Able and Talented
Identifying and meeting the needs of more able children and young people is a challenge shared by all schools. A consideration of the needs of these pupils is a valuable starting point in developing good teaching and learning across the school.
This page is designed to direct you to further support and keep you abreast of current developments.
Reviewing the Curriculum Offer for the Most Able Pupils
We are aware that many schools are currently reviewing their curriculum offer, and ensuring that this aligns with the 2019 Education Inspection Framework.
The new framework specifically mentions the most able as one of three distinct pupil groups to receive particular consideration (along with SEND and disadvantaged pupils).
Whilst this work is taking place, it might be sensible for the school lead for able pupils to be asking how the curriculum specifically meets the needs of the most able learners; possibly in discussion with individual subject leaders to test their thinking/provision for the group.
With this in mind, the following questions may be helpful:
· How does your curriculum intent relate to the most able learners?
· What does "appropriate" curriculum breadth look like for more able pupils? In primary schools, are subject lead teachers confident to do this?
· How does this translate into implementation/sequencing?
· Is it clear what you expect your most able pupils to know, understand and be able to do at the end of a unit of work/key stage?
· Is it clear in pupils' work how your teaching has been adapted to stretch and challenge the most able?...or, if pitching the whole lesson towards the most able, when do you remove the scaffolding for the most able?
· Do teachers have the subject expertise to be confident in applying appropriate challenge?
· How is the focus on reading and vocabulary development relevant to the most able? Are there sufficient opportunities for extended writing/an explicit focus on academic words, their meanings and origins?
· How can we demonstrate that the most able pupils are making good progress? What would you look for in pupils' books? Can you see an obvious difference in the standard of work compared to pupils of lower prior attainment?
In order to support your thinking around subject specific provision follow this link to our Meeting the Needs of the Most Able Guidance:
- Meeting the Needs of the Most Able: Guidance for Primary and Secondary Schools - Training (SET LINK)
- Academically Able Disadvantaged Pupils
Analysis of 2018 test and examination results across all key stages identifies disadvantaged pupils to be the key contributor to underachievement within the more able group; this reflects findings in recent years.
This is not unique to Lancashire schools and the DfE have recently commissioned research to understand successful approaches to support this sub-group.
A key finding from the research was that successful support for the most academically able disadvantaged pupils was not about a single intervention. Rather it was about a suite of activities that, individually and together, made a positive impact.
Strong leadership and strategic focus on this cohort was required.
Interventions across four areas were needed:
- academic extension
- cultural enrichment
- personal development
- removal of financial barriers to achievement.
These intervention areas were supported by schools' partnership work with parents, universities, local businesses and others.
Monitoring, review and evaluation of outcomes enabled schools to focus their efforts on the most cost-effective activities.
The full report can be found by clicking the heading above.
Information for Parents
Parents are concerned to support their children and to ensure their learning needs are being recognised and met. Parents can seek help and guidance from a range of sources. Here you will find a range of frequently asked questions and a link to Potential Plus UK, a national group supporting families.
For parents looking for ways to support their children's interests, a book by Barry Teare, Parents' and Carers' Guide for Able and Talented Children, may provide some useful ideas for activities and visits.
This incredibly useful guide for parents explains what it means for a child to be 'high ability', how these children may be identified by schools, what schools may do to ensure they are providing for these pupils and how parents and schools can work effectively together.
Frequently Asked Questions
Many parents of able youngsters approach the AGT Team for help and guidance in making sure their children's needs are properly met.
Listed below are the questions most often asked by parents: clicking a question will take you to our advice and additional resources, links and information that may be useful to you.
My child started to walk and talk really early - is s/he gifted?
Though parents of able children often report that their child developed certain skills at an early age there are also many examples of gifted adults who did not walk, talk or read until what might normally be regarded as quite late. Children do not all develop at the same rate and it is unwise to base too much on the speed of early development.
What can I do to support my able child before s/he starts school?
Some parents anxious to do their best for their children set up what can best be described as a training programme for their pre-school child. They set out to teach their child to read, to write, to calculate numbers and so on in what can be a very formal and repetitive way. Though these parents are well-meaning they can de-motivate their child.
To support your child:-
Be guided by his/her interests. For example, if he/she shows curiosity and a desire for more when you read and count with him/her then do more.
Learning should be fun and children like variety. If your child is bright s/he will do well as long as s/he remains enthusiastic about learning.
Do not underestimate the importance of play.
Valuable learning opportunities arise from walks in the countryside, walks around town, visits to different places of interest and discussions with family members.
Activities which require thinking are much more useful than, for example, pages of sums. So in a shared story you can discuss why a character did something and discuss whether there were other things he could have done. Learn to ask questions which require thinking, not just memory, when you are driving along or shopping or putting the shopping away. Shared board-games or, for example, baking are wonderful opportunities for discussion which encourage thinking as well as being valuable shared experiences.
What can I do to support my able child now that s/he is at school?
Our advice for parents of pre-school children also applies here. Don't feel you have to give him/her additional maths lessons, for example, to push him/her on. Activities which stimulate interest and enthusiasm and encourage independent learning are much better.
Ideas which come from your child rather than from you are particularly effective as s/he is already starting to take responsibility for learning. Trips to the library to research a current interest are hugely valuable.
Some bright children can spend too much time alone (for example, playing computer games) and their social development can suffer. Encourage playing with friends and team games. This can also help to broaden children's experience, which is important.
The very last thing a very able mathematician needs at home is extra maths. Kicking a football around with parents is much more useful! Learning a musical instrument or joining cubs or brownies are other ways to broaden experience.
The respected author Barry Teare has published a paperback book "Parents' and Carers' Guide for Able and Talented Children" through Network Educational Press that offers a range of ideas to support children's interests across a range of subject areas.
My child has been assessed as 'Greater Depth'. What does this mean?
'Working at Greater Depth of the Expected Standard' is a nationally defined standard at the end of Key Stage 1 in reading, writing and mathematics and at the end of Key Stage 2 in writing, with specific criteria for children to demonstrate. These criteria are published by the Department for Education online.
For all other subjects and year groups, if schools have decided to continue using this terminology to describe better than expected, there is no central definition of this and so it will be using criteria that the school has created themselves.
I would like to know how bright my child is - can I get her/him assessed?
Many headteachers are asked this question by parents. Educational Psychologists have assessment materials which produce a 'score' in a series of subtests. These assessments are very time consuming and can be costly. Parents can approach an Educational Psychologist privately and pay for an assessment.
Whether or not such assessments are carried out, the important thing is to ensure children are given opportunities to be challenged and supported.
Is there any additional funding to support able pupils?
As with all other children, there is an expectation that the needs of able pupils are met through a school's core funding that covers all staffing and curriculum costs. Schools do receive 'Pupil Premium' funding for children whose families have received certain benefits in the past 6 years, are looked after or are of service families. Schools use their own discretion for how best to spend this money to enhance the learning opportunities for these children. Schools also receive specific funding for PE and sport which can be used to enhance the learning for the children in school. Information on how these funding streams are spent are available on each school's website.
Although one could argue that these pupils have special educational needs, under the existing national framework they do not normally qualify for schools' Special Educational Needs funding.
The County Council does not now have any funding to support these pupils and the small amount of funding which once existed to help individual children is not now available.
In some specific individual cases, private organisations make available funds to support gifted children.
What does Lancashire County Council do to support able pupils?
Meeting the needs of able children is a theme which runs throughout the work of the County Council's School Improvement Service and a small, dedicated team of consultants and advisers have responsibility for advising schools and teachers on what to do to meet the needs of these pupils.
Contact the School Advisory Service 01257516166.
Is any support available for children talented in Art, Music or Sports?
Your school, local library or leisure centre may have information about local and national clubs, groups and teams.
The County Council Music Service can provide specialist teachers to schools and run several county orchestras and bands.
Are there any other organisations who might help?
Yes. Some groups (such as the Potential Plus UK) exist to support the parents of gifted and talented pupils. It can be helpful to talk with other parents who are in a similar position to you and these groups can put you in touch.
I don't feel my child's needs are being met at school - what can I do?
It is almost always true that high quality provision for able children comes about when there are close links between the parents and the school.
Unfortunately misunderstandings between the school and parents can and do occur when communication between the two is not effective. Schools become concerned that parents do not trust them to meet the needs of their child and worry that parents over-estimate their child's ability. At the same time the parents accuse the school of holding their child back, not listening to their concerns, not recognising the ability of their child and so on.
The best advice is to work at developing an effective working relationship with the school. Approaching the school calmly asking to learn more about what you can do to support the teacher is the best starting point. It should also help you to understand your child's learning needs. For instance s/he will need to play with other pupils and work collaboratively on group tasks. A task which you may feel wastes your child's time, for example, colouring-in pictures, is important in developing his/her co-ordination. An important outcome of this co-operation is that your child will see the trust you place in the school and the teacher and will adopt that same trust.
Discuss with the school how (and when) you could receive regular updates on your child's progress. Make a point of noting down things which your child has particularly enjoyed and make sure you tell the teacher about them. Try to avoid creating the impression that you only visit to complain, as the teacher may understandably become defensive.
Finally try not to focus entirely on attainment. Some parents measure progress by the speed at which their child goes through the reading scheme. Whilst attainment is important, a more fruitful measure of achievement may be how s/he develops the skills of learning and retains enthusiasm for it. Good quality provision by the school will develop your child's thinking ability, imagination, creativity, investigative ability and so on and none of these can be measured by the quantity of writing in books or the number of correct calculations produced.
What questions should I ask to help us choose a new school?
How do you ensure that able pupils achieve their potential?
For many understandable reasons, schools are expected to focus much of their attention on attainment and may answer this question by telling you the percentage of level 3s, 5s or A*s they get. Levels of attainment should not, on their own, be pinnacles of achievement for very able pupils. Listen out for comments about equipping pupils to be lifelong learners, awakening their interest and nourishing their imagination.
What provision is there for curriculum enrichment after school or outside school?
Hope to hear a long list of activities. These are a valuable way of enriching the experience of able pupils. There may be particular things you would like for your child such as the opportunity to learn a musical instrument or to play chess.
What pastoral support is available to able pupils? Occasionally able pupils may find difficulty in 'fitting in' with their peer-group. They can also be very sensitive about the opinions of classmates and find the hurly-burly of the playground a particular challenge. The intention of this question is to explore the sensitivity of the school towards these issues. Is pastoral support focussed mainly on behavioural issues and attendance?
Do support assistants, teaching assistants, learning mentors etc. work with able pupils?
It is to be expected that these school personnel would work mainly with pupils who have learning difficulties or with behavioural problems. However they can make an important contribution to the support and learning of A, G & T pupils and many schools use these staff in this way.
Do you have a co-ordinator for A, G & T pupils and a named governor with responsibility for their oversight?
All schools are encouraged to appoint a co-ordinator and named governor and this is obviously an indicator of the priority given to this area of a school's development.
Do your pupil tracking systems indicate that you add as much value to the results of your able pupils as you do to the other ability groups?
Schools now have access to data on test and examination results which enable them to analyse the performance of different ability groups within the school.
Can I talk to some of your more able pupils to ask them what they think about this school?
Effective schools will be delighted to accommodate this request.
Are any pupils entered for GCSE early?
On its own this is not necessarily a sign of good practice but effective schools will often have it as one of the elements of good quality provision. Ask how the school can be sure that the early-entered pupils will do well. Achieving a 'B' or a 'C' a year early may be less satisfactory than an 'A*' at the right time. Also, ask what early-entered pupils do in the following year.
What facilities exist for supporting talented pupils?
If your child's particular strengths and interests lie within one of the 'talented' areas (sport, music, art or drama) you will want to explore the facilities within the school. These may include the sports fields, sports hall, access to quality coaches, music tuition, practice rooms, access to instruments, art-rooms, drama studios and so on. Close links between the school and outside bodies such as sports clubs, specialist coaches, county teams or orchestras are also features of high quality provision.
What links does the school have with outside agencies which support able pupils?
Effective schools often work with neighbouring high schools, further and higher educational establishments, links with industry etc. to enrich the experiences and support the learning of their able pupils.
What does this school do to support able pupils in becoming independent learners?
Meeting the needs of an individual pupil in a large school can be challenging. The most effective schools have a 'can do' culture - they try to be flexible, they take risks and are imaginative in providing personalised learning. Where possible, pupils will increasingly be offered choice and responsibility in matters affecting their own learning. The school will actively support pupils to develop the skills necessary for lifelong learning.
This link to the "DirectGov" Parents' site contains further information about choosing a school.