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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 December 2006, 19:54 GMT
E-credits for more gifted pupils
netball game
Talent can manifest itself in different fields
The government is arranging "e-credits" for schools to access extra lessons for an estimated 800,000 gifted pupils.

The 65m scheme is part of its drive to ensure all children in England with special talents are given extra help.

It requires all schools to list their gifted and talented pupils in the census data it now collects each term.

Some teachers have resisted the whole idea - while others say the obvious answer is to reintroduce grammar schools in all areas.

The e-credits system is to be run by the not-for-profit CfBT Education Trust from next September.

Schools need to be particularly vigilant for the 'hidden gifted' or under-represented groups, such as underachievers, those for whom English is not their first language, those with learning or physical disabilities or those from different cultural or socio-economic groups
DfES guidance to schools
It says each pupil would initially receive the equivalent of a number of credits - worth about 80 - which their schools could use to buy extra lessons from companies, independent schools, universities or learned bodies.

Development director Tim Emmett said: "The government is seeing this as part of school improvement rather than a lifeboat for a few bright children."

A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) declined to comment on the details because contract negotiations were continuing.

Identifying potential

The government says it now wants schools to identify the top 10% of pupils - amounting to about 800,000 nationally.

Within those, about half would also be eligible for the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth.

But there is no requirement on schools or even guidance setting out any such figure. It is up to each school to identify its gifted and talented pupils.

Officials at the DfES say that on average last year the census in secondary schools identified "around 10%" as gifted and talented.

We should shorten the public/state school gap so all can achieve their potential
Andy, London

The department defines these as having abilities which are "developed to a level significantly ahead of their year group - or with the potential to develop those abilities".

Gifted refers to capability in academic subjects, talented covers visio-spatial or practical skills such as in games and PE, drama or art.

The government acknowledges that often the children who are identified are those who have had opportunities to develop their talents.

So it is also trying to reach children whose parents either do not bother or cannot afford to provide such extra-curricular activities.

Schools minister Lord Adonis told a "gifted and talented" conference in November: "Let's be absolutely clear that these children exist in every school.

"When the stork delivering gifted babies to the families of this country flies overhead, it doesn't carry instructions to land only on pitched roofs in the leafy suburbs."

Separate schools

There has been some resistance to the whole issue, however - with a third of secondary schools currently having no pupils registered at the national academy.

Responses to an article in the official Teachernet newsletter included these comments: "As I understand it, we give the pupils a test when they enter the school (just after age 11, I think), and those who pass, benefit from lessons with their peers, rather than with those who are not so gifted or talented."

The writer added: "as this is so good for them, it would obviously be even better for them to have all their lessons like this.

Pupils whose usual mode of travel is by Scooter, Skateboard or Roller Skates/blades should record their usual mode of travel as Walking
Official pupil census guidance
"Perhaps we could set up a pilot school on this basis. I wonder what we would call such a school?"

Another asked what to tell a girl who said: "Miss, I really wanted to go to the giant insects workshop today, but I'm not clever enough," adding that the criteria for inclusion should be "good attendance, good behaviour, good citizenship - anything but natural ability".

The government said those letters "recycle two old myths".

Readers were assured the scheme was "not about selection" - and nor would other children be neglected.

Gifted school pupils receive extra Latin tuition

Should there be extra investment in the brightest pupils?
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