The elected Board of GT Voice, the UK-based Network supporting gifted and talented education, has issued its first Policy Statement, reacting to to the English School Performance Tables just published.
The Statement, reproduced below, sets out a range of concerns. It calls on the Government to:
‘develop, consult on and publish a clear strategy to eradicate [high attainers’ underachievement], drawing on the expertise of schools that successfully buck this trend and other professionals in the field with advice and support to offer.’
and, by that means, to address the concerns it has raised.
GT VOICE BOARD POLICY STATEMENT
PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOL PERFORMANCE TABLES
Friday 3 February 2012
GT Voice welcomes the separate analysis of high attainers’ achievement within the Primary and Secondary School Performance Tables.
It also supports the Government’s decision to make available optional Level 6 tests in reading, writing and maths at KS2. We look to all primary schools to give all secure Level 5 performers the opportunity to demonstrate achievement above the Level 5 ceiling – and to take the optional tests if they can do so.
But GT Voice is concerned:
- That the methodology used to define ‘high attainers’ in the Performance Tables has many limitations. On one hand, it is pitched low in the sense that it includes all learners who are performing above the expected level; on the other hand, it requires learners to achieve that level in English and maths (and science too in the case of the secondary tables) thus excluding those who may excel in one of these areas but not the other(s). It also excludes all learners who attain highly in other parts of the school curriculum and, of course, those who have not yet been able to translate high potential into high attainment.
- That, without further support and incentives to do so – including proper reflection in the Primary Performance Tables – too many primary schools will disregard the optional tests, or will not invest sufficiently in the quality of teaching required to support learners to achieve Level 6.
- At the removal from the School Census – without consultation – of the gifted and talented indicator with effect from January 2012. That would have provided a valuable alternative and parallel measure, based on schools’ ‘best fit’ judgements of ability rather than attainment.
- At the statistical problems associated with defining high attainers so broadly. This has been criticised because it will tend to favour schools with relatively more advantaged intakes. It would be helpful to isolate the performance of high-attaining disadvantaged pupils, so it becomes possible to establish whether policies aimed at ‘narrowing the gap’ (such as the Pupil Premium) are benefiting them. They are amongst those most likely to progress to competitive universities, so helping the Government towards one of its key social mobility indicators. It would also be helpful to undertake and publish further analysis by sub-groups within the high attaining group. One possibility would be to define these by reference to National Curriculum sub-levels, or equivalent Average Point Scores.
- At this incontrovertible evidence of significant underachievement by high attainers, particularly in the primary sector:
- Almost 4 in 10 high attaining primary pupils did not achieve the expected 2+ levels of progress between KS1 and KS2 in English and maths together;
- Only 77% of high attaining primary pupils made the expected 2+ levels of progress in English, significantly less than the percentage of ‘middle attainers’ who did so (89%) and slightly less than the percentage of ‘low attainers’ (80%)
- According to a report in the Daily Mail, some 1,300 high attaining primary pupils spread across 800 schools remained at Level 3 at the end of KS2, having been at Level 3 at the end of KS1.
- At secondary level, 1 in every 20 secondary high attainers failed to achieve 5+ GCSEs at Grades A*-C including English and maths. Approximately 1 in 8 secondary high attainers did not make the expected 3+ levels of progress in English and approximately 1 in 7 did not do so in maths.
All this despite the fact that the current progression expectations (2+/3+ levels of progress) are insufficiently challenging for a significant proportion of high attaining pupils.
- At the proposal in the Report of the National Curriculum Review Expert Panel that National Curriculum levels should be dispensed with (despite 67% of the respondents to the Review’s Call for Evidence saying that they should remain in place). The Expert Panel also failed to respond properly to their remit to advise on securing progression for able pupils. Given that they offered no viable alternative, the idea of withdrawing NC levels is particularly unhelpful.
While the Performance Tables may ‘shine a light’ on high attainers’ underachievement, GT Voice believes that the Government must develop, consult on and publish a clear strategy to eradicate it, drawing on the expertise of schools that successfully buck this trend and other professionals in the field with advice and support to offer. This strategy should address all of the issues outlined above.
GT Voice is a national network united in support of the interests of able, gifted and high attaining learners. We offer our expertise to help the Government, our schools and educators to tackle such underachievement wherever it occurs – and to help establish the best means of supporting the progression of high attaining learners within the revised National Curriculum.
Note: The GT Voice Board has prepared this statement on behalf of the GT Voice Network. It is intended to state our position to those outside the Network and to promote further discussion within it. GT Voice statements do not necessarily reflect the unanimous view of every Network member.