An Epistolary Conversation about Gifted and Talented Education


Here is my response to the rather provocative letter about gifted and talented education published on the Informed Education Blog.

I fully expect the conversation to continue. I only ask that all respondents continue to use the epistolary form!

Dear Parent

We are writing to let you know that your daughter has been added to the School’s gifted and talented register.

This School believes that all of our pupils have gifts and talents and that it is our responsibility to work with their parents and carers to help each one to translate their potential into achievement.

Pupils are included in the gifted and talented register when there is evidence that they would benefit for the time being from personalised challenge and support to reach a high level of achievement in their areas of strength.

The provision we offer will help them to improve further in those areas while also ensuring that they continue to develop in any areas of relative weakness.

Because pupils do not progress at the same consistent rate, the gifted and talented register is kept under constant review. We expect pupils to remain on the register during periods when they are making relatively rapid progress, and to come off the register when and if that is no longer the case.

There is no special kudos in being included on the register and no negative implication in being removed from it.

The evidence we use to decide whether pupils are added to the register is set out in our Gifted and Talented Education Policy, available on the School’s website.

To summarise, we include all pupils who:

  • fall within the national top 5% on the basis of their most recent achievement data; or
  • while not yet achieving at this level, have shown that they are capable of doing so; or
  • already demonstrate equivalent high performance – or show the potential for such performance – in a vocational field, entrepreneurship, leadership, music, art or sport.

We draw on a wide range of quantitative and qualitative evidence, including several ability and attainment/performance measures, taking decisions on a ‘best fit’ basis. Full details are provided in the Policy Document.

We monitor the composition of our gifted and talented register, seeking to ensure that it broadly reflects the gender, ethnic and socio-economic composition of the wider School population.

We also monitor the inclusion of learners with special needs, those with English as an additional language and those who are summer-born. We are alive to the risk that particular groups may be over-represented in some areas of ability relative to others.

This is because we believe that ability (as opposed to achievement) is evenly distributed within the pupil population, so any under-representation may be evidence that we are failing to uncover hidden potential.

We would like to discuss with you how the School can best challenge and support your daughter while she is on the register. Following our meeting we will agree with you what distinct provision the School will make, or will secure from other providers, as part of our joint effort to meet her needs.

For the avoidance of doubt, we should emphasise that this support is not provided at the expense of those pupils who are not currently included on the register. They will continue to access the same high quality in-class and out-of-school opportunities that are currently available to them.

The support we offer to our gifted and talented pupils is commensurate to that we offer to all our pupils and is designed to ensure that they are not under-served relative to others. For we firmly believe that our gifted and talented learners have an equal right to an education that meets their needs.

We are not ashamed to call these learners gifted and talented, and to use those terms openly within the School, though we recognise that others have reservations about them. We leave it to them to find a more acceptable euphemism and, should a suitable alternative emerge, we may choose to adopt it.

But we regard this as a second order issue and prefer to concentrate all our efforts on providing the best possible education to these pupils, alongside all the other pupils in our School.

If you have any questions about the contents of this letter or about the implications for your daughter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best wishes

Leading Teacher for G&T

GP

June 2011

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One thought on “An Epistolary Conversation about Gifted and Talented Education

  1. Dear Parent,

    Although your child did not qualify for the academically gifted program, please be assured that our school will make every attempt (hopefully with your co-operation) to discover other gifts and talents she may possess. We value each and every student that comes through our doors.

    It should be stressed that inclusion in school-wide activities such as assemblies and field trips will not be affected by this decision. All students are provided with extra-curricular activities.

    The appointment of a gifted and talented coordinator within our school is on par with our sports’ coaches and band/music directors. These areas are open for participation based upon proven ability and we encourage your child to investigate these opportunities.

    Your child’s teacher will now be able to give him more attention as she will not have to differentiate instruction for high-achievers. Your child will be accommodated at his current level of understanding and not feel lost in class. Instruction will continue at an appropriate pace allowing him to progress at a level at which he is comfortable. More time may now be allotted for your child to participate in class discussions and ask questions.

    No special notation will be made on the teacher’s class spreadsheet or in your child’s permanent file regarding this decision. We respect the privacy of every child.

    Let us assure you that qualification for this program is fluid and can change should your child’s future assessments so warrant.

    Regards,
    Lead Teacher

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