Even more essentially in this era of the roll-out of Every Child Matters and the Children’s Act (2004), today’s student teachers must consider equally the needs of ‘less able’ and ‘more able’ learners. They should of course not accept such a requirement without an awareness of some essential issues and common questions, amongst them:
- What is meant by such terms as ‘Gifted’, ‘Talented’ and ‘more able’?
- Aren’t the ‘Gifted’ and ‘Talented’ a tiny minority of the school population?
- Isn’t ‘singling out’ the more able elitist and undesirable?
- Aren’t there more pressing problems with the ‘less able’?
- Can’t the ‘more able’ work on their own without special help or attention?
With this in mind, a useful introductory activity is to extract, or invite student teachers to extract, wording that might have especial relevance to ‘more able’ learners in current key documents.
Phrases in several QTS standards arguably relate especially to provision for Gifted & Talented learners, e.g.: ‘high expectations’ of pupils ; ‘challenging teaching and learning objectives’ ; ‘opportunities for pupils to learn in out-of-school contexts’ ; ‘evaluat[ion of] pupils’ progress’ ; ‘identif[ication] and support [of] more able pupils... [and] those who are failing to achieve their potential in learning’ ); ‘differentiat[ion of]... teaching to meet the needs of... the more able’ (my italics throughout).
Student teachers should also study English 2000-05: A review of inspection evidence, the OFSTED report published in October 2005. This criticises school provision for the G & T in the area of English/literacy: ‘Few schools are able to provide... additional support for more able pupils systematically. Effective activities to extend their learning are still relatively uncommon in English’; ‘some teachers provide too few opportunities for independent learning... or personal reflection. Guidance can be too prescriptive,... particularly limiting the achievement of able pupils’; ‘Despite many initiatives [in 2002], provision for many more able pupils remains largely unchanged’; and ‘HMCI’s Annual Report (2003/04) drew attention to underachievement in English by some of the most able pupils.... School inspections regularly judge the achievement of gifted and talented pupils in English as weaker than that of pupils with special educational needs... or those with EAL. Able pupils are sometimes less clear than other pupils about how to improve their work....’ (clauses 96, 97, 98 and 95 respectively).
The theme of G & T provision also features strongly in aims listed in the DfES White Paper Higher Standards, Better Schools for All (October 2005):
- more stretching lessons and opportunities for gifted and talented pupils...
- extended schools, offering many new opportunities to... develop beyond the school day
- more grouping and setting by subject ability’.
Student teachers in many parts of England will encounter primary schools involved in the government’s ‘Excellence in Cities’ programme. This programme’s ‘Gifted and Talented’ drive is one strand of the initiative. It entails investment in the G & T for schools in designated areas of rural or urban educational deprivation (EiC clusters, Excellence clusters and transformed Education Action Zones), plus G & T training of school staff (‘G & T co-ordinators’). Such efforts aim to ensure recognition of, and provision for, the more able pupils. If tutors or student teachers have access to materials stating the EiC G & T requirements, these should be studied too. (It should be made clear to student teachers that beyond the current reach of the EiC programme, all primary schools are now expected to allocate responsibility for the G & T to a particular member of staff - who may or may not also undertake other co-ordinating roles.)
Student teachers can be invited, in pairs or groups, to brainstorm and note down the questions that such extracts raise. Just four items might be:
- What is meant bythe term ‘Gifted and Talented’? What is the difference between ‘Gifted’ and ‘Talented’ (OFSTED report, October 2005, and DfES White Paper, October 2005)?
- How do you provide ‘challenge’? (QTS standards). What kinds of lessons ‘stretch’ (DfES White Paper, op. cit.)?
- What is the evidence that ‘grouping and setting by subject ability’ benefits the G & T? What are its effects on other pupils? What ‘tests’ of subject ability can/should be applied (DfES White Paper, op.cit.)?
- Where do the boundaries between individual and specialist responsibility for the G & T lie in a school (referring to the expectation that all primary schools appoint a G & T co-ordinator)?
Student teachers will thus feel they have to some extent designed the agenda that follows. It outlines suggestions for a structured approach to key aspects of the topic of G & T pupils and provides the framework for this segment of the website:
- Who are ‘the G & T’? The Issues around Definition
- Where to Start? The Issues around Identification
- How to Organise the G & T for Learning and Teaching? Selection vs. Inclusion
- Which Approach/es to Provision? The Various Pedagogies of ‘Challenge’
- What Expertise is Needed about Ability? Generic vs. Subject-specific Progression
Within each section there may be references to published works. The full details of these are given under ‘References’ at the end of each section, and under ‘Reading List’ at the very end of this topic on the website, along with suggested further reading.
References and Further Reading
- www.brookes.ac.uk ‘Excellence initiative’ website accessible to all (student teachers may access the Excellence in Cities website at http://fcis.brookes.ac.uk if they are visiting an EiC school whose staff can supply them with a username and password; otherwise www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/excellence/gift)
- DfES (October 2005) Higher Standards, Better Schools for All: More choice for parents and pupils, White Paper, London: DfES; www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/schoolswhitepaper
- www.dfes.gov.uk (October 2005) Higher Standards, Better Schools for All: More choice for parents and pupils, White Paper (downloadable)
- www.dfes.gov.uk (2005-6) Qualifying to Teach – Professional Standards for Qualified Teacher Status and the Requirements for Initial Teacher Training (downloadable version for initial teacher trainers)
- HM Government/DfES (2004) Every Child Matters: Change for children, Nottingham: DfES, ref: DfES/1081, 1088, 1109 and 1110/2004; also on www.dfes.gov.uk
- www.ofsted.gov.uk (2004/5) English in Primary Schools (downloadable version; click on ‘Publications’→ ‘Annual Report of HM Chief Inspector of Schools 2004/5’ → ‘School Subject Reports’ → ‘Primary Schools’ → ‘English’)
- OFSTED (October 2005) English 2000-05: A review of inspection evidence, London: HMI; ref: HMI 2351
- TDA (2006) Draft document Qualifying to Teach – Professional Standards for Qualified Teacher Status and the Requirements for Initial Teacher Training, London: TDA
- www.tda.gov.uk Draft available online Qualifying to Teach – Professional Standards for Qualified Teacher Status and the Requirements for Initial Teacher Training (downloadable version for initial teacher trainers)