Talented programme since September 2003.

We are a average West Sussex Comprehensive School and as such we do not benefit from any Government funding such as the 'Excellence in Cities' budget.

I have attempted to gain funding for the Gifted and Talented programme from various sources but have so far been unsuccessful.

Without any financial assistance we have made great progress since September.

Gifted and Talented Development – September 2003 - January 2004[/b]

1. We have written a whole school Gifted and Talented Policy which has been accepted by both teachers, governors and parents.

2. We have identified and compiled a central register of Gifted and Talented students.

3. Letters have been written in order to obtain parental permission for students to be mentored and placed on register.

4. Students are regularly mentored (3/4 per week). We negotiate individual progress plans. Students create portfolios of best work.

5. A team of mentors is currently being recruited from most subject areas.

6. Students have been placed onto county courses (Art and Design).

7. A Gifted and Talented website has been set up.

8. The Art Department are currently running a course after school in digital photography and portraiture.

9. The Business Department are currently running a ‘Pro-share’ competition for G and T students.

10. Underachievers have been identified and a breakdown has been sent to all members of staff.

11. An updated G and T list has been sent to all HOD’s and has been placed in both staffrooms.

12. Some Departments have written their G and T policies. These may be found on the G and T pages of the school website.

13. A forum is being developed in school for G and T students. Students may enter the forum in lunchtimes, break times and after school. The forum will be managed by three G and T students, the Network Manager and myself.

14. Whenever possible I meet with HOD’s to discuss development of differentiated work for G and T students, differentiated homework, enrichment and extension of current schemes of work.

15. An Inset for Heads of Departments has been provided at the start of the term.

At the moment I have one protected period per week in order to coordinate the G and T Programme and a budget of £800 for the whole financial year. The budget is used to pay to resource school library with suitable resources for G and T students and for setting up the forum.

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Educational forums like this have great potential for helping gifted and talented students. For example, there is currently a discussion going on at the moment about how you teach about the dark periods of our past.

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=96

What about us creating a thread where students from different countries discuss the topic of history and nationalism. Maybe members could select two or three of their sensible students from their own school with a good use of the English language to discuss these issues. This debate could then be used as a teaching resource. I would be willing to make an opening statement to get the debate going.

What do you think? Please post if you are interested in taking part in such a project.

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Some very interesting points raised so far, and it certainly makes me feel a lot better knowing that I am not the only person out there who is finding it a bit of a struggle to get things moving.

John - you can count me in for the project, I have a few yr 10s and 11s in mind (and hopefully my school computers will have recovered from the nightmare that we had at the end of last term) so this can be a nice little project for them.

Andy - I would be interested in seeing your website for G&T - what is the address? I have just started to teach myself how to use Dreamweaver and I know that some of my boys can write in HTML so sounds like another little project - actually it links in with an idea that I had for my KS3 G&T students - it is the centenary of one of school buildings this year so I plan to design a website about the school and the events that were happening in 1904.

- How do you monitor the progress of your students? you mention mentoring but how do you physically manage this - I have about 70 students on my G&T cohort and I can only get to see them as part of our Academic review Days (bi- annual mentoring program). Do you use IEPS for your monitoring? I am trying to set this up but don't want it to turn into a huge paper exercise - does anyone have any good suggestions for monitoring?

Christine - I agree with so much of what you say, especially about the time it takes to change people's attitudes and teaching methods and in terms of resources - We only have interactive whiteboards in the Maths and ICT depts at the moment and I would love to get my hands on one - I am starting to feel a bit guilty of the number of room changes that I am doing with the Maths dept! But part of my philosophy is to lead by example so if I am not going to do this at the co-ordinator I guess I can't expect others to follow. Have you found any particular methods effective at convincing your colleagues to adopt certain practices?

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The Midhurst Grammar School Website address may be found below. Some of our pages still lead to 'Under Construction' but the content grows each week.

The RE and Photography Departments are just about complete. There is a link to the Gifted and Talented section from the homepage. I work with one department at a time and have some assistance with administration.

There are certain secure pages which you will not be able to enter unless you have the password and username. These pages are exclusively used by teachers and pupils.

http://www.midhurst-grammar.w-sussex.sch.uk/

I manage to mentor 2/3 students per week. I do not have a tutor group and have one protected G and T period per week. During each mentoring session I fill in an Individual personal programme. The students and I negotiate activities, targets and deadlines. I hope to see each student twice a year.

Each student has negotiated individual tasks and activities apart from three students who together create the student's section of the school website.

The whole mentoring process proved to be difficult at first but I have managed to recruit a few enthusiastic members of staff to help me and become mentors. I hope to have a team of at least 10 mentors by the end of the year.

I see myself as a coordinator. I could not possibly develop the programme by myself. It is a team effort.

We are fortunate in that West Sussex is quite progressive with regards to the Gifted and Talented and offers a variety of courses and after school sessions for G and T Coordinators.

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Guest ChristineS
Christine -Have you found any particular methods effective at convincing your colleagues to adopt certain practices?

Don't know if this is what you mean as you say that some teachers are already applying G & T methods, so you must have introduced them to them! Anyway, here goes:

The only way I can think of that will work is to do as I did when I was Literacy Coordinator. You must have Department G & T reps. Work with them. Plan a mini-module with a particular colleague and then deliver it together if you can. This should give them confidence and a practical demonstration of its effectiveness too. Then ask them to plan and deliver something else themselves. Ask them to bring it to the next G & T meeting with a feedback sheet and talk to the meeting about it. I used to demonstrate a method at the X-Curr. Lit Meetings and then each Dept. Lit rep. applied it in a lesson before the next meeting and fed-back to the meeting, and I team-planned and taught where necessary amongst the Depts.

I also know that going in to observe the teachers delivering a G & T lesson will focus their minds wonderfully on actually getting it planned and materials made for it. Ask for copies of everything made and create a central bank as you go along. Make a display fro the staff room (or a book to be kept their of the materials used in each Dept) of whatever has been done and used as a constant reminder of the sort of thing that is possible across the curriculum. Ask colleagues who are delivering it to allow other colleagues in to observe a G & T lesson (perhaps within departments).

The demonstrating ato, nd training of staff is fine, but my experience is that is it is just given and staff are sent away to think about it, it doesn't translate into changes in the classroom. My mantra was always try to follow any training or demonstration up with a practical application that leaves staff with something practical to actually do in the classroom (people have to experience the benefits themselves). Perhaps you can beg some INSET time to demonstrate a particular thinking skill and then have at least an hour in which each department has to work it into one or two of their schemes, then return together for the Departments to tell the others the change they have made?

Is this what you mean? I do wonder if I am operating on the right level for these sorts of discussions.

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I also know that going in to observe the teachers delivering a G & T lesson will focus their minds wonderfully on actually getting it planned and materials made for it. Ask for copies of everything made and create a central bank as you go along. Make a display fro the staff room (or a book to be kept their of the materials used in each Dept) of whatever has been done and used as a constant reminder of the sort of thing that is possible across the curriculum. Ask colleagues who are delivering it to allow other colleagues in to observe a G & T lesson (perhaps within departments).

Is this what you mean? I do wonder if I am operating on the right level for these sorts of discussions.

You have given me alot of good ideas - although I am sure that I will not be very popular with the cover teacher if I start asking to do lots of observations - I actually was planning to get the SMT to look at G&T in their observations so maybe I can combine the two. I also like the idea of the bank of materials / display.

I also think that you are absolutely on the right lines in terms of your contributions - keep them up!!

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  • 2 weeks later...

A Senate Committee in Australia has just published a report into gifted children in the classroom. It is available from the Australian government's website and includes sections such as: defining the problem; characteristics of gifted children, identifying gifted children, differentiating the curriculum, accelerated learning, enrichment and extension, difficulties of curriculum support, ability grouping and the the role of universities in gifted education.

http://www.aph.gov.au/senate/committee/eet...rt/contents.htm

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  • 3 weeks later...

As some of you are aware I have recently (with the help of some very able ICT students) developed a school forum for our gifted and talented students.

In tonight's meeting we asked students to register, login and choose an avatar.

I was shocked at how many students and members of staff had never used a forum before. The concept seemed quite alien to them. The use of the G and T forum in our school should prove to be quite an interesting experiment.

All I need to do now is to convince senior management of the advantages of using such a forum.

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  • 2 months later...

Our forum appears to be a success. It is quite interesting that very few members of staff actually contribute but nevertheless the students have taken charge, posting quite stimulating topic discussions. Our Governors appreciated the forum presentation and for some of them it was the first time they had ever experienced a forum.

Most of the postings were both basic and simplistic in the early days but the level of sophistication has altered with many of the older, mature students leading by example.

We intend to use the school educational forum with our student teachers. The professional mentor intends to post a discussion topic at the beginning of each week. It also acts as an information board enabling information to be communicated in a much more efficient way.

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