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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
What is there for bright children?
By Justin Parkinson
Education reporter, BBC News

Student at the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth
Nagty students get to try new academic and practical experiences
The government has announced it is setting up a national register of bright children in England, to end what it calls a "terrible waste of talent".

Over the last four years, 100,000 students aged 11 to 19 have taken part in online and residential courses organised by the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (Nagty).

But ministers say some schools are not doing enough to recommend pupils for membership, depriving many thousands more of places.

The register, they say, will help put an end to this.

So, what does Nagty, which operates out of eight separate university campuses during the summer holidays, offer that schools do not?

Different subjects

On its list of two or three-week summer courses is advanced teaching in traditional subjects, such as maths, English and sciences.

This should be exciting because it's so different
David Goodman, 15

Children also get the chance to try other subjects not covered in the national curriculum, including forensics and philosophy.

David Goodman has been identified as among the top 5% in academic ability of his year group, making him eligible for Nagty membership.

The 15-year-old, who attends Handsworth Grammar School, Birmingham, is taking an archaeology course this summer.

He said: "I thought it would be really good to do it. I want to be a marine archaeologist, so it seemed perfect.

"A friend of mine has been to Nagty and loved it.

"At school there are lots of things we have to learn and just get through, but this should be exciting because it's so different."

'Hardly a genius'

David, who is taking 11 GCSEs next summer, has already completed an AS-level course in archaeology and is awaiting the result.

He said: "Everyone said doing the AS-level would make GCSEs seem much easier. But I only did one AS; I've got to do 11 GCSEs, which means I've got a lot to do.

"So the summer school won't make GCSEs easy, but it should be interesting.

"I'm hardly a genius or anything. I'm reasonably clever, I suppose, but I just try to work hard.

"I'm better with sciences and subjects involving numbers than I am at English.

"I don't just study. I do other stuff, like playing rugby, going scuba diving and kayaking. I always like a challenge."

Gifted or talented?

Some educationalists feel mainstream schooling lacks exactly that: a challenge.

So Nagty's courses are set at a similar level of difficulty to that of a first year of a degree.

But a separate group called the National Association for Gifted Children says even the Nagty programme is not enough for the very brightest - the top 2%.

It argues that the government's umbrella term of "gifted and talented" is misleading.

"Talented", it says, refers to children who are good at sport, music or art.

Meanwhile, the "gifted" are those with exceptional ability in an academic area.

The association also criticises the Department for Education and Skills' eligibility test for Nagty membership as being among the top 5% of performers in national maths and English exams.

Truly gifted pupils may try to play down their differences or have them concealed by dyslexia, it adds.

Even with the Nagty programme in place, some 800 secondary schools in England are not entering pupils to take part.

For some schools it is a chore; for others it feels "patronising" and "interfering" that central government is telling teachers how to identify and treat bright children.

Kenny Frederick, head teacher of George Green's School on London's Isle of Dogs, said: "We don't need a letter from the government telling us how to do that."

Nagty is not free to most parents or schools.

The total fee for a three-week course is 735, with families expected to pay up to 405 of this. Schools are expected to foot the rest of the bill.

There is, however, a sliding bursary scheme, with only parents earning more than 31,001 paying full fees. Those earning less than 17,500 do not pay anything.

Despite the expense, Nagty's membership has doubled from 50,000 in the past year.

Whatever the reservations of some experts and schools, the setting up of a national register makes it likely that this rapid growth will continue.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
One gifted teenager who may join the national register



SEE ALSO
Gifted pupils 'still missing out'
11 Jul 06 |  Education
'Talent search' plan under attack
27 Feb 06 |  Education
University 'quotas' under attack
04 Jan 06 |  Education

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