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Last Updated: Monday, 27 February 2006, 15:03 GMT
'Talent search' plan under attack
pupils taking test
Talent does not solely emerge through testing, say critics
A plan to use primary school tests to pick out potential university candidates has had a lukewarm response.

The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) is to write to schools to encourage them to help nurture children who do well in tests taken at age 11.

But the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth warned against "hectoring" schools.

And secondary head teachers said the idea was "inappropriate and unnecessary".

The SSAT said that it is supporting the government in creating a register of gifted and talented pupils.

Opportunity

A spokesman said: "We will be writing to specialist schools to encourage them to register their most able pupils with the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth.

"Specialist schools have a responsibility to ensure all pupils, across the ability spectrum, are given the correct support and the opportunity to succeed."

The move comes after studies showed that the top 5% of 11-year-olds who go to state schools are half as likely to get three As as those at independent schools.

All gifted pupils should be given every chance at every stage to blossom - not just at Key Stage 2
Professor Deborah Eyre, National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth

Heads will be expected to register the pupils with the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (Nagty) at Warwick University, which will co-ordinate support programmes.

However Nagty's director Professor Deborah Eyre said in response to the report that while she welcomed support in nurturing pupils she had concerns.

She said: "Nagty continues to believe that schools and colleges should be helped rather than hectored to improve their provision for gifted and talented students by such means as increasing access to high quality professional development opportunities and supporting examples of innovative practice."

Gifted

Prof Eyre warned that talent did not just manifest itself through primary school testing.

"All gifted pupils should be given every chance at every stage to blossom - not just at Key Stage 2. "

The Association of School and College Leaders rejected the scheme as inappropriate and unnecessary.

Its general secretary, John Dunford, said: "Key stage 2 tests should not be used for this purpose. These are tests for attainment, not potential.

"That is why most secondary schools re-test children on entry at 11 - to establish their potential."

He said it would put yet more pressure on children whose test results were already used to grade their achievement, diagnose their learning problems, pay their teachers and put their schools into league tables.

No child would be written off under the system we are promoting - it is never too late to go to the best universities
DFES

"These are primary school children. They are too young to deserve this kind of pressure," Dr Dunford said.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said 11 was far too early to predict achievement at university.

Its general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted, said: "Support and encouragement needs to be given to a far wider group of children than the top 5% picked out at 11."

The Department for Education and Skills denied that pupils failing to do well at Key Stage 2 would miss out on opportunities.

A spokesman said: "Pupils would have to go through exactly the same entrance procedures to universities as any other pupil.

"There would be no preferential treatment and no child would be written off under the system we are promoting - it is never too late to go to the best universities."




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