ECHA Conference Symposium: Social Media and Gifted Education


The 13th International Conference of the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) is taking place from September 12-15 2012 in Munster, Germany.

One of the sessions is a Symposium on Social Media and Gifted Education. It is scheduled for Thursday 13 September from 14.15 to 15.45 local time, which corresponds to these times elsewhere in the world.

The overarching Symposium Abstract says:

‘We will explore:

  • the extent to which social media have been applied to gifted education;
  • the benefits and the risks that social media can bring, whether for learners, parents, educators or policy-makers; and
  • how this field is likely to develop over the next few years.

We will discuss what further collaborative action gifted educators in Europe and beyond might take to capitalise on the potential for social media to build and maintain valuable connections between gifted learners and educators, for the benefit of all involved. Our treatment will be located within research on gifted education and social media respectively, but we will be focused primarily on the development and support of effective practice’.

There are six participants, five of them offering presentations

Given the focus of the Symposium, it seemed especially important to build in a social media dimension, to illustrate the value added to a traditional conference setting.

So we have agreed that there will be a Twitter session during the final hour of the Symposium. This will involve:

  • A link to a special session of Global #gtchat powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented.
  • A special #echa hashtag for this session, which we also hope to use to livetweet from the ECHA conference as a whole (the session will therefore form part of the Conference feed).
  • A Twitterwall inside the Symposium, enabling those in the room to project their Tweets to other participants, and those participating at a distance to interact with those in the room.

The abstracts of the five presentations are set out below. As presentations are prepared and published, I will provide links to them from here.

Depending on the progress we make, it may be possible to engage in social media-driven discussion of the issues raised ahead of the Symposium. We can then use those contributions to help frame part of the Symposium proceedings.

Anyone interested in participating in the discussion – whether in Munster or at a distance – is most welcome to use the comments facility on this Blog. All ideas and suggestions for how we might shape this process are welcome.


Abstracts of the Five Symposium Presentations


Social Media Networks and the Talented Youth – Peter Csermely

Social media networks provide contact options having a width, ease and safety unprecedented before. These networks turn tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge and tacit networks into explicit networks. With well structured net-platforms both communities and their databases (video sharing, links, lists etc.) will be self-organized saving enormous time for talented people and their mentors when trying to find the right information and contacts. Such platforms also have the possibility to form the public opinion of the talented people, their parents and the talent support community.

Talented people especially need these novel forms of social contacts, since

1.) their attention is more multi-focused than others’;

2.) they are often too sensitive to risk the possible humiliation of face-to-face first contacts,

3.) they often have a peculiar daily schedule not shared by the majority.

Despite of these unique opportunities, we are at the very beginning to use social media networks to provide special options for talented people. There is ample room for presenting the “Me-World” for others, and there are more and more special e-courses for the gifted. However, there are very few options for the self-selection of a talented community, and for joint creative project-works of talented people, especially in a cross-country, cross-continent manner. Talented people need both a stable net of trusted contacts and surprise. Therefore, we have to design these networks giving both the “strengthen me with the joy of meeting those who think likewise” and the “surprise me with a new contact option, which gives me the excitement of novelty” options.

The above are some of the goals that the newly formed Budapest Centre of European Talent Support will try to accomplish.


How Social Media Can Help Us Overcome the Problems We Face in Gifted Education – Tim Dracup

Within education as a whole we are only beginning to utilise the huge untapped potential of social media to revolutionise learning, professional development, advocacy, research and policy-making. The global gifted community is starting to realise that social media can provide part of the solution to many of the issues that it has been wrestling with for decades. But the number of enthusiastic ‘early adopters’ is still relatively small, the majority are not yet fully engaged or persuaded and a few feel excluded or even directly threatened.
This presentation analyses the problems and priorities faced by the global gifted community, as seen through a European lens. It examines how social media might be harnessed to address these and reviews the progress made to date. It identifies concrete action that could be taken to secure further and faster progress. It also isolates some of the key risks associated with a social-media driven approach and considers how those might be mediated or circumvented.
Participants will be strongly encouraged to share their own perspectives and experience, regardless of whether they are experts, beginners or somewhere in between.


The Importance of Global Gifted Education through Social Media – Roya Klingner

Global networks are increasingly a part of our work and social life today. This presentation examines the importance of networking in the field of gifted education at the regional, national, and in global levels. It describes types of networks through Social Media. Incentives and preconditions likely to make successful networking are examined. I will explain my experiences in Secondlife, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, Google plus.


Social Networks: Closing the Gap Between Research and Practice – Javier Touron

In just a few decades, social networks have expanded beyond all expectations. Instant messaging, whether of everyday chat or serious insights, via smart phones and computers of all sorts, whizz round the world on e.g. Facebook and Twitter, and pictures and images through Flicker and Pinterest. This hyped-up communication, though, is not only a means of social conversation or making business deals, at least for those who have access to it, the social media are a vital influence on the means and outcome of education.

Teachers and parents in their many thousands share their experiences and daily practices in how to help children develop. But it is strange how those who work with the gifted and talented seem slow at catching on to the potential of these vital means of communication. Researchers and thinkers are lagging behind.

In my presentation, I will look at the roles and contributions that scholars of gifts and talents should be able to offer to the web community. In particular, I describe how ECHA and other associations should respond and adapt to the new demands of the populations we are aiming to serve. Our institutions could be the authoritative voice that helps administrators and politicians improve legislation and policy, as well as act as a beacon for teachers and schools. I will illustrate these points through my personal experience as a new Blogger-Facebooker-Twitter user.


Cyber Mint Communities – Albert Ziegler

In this contribution to the symposium “Social Media and Gifted Education” a complementary perspective is taken. Though social media is usually very broadly defined as all web-based and mobile based technologies that can be used to turn communication into interactive dialogue between participants, the meaning in the field of gifted education is quite restricted. It usually refers only to the information transfer among gifted educators, advocates, giftedness researchers, etc.

However,social media can of course also be used in gifted education. In my contribution I will report of a joint project with Heidrun Stoeger from the University of Regensburg. We founded a virtual community that presently consists of 100 so-called Cyber Mint Communities (CMC). Each of these CMCs, in turn, consists of six participants: three girls talented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and three women working in the field of STEM (professors, engineers, etc.). In the virtual community a wide range of computer-mediated communication is possible that is intended to foster a participatory culture in online STEM activities.



July 2012

Gifted Phoenix Twitter Round-Up: Volume 9


Here is my ninth monthly review of @GiftedPhoenix Twitter activity, covering the period from 8 June to 13 July 2012 inclusive.

My Twitter feed is almost exclusively dedicated to gifted education, wider English education policy and associated topics. These reviews provide a fairly comprehensive record, including virtually every Tweet that contains a link to an online resource. Sorry if any of the links are now broken.

The record includes three sections:

  • Gifted Education Worldwide, with sub-sections for each of the five continents and, separately, for the UK;
  • Gifted Education: Thematic, with sub-sections for Twice-exceptional; Creativity and Innovation, Intelligence and Neuroscience; and, finally, Commentary and Research;
  • Related Educational Issues, concerned almost exclusively with developments in England and divided into several thematic subsections. There is some material of interest to gifted educators but this section also extends into wider areas of domestic education policy.

This is almost entirely my own work, though I have included a few modified tweets and retweets of originals sent by others. Addresses and hashtags have been removed unless they are integral to the tweet.

The pictorial interludes on this occasion are miscellaneous mystery landscapes – I’ll leave you to guess where they are!


Gifted Education Worldwide

Check out our shiny new #gtchat transcripts at

World Council Newsletter June 2012: Welcome interest in economics of gifted education

Registration open WCGTC 2013 conference in Auckland:  – NZ$ 999 (£500) is the earlybird rate for non-members

Gifted Resources July newsletter can be read online at



Storify transcript of US NAGC chat on informal assessment of gifted children:

NAGC chat Transcript: Preventing & Reversing Underachievement in Gifted

Feature on Gatton Academy:

Will Ohio introduce 16 regional charter schools for gifted learners?

Ohio decides not to proceed with those 16 regional charters for #gifted learners:

More – this time from Jay Matthews – about admissions to Thomas Jefferson HS (the US’s ‘most selective high school’):

Guiding gifted students – the Speyer Legacy School in Manhattan NY:

EdWeek article on CTY’s new Rural Connections programme for rural gifted learners:

Carolyn Callahan has again given supportive evidence in the Elgin gifted education case:

Historical Perspectives: The Javits Act 1988-2011

A Roeper retrospective for NZGAW:

Homeschooling Gifted Children in British Colombia Part 1

Homeschooling Gifted Children in British Columbia Part 2

Executive Committee of the World Council will visit international HQ at WKU

Thorough article on the current state of US gifted education:

Interesting insight into gifted and talented school choice, US style:



Evidence of Malaysia’s Permata Pintar gifted programme’s links to Mawhiba in Saudi Arabia:

HK Academy’s latest edition of its Aspire magazine: (NB Download seems a bit dodgy)

A brief feature on Bahrain’s Gifted Students’ Centre as the education minister visits:

The Filipino Education Department is providing extra support for the country’s mathematically gifted students

Preview of the 12th Asia-Pacific Conference on Giftedness



Final Report form the Victoria Government (Aus) Inquiry Into the Education of Gifted and Talented Students:

Press coverage of the damning Victoria (Aus) Government Report into gifted education  and

The speaker line-up at next week’s Australian national conference on gifted education:

New Zealand’s Labour Party presses the Government for greater support for gifted learners:

NZGAW starts today! Take a look at their blog tour here —>

Prime Minister Key gives NZ Gifted Awareness Week a hand  – literally!  What’s  that all about then?

New Zealand’s Green Party attempts redefinition of its gifted education policy to embrace all children #fail:

Meanwhile ACT’s spokesperson says NZ’s charter school pilot has potential to benefit gifted learners #fail:

Louise Tapper suggests NZ schools need to focus more on a conceptual framework for gifted education:

My contribution to NZGAW Where is New Zealand’s Excellence Gap? part 1  part 2

NZ Associate Minister Sharples confirms my point. Singles out Maori Pasifika SEN but not disadvantaged gifted learners

Do NZ gifted educators fear league tables, or league tables that don’t recognise gifted performance?



Modificaciones en el contenido curricular para los mas capaces

Modificaciones curriculares en los procesos para los mas capaces

Modificaciones curriculares en el ambiente de aprendizaje

Modificaciones en los productos para los alumnus mas capaces

El Optimal Match. Sabes que es?

El DT-PI, compaanero de viaje del Optimal match. Una version simplificada

DT-PI Un giro copernicano para la escuela

La investigacion al alcance de la mano: publicaciones en abierto, un ejemplo de servicio a la sociedad

Gracias por estos 6 meses, por esta Aventura conjunta que… ¡solo acabamos de empezar!

Researchers concerned about gifted learners in Norway:

Bade danske og svenske skolemyndigheter vil vite mer om evnerike elever:



GT Voice Bulletin – June 2012

Now we’ll have a great comparator for the Sutton Trust report on UK gifted education, if it ever appears!

Given Singapore’s influence on English education policy, will we see a gifted education programme like this?

Direct link to new and critical Estyn Report ‘Supporting More Able and Talented Pupils in Secondary Schools’:

‘On this side of the House we believe in stretching the most able students’ Twigg:

GT Voice Board meeting today. Summary of outcomes to follow on

GT Voice will be holding Government to a: ‘curriculum framework which supports and stretches every child’:  (col 181)

GTVoice Board agreed yesterday to plan towards a sequence of events and activities in Oct 2012. Details to follow on

At GT Voice Board meeting yesterday we developed an outline strategy for AY2012/13. More details to follow on

Extended feature on the Mayor of London’s Fund for Young Musicians:

Draft GT Voice Policy Statement on the National Curriculum Review

Delighted that @TheIFS has now made the Jerrim Excellence Gap study freely available:

I’m not sure who to blame most, Hannah Richardson for writing this garbage or John Bangs for his provocative quotes:

NACE’s Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ending 31 August 2011:

8 months late + no consultation but here at last is Sutton Trust’s report on Educating the Highly Able

Sutton Trust report recommends focus solely on ability in school subjects Advantages and disadvantages to that

Sutton Trust said would be no follow-up to Highly Able report but are calling for project proposals by 30/9:

GT Voice will of course be undertaking a full analysis of and response to the Sutton Trust report on highly able:

Logging this NUT response to Sutton Trust Highly Able report: – though rather vacuous

NASUWT on Sutton Trust ‘This daily denigration of our education system by one self-promoting organisation after another’

Coverage of Highly Able report from BBC:  Mail:  Telegraph:

Sutton Trust Highly Able Report fails to contextualise proposals in latest NC review/qualifications thinking

Morning Star’s take on Sutton Trust Highly Able study:  – FSM incidence in G&T population is better than FSM attainment

Here’s my new Post analysing the Sutton Trust Report ‘Educating the Highly Able’:  and finding it sadly wanting

Warwick Mansell on the Sutton Trust’s ‘Highly Able Learners’ Report:

Imagine the Olympic Games is a competition for the academically gifted then re-read this Observer editorial:

To the Lighthouse Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Gifted Education Thematic



Twice Exceptional Newsletter June 14 2012:

Twice-exceptional Newsletter 18 June 2012:


Creativity and Innovation

Is there a creativity crisis?  Doubt it

Evidence that there is a creativity crisis after all, at least in the US and Canada:

Interesting book proposal outlined here: Creatively Gifted Students Are Not Like Other Gifted Students:

On the relationship between creativity and sex:

Visual Spatial Learners and Creativity:

The complex relationship between pride and creative achievement:  – another fascinating article by @sbkaufman


Intelligence and Neuroscience

Big NYT feature on ‘The Risky Rise of the Good Grade Pill’:  – Scary

Cognitive neuroscience is in disarray:

Fascinating: Twins and the Question of Inherited IQ

Regional variations in the relative impact of nature and nurture:

Is General Intelligence Compatible with Evolutionary Psychology?

Prodigies have off the scale working memory. They might be autistic:

Willingham draws attention to a new study suggesting fluid intelligence is not trainable:

Problems with measuring very high IQ:


Commentary and Research

A serious case of deficit model thinking in gifted education:  – An affliction? That’s OTT

Support for minority ethnic gifted learners:  – latest from WeAreGifted2 Blog

Sue Breen from the NZGAW Blog Tour on the essential characteristics of a teacher of gifted students:

Latest post from the WCGTC 2013 Conference Blog – also out of New Zealand –

And completing the triumvirate of NZ posts: Parents of Gifted 3: Promote Sensible Risk-Taking  from Sonia White

4th offering from New Zealand today: Needs versus Merit in Selection for Gifted Programmes’ by @MaryStGeorge

Research study on self-concept of high ability students:  and Duke TIP summary of same:

@MaryStGeorge on Opt-in special interest groups for gifted and other learners:  – Part of the NZGAW blog tour

New blog post: The Value of Talent Search

Strategies for Working With Gifted Kids in Early Childhood

On the International Year of Giftedness & Creativity 2013

Great Stuff! 5 Wonderings on Gifted Education

Lehrer on Why Smart People are Stupid:

A second Blogpost: InnReach writes again: On Gifted nests and Birds of a Feather

Spatial skills are trainable (Willingham summary):

‘Persistent Poverty and Children’s Cognitive Development: Evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study

CYP Now article on that Poverty and Cognitive Development study I just tweeted (their link doesn’t work):

Part 3 of the Belle Wallace series: Turning Underachievement into Achievement:

On Giftedness and National Parenting Gifted Children Week-2012- July 13-21st

Interesting paper: Can Empathy for Gifted Students Be Nurtured in Teachers?

Not that Gifted:

Do we know how to teach highly able learners?

Is giftedness a designer label?

Interesting new paper on ability tracking available from this page (Session A1):

Gifted Chatter: 4. Teach Your Gifted and Talented Teens to Prioritise

Unwrapping Gifted: A Day in the Life

NZGAW BlogTour post from the UK, on motivation:

What do you know about learners’ reflections?  All comments valued

@MaryStGeorge on the significance and value of gifted education policies:

Where are all the gifted adults?

Gifted Chatter: 5. Have High Expectations of Your Gifted and Talented Teen

Gifted Adolescents and Alcohol:  from Duke TIP Digest of gifted Research:

Direct link to Renzulli’s Re-Examining Role of Gifted Education and Talent Development courtesy of @sbkaufman

Why Borland disagrees with Subotnik et al that ‘Eminence should be the goal of gifted education’:

NZGAW BlogTour – Creating an online PLN in gifted education –

InnReach writes again: On Giftedness & a close encounter with (mis) fortune…

A “Yes, but…” post about gifted kids from Rebecca in the UK:

The White Elephant in the Room: Gifted Education – A Real Gift, or an Empty Box?

New post at GPS, “Who Should Teach Gifted Education?”

Effective support for gifted black children:

The Drama of the Gifted Child:

More on the early identification of giftedness

I just like this post – about gifted children becoming gifted adults:

A study that claims to be the first to link measured genes to educational attainment:

The one percent that really matter: brains rather than billions

Response to Borland from Subotnik et al:  – not sure that entirely clears up objections to their focus on adult eminence

Exploring Alternative Strategies for Counselling Gifted Adolescent Males:

Another post from the ‘all kids are gifted’ camp: – at least he wants to eliminate all educational labels

Gifted children once again victims of political correctness.

Using Google+ Hangouts in the gifted ed classroom:

Gifted education is not therapeutic:

Great Rolling Stone Review of ‘Twilight of the Elites’: – Recognise the UK parallels? Me too

A defence of gifted school magnet programmes versus distributed enrichment classes in US:

A redoubtable Kiwi commentator exposes the downside of the ‘all children are gifted’ philosophy:

Part 4 of the continuing Belle Wallace series, featuring TASC this time round:

Almost Dusk Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Related Educational Issues


Fair Access to HE

BIS published response to HE WP consultation and Advocate for Access report yesterday:

How does Oxford’s package for disadvantaged Scots students compare with its offer to their English peers?

I’m sure Mr Bols will talk sense about HE admissions, but the Telegraph version suggests something more eponymous:

Gove and Wilshaw should state explicitly whether they support agreed government policy on contextualised HE admissions

Steven Schwarz speech on social mobility and fair access to HE:

Lords Oral PQ on university applications: Hill doesn’t mention contexualised admissions; does mention Dux:  (Col 587)

Direct link to critical Formative Evaluation of National Scholarship Programme referenced in today’s Higher

Contextual data in admissions – It’s the evidence, stupid:

OFFA’s Annual Report and Accounts 2011-12:  – Lots of pictures, not much writing

The continuing stand-off over contextual admissions:  Time to find the compromise position?

Peter Scott is quite wrong to suggest all ABB students are ‘gilded youth’ in independent schools ‘and their hangers-on’

Direct link to OFFA/HEFCE Access Agreement and WP Monitoring Report 2010/11:

OFFA says fair access to Oxbridge stalled in 2010/11:  – Suggests FSM to Oxbridge won’t exceed 50 (was 45)

The full UCAS report on 2012 FT HE applications:

Most inevitable climbdown of the year: Ministers scrap latest attempt to introduce post qualification admissions to HE:

Full details of how Oxford’s Moritz Scholarships will work: – Now we need to improve the FSM admission rate


Social Mobility

@Director_IOE on the many faces of social mobility (and the schism in Coalition policy):

Roger Brown lays into the Government’s social mobility policy:

The Commons Library Standard Note on Oxbridge Elitism referenced in today’s Higher:

Thanks. Since I wrote, new social mobility indicators have included assessment of independent/state gap:

No surprise there then – Milburn to continue as social mobility tsar in new guise:

Hansard record of yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate on social mobility: (Col 139WH)

Here’s the full IFS Social Mobility special edition:

Inspiring the Future website:  – where you can register to give career talks in schools

Conor Ryan starting as Director of Research and Communications at the Sutton Trust in September.

Education Select Committee has a pre-appointment hearing with Alan Milburn a week today:

Social policies could spark class war, says Alan Milburn

US article by Mike Petrilli: Can Schools Spur Social Mobility?

Ironically and amazingly, the proposals in Sutton Trust Report on Highly Able Learners would REDUCE social mobility:

The Moritz scholarships offer the basis of a longitudinal study of the impact of tuition fees on social mobility:


Narrowing Achievement Gaps

Yesterday’s commons debate on free school meals in colleges:  (Col 71WH) Government will ‘keep the matter under review’

OFSTED to launch ‘major inquiry’ plus panel today on narrowing the gap:  – thought they were supposed to inspect schools

OFSTED Press Notice on review of access and achievement announced today:  plus Wilshaw speech:

How private tuition is widening the social divide:

Toynbee needs to understand that ‘more able’ and ‘disadvantaged’ are not mutually exclusive:

New Education Endowment Fund awards includes mindset work in Portsmouth and philosophy for children via SAPERE

Further details of the £10m literacy catch-up programme to be administered by the EEF: – back to the future

546 ex FSM-eligible students achieved 3 A*/A grades at A level in 2011 (4.1% against 10.6% of non-FSM):  (Col 35W)

PQ discussing the various cost estimates of extending FSM entitlement to post-16 sector: (Col 269W)



Naive pro-selection leader from the Independent:  – so depressing that this keeps on coming back like a bad penny

I doubt anyone knows how many non grammar schools now operate grammar streams:  but numbers are increasing

Comments on this? Selective school experience? I certainly recognise and value that model



First of 6 possible enforced primary academies in Stoke applies for Foundation Trust status:

Will there be a Downhills endgame?

DFE research report on KS4 attainment in academies in 2011: – some nuggets here for supporters and critics alike

Education Funding Agency is currently processing 13 complaints about academies (and 10 more on admissions): (Col 29W)

Bell reckons a future Labour Government won’t return academies and free schools to the fold: There are other options…

Start of a new naming and shaming strategy for LAs harbouring primary school targets for academisation?


Free Schools

Updated Commons Library Standard Note on free schools:

Jan 2012 census data shows FSM at 9.0% and 8.4% in primary and secondary free schools. National figures 19.2% and 16%:

Beccles Free School story is a classic example of ‘the biter bit’

This is the ICO ruling on the BHA’s request for free school information

When you think about it, it is fundamentally unreasonable to maintain secrecy over proposals to establish a new school:

Cloak and dagger secrecy over free school proposals is now seriously undermining the policy operation; needs reversing:

Around a third of 2013 free school bids approved – incidence in deprived communities isn’t the strongest


Independent Schools

Fiona Millar critiques the Sutton Trust Open Access Scheme:  – I did a much better job here:

Lampl continues to back Open Access: against all evidence that it’s a dead duck, less likely than a pig to fly

Lords Oral PQ on Sutton Trust Open Access reinforces what I said about it earlier:  (Col 1413)

It would though cost far less to let old direct grant GS rejoin state system than subsidise their fees a la Open Access

Government wants independent schools to ‘sponsor’ academies; the schools want Government to meet the cost. Deadlock:

Vibrancy Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

National Curriculum Review

No NC Review previews this AM, but DfE has ‘updated’ its NC review pages (without significantly changing the content):

Curiously muted pre-announcement of NC review consultation. First drip of a drip-drip strategy or is that all there is?

Yes. Surely ditching levels would be the top story. And there’s all these cross-cutting issues (para 18)

Latest National Curriculum Review update:  – You’ll search in vain for anything about able pupils’ progression

NUT might equally have questioned the fit between ‘ready to progress’ and gifted pupils’ needs:

National Curriculum Review FAQs say the removal of NC levels applies to both primary and secondary phases:

So both a. grading primary attainment and b. able pupils’ progression are STILL not resolved in NC Review?:

Is the removal of NC levels ignored because it doesn’t fit the prevalent back to basics and traditional values theme?

Good background to primary MFL:  In 2010/2011 many primary mfl advisers lost their jobs.

Labour’s response to draft NC proposals: ‘we have to ensure there is a way of measuring progress during primary school’

Campaign for Science and Engineering is left ‘bemused’ by draft primary NC Programme of Study:

Apparently we now face a national crisis in maths teaching:   – Not sure I remember a time when we didn’t…

Andrew Pollard has broken ranks with the rest of the NC Review Expert Panel:  Ministers are reportedly fixated on Hirsh

Gove’s response to idea that all pupils must have ‘grasped core content before class moves on’ is cryptic:

Given loss of NC levels at least 3 of DfE’s key impact indicators will no longer be usable beyond 2013:

Given loss of NC levels, one of the Government’s new key social mobility indicators is already out of date

Bit of a tension between @mikebakeredhack ‘s latest –  – and his Trusteeship at @VilliersParkEdu

Can’t believe anyone with any knowledge who read Ch8 of the Expert Panel Report could find it ‘thoughtful and balanced’

Devastating critique from Andrew Pollard – distancing of Expert Panel from curriculum announcements

BERA publishes the background papers illustrating the schism within the National Curriculum Review Expert Panel:

We now have all 3 NC Review Expert Panel Members – Pollard, James and Wiliam – contesting Oates’ isolated position:

My new post: Removal of National Curriculum Levels and the Implications for Able Pupils’ Progression

NAHT’s guide to this week’s NC Review announcement:  (and mine in case you missed it:

IoE critiques the Frankestein approach to National Curriculum reform: (though I’d take issue with the PISA reference)

Nick Gibb on National Curriculum reform:  ‘important that we can measure progress and stretch the brightest’

ACME writes to M Gove re concerns about national curriculum review process:

FoIs already going in over who’s been involved in the National Curriculum Review:

Fancy crowdsourcing a new National Curriculum assessment and reporting model? Here’s an Aunt Sally to get us started

Check out how Dearing handled NC levels:  (7.1) and compare with the shoddy Ch8 of Expert Panel Report

Yes me too. Wiliam is critical of Dearing here  but his view isn’t fully adopted by the EP in Ch8 either

Gove dismissive of NC Expert Panel ‘A few professors and some individuals seeking to curry favour…’:  (Col 603)

Sounds like there won’t be a list of recommended authors accompanying the English programme of study:  (Col 601)

More bothered by reported abolition of secondary National Curriculum than shift to 2-tier exams:   – a retrograde step

A list of people consulted before draft primary PoS were produced will be published shortly says Lord Hill:

Yesterday’s Lords Oral PQ on School Curriculum which promises more details of draft PoS authors:  (Col 1766)

Gove seems to be backtracking somewhat on abolition of secondary National Curriculum; refers to ‘alignment’ instead:

I thought it was high time someone set out the implications of abolishing the secondary National Curriculum:

You get ‘a discredited curriculum and examination system’ by talking them down, for primarily political purposes:

Warwick Mansell on ‘England’s increasingly bizarre – and stunningly untransparent – national curriculum review process’

Time for a U-turn on abolition of secondary National Curriculum (The Mail couldn’t have got that bit of the leak wrong)

This new idea of a skeleton secondary National Curriculum leaves outstanding the huge issue of progression across KS1-4

SSAT’s Primary Headteacher Steering Group seems to have a special inside track on NC Review consultation: – Fair?

Here’s DfE’s list of people consulted on the primary National Curriculum programmes of study:

My analysis of last Friday’s National Curriculum abolition U turn is in the 2nd postscript to this Blog Post:

Weirdest bit of that secondary NC abolition U turn story is notion it’ll have only a 4 year shelf-life  (2nd postscript)

IPPR view on plans for a skeletal secondary national curriculum, from @jp_clifton

In TES Mary Bousted pulls no punches over the draft programmes of study for the primary national curriculum:

Here is DfE consultation page on KS2 MFL: – Impact assessment confirms no compulsory MFL at KS4

Out of interest, is anyone comparing the draft NC PoS with the Common Core State Standards?

Loughton on PE, including NC PoS: Looks like we could be about to see a mini-industry in new curricular kitemarks


Other Curriculum and Pedagogy

The Accord Coalition has renewed its call for RE to be part of the National Curriculum:

RE Council Survey and first meeting of All Party Group for RE mark continued pressure to defend the subject’s status:

Gibb speech to the ACME conference:  – nothing new that I can see

The Australian Curriculum Authority has several drafts out for consultation currently. Compare and contrast here:

Direct link to Eurydice Report on Citizenship Education in Europe:

Michael Rosen asks some pointy questions about phonics profits. Can anyone help him answer them?

The ACME paper on Increasing Provision and Participation in Post-16 Maths, referenced in yesterday’s Gibb speech:


Replacement for GCSE

How much will the switch back to a 2-tier exam system cost? Surely there were costings in that ‘leaked’ paper:

I wonder if the shift to 2-tier exams will incorporate the Singapore ‘go straight to A level’ idea floated last year:

Reading between the lines of this end of GCSE announcement, it’s clear that Singapore’s been a big influence:

Will the ideas from Gove’s secondary brainstorm session really raise standards for all?

Useful round-up of #govelevel issues:

If this new exam wheeze is postponed until after next Election what happens to secondary National Curriculum meantime?

I realise of course that DfE has to make up the answer to my previous question before a consultation paper can issue!

Am I the only one vaguely surprised that we now seem to be contemplating new high stakes end of KS3 tests?

Hansard record of yesterday evening’s debate on GCSEs – two tier or not:

@jeevanvasagar references ‘Gove’s aides’ on a simpler ‘stepping stone’ exam here:

Just came across this amazingly prophetic 2010 article on IGCSE by @mikebakeredhack:  Useful context for current debate

Yes. In Singapore pupils can take N level after 4 years then O level after a further year of study see:

The moral of the story is: don’t leak stories about complex education reforms to editors who don’t understand them:

GiftedPhoenix: Disappointing TES Editorial:  It’s still unclear how this new approach is an improvement on the status quo…

Would be nice to know more about why Sevenoaks is rejecting IGCSE except for the core subjects  Are they no good either?

Isn’t there a hair’s breadth between ‘National Syllabus’ and ‘National Curriculum’? Preferable to single board/exam:

Ofqual cautiously distancing itself from single exam boards and a 2014 timetable for replacing GCSEs?

Rather odd logic in this latest Gove speech:  ‘There’s already a ‘vale of tiers’ so it matters not if I perpetuate it’?

TES says pupils will be nationally ranked on basis of their scores in new-style O levels:

This TES story highlights the huge risks in simultaneous multi-layered exam reform  Risk register will go off the scale

Lords PQ reply says Government plans single tier exams for all abilities at age 16  (Col WA187) Not sure that’s feasible

Strong Ofqual hints of recalibration of GCSE A*/A grades. Must support progress measures from level-free KS2 assessment

Missed this reference to a ‘source’ saying that there will likely be numerical grades for the ‘new-style O level’


Other Assessment and Qualifications

Interesting dataset: Percentage of low achievers by country in reading, maths, science across PISA, PIRLS, TIMSS:

Here’s the comparable dataset for percentage at highest-performing levels by country across PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS:

Some weekend reading; OECD data piece around big cities and impact on education

@CurriculumFdn Actually PISA 2009 shows we have fewer high achievers than countries that lead PISA rankings:

Where does Schleicher claim that our ‘top 20%’ perform as well as the top 20% anywhere else? He’s wrong!

BBC’s review of the new Jerrim Excellence Gap study:

Handy PISA Level 5/6 data visualisation, courtesy of the Guardian:

OFQUAL consultation later will reportedly ask whether AS level should be scrapped:

Direct link to OFQUAL’s A level reform consultation document just released:

Three options in Ofqual consultation on future of AS level:  (para 54)

If AS levels are scrapped, that removes an option for post early entry GCSE progression by gifted students:

How will scrapping AS exams improve essay writing skills?

It’s not a. politically viable or b. desirable to drop all primary external assessment:  We need to find the middle way

NATE goes all confrontational and hyperbolic –  – reminds me of the good old days

How L6 of the new KS2 grammar punctuation and spelling test will be pitched (DfE FAQ):

Highly biased BBC report on KS2 L6 tests which illustrates everything wrong with gifted education reportage:

I find the Education Select Committee Report on Exams compelling, especially over national syllabuses v single boards:

Select Committee urges review of attainment and progression measures just as National Curriculum levels abolished:

As ‘the orotund Mr Gove’ moves bell curve rightwards, he mustn’t neglect needs of those already at the right extreme

Looks increasingly as though DfE is considering KS2-4 progression based on percentiles:  Are deciles too blunt a tool?

The 2012 KS2 Level threshold tables and – shortly – age standardised scores:

Exam results judgement day looms: I’m getting my whinge in early. Is it all a house of cards?

One Day Nearer the End of Our Holiday Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix


HMCI states unequivocally that every new inspection framework will increase the level of expectation on schools:

Ofsted first quarter stats are out. Half of schools grade 3/4  News report here:

Here’s a better analysis of Ofsted data courtesy of @xtophercook:

OFSTED’s Handbook for the Inspection of Schools 2012:  – reference to ‘highest attainers’ but not ‘gifted’

Ofsted September 2012 Grade descriptors: Achievement of pupils at the school

There is an argument that outstanding headteachers don’t make the best HM(C)I:

Updated OFSTED inspection data suggests the new framework is even more punitive than first thought:

DfE’s Open Data Strategy direct link:  – Opening up access to NPD is due ‘Summer 2012’ – nothing more precise

There a FoI on the weekend’s DfE/Rewired Appathon from an organisation called Privacy International:


Teachers and Teacher Education

Gove’s  teacher training speech, just given, at the National College Conference today:

Neat and pointed NUT response to the London schools section of yesterday’s teacher training speech from Gove:

DfE Press Notice on the teacher training reforms/announced/confirmed today:

Schools Direct Guide 2013-14:  – schools must register interest in applying for places by 7 Sept, so get your skates on!

Why do bursaried Schools Direct trainees get extra in schools with 25%+ FSM while for salaried trainees it’s 35%+ FSM?

DfE is seeking EoIs in conducting a 2013 Teacher Workload Survey:  – deadline 2 July

Teach First Impact Report: – Glad to read they’re commissioning fresh research of their impact on attainment

I see the Comino Foundation is now supporting Teach First:  and that James Westhead is one of the Foundation’s trustees



It’s an open secret that Spending Review 2013 is under way:  – Important context for all education policy intentions

Details of further changes to school funding arrangements for 2013-14 including shift to 6 IDACI bands:

TES on 6th form funding and whether they’ll be able to afford more than 3 A levels per student:


Central Government

DfE needs a new chair for its Bureaucracy Reference Group:  – was there too much paperwork for the old one?

Higher ambitions for higher education: @ChukaUmunna just finished at IPPR – read his speech:

Labour’s continuing education policy malaise:  – btw what came of cross-party consensus on national curriculum reform?

I don’t suppose one can double up as Expert Behaviour Adviser and Chief Exec of the Teaching Agency:

Elizabeth Truss sends Stephen Twigg on an extended world tour:  – Apparently Poland is the new Mecca for educationalists

Speaker Bercow deigns to correct Gove’s English during oral PQs:  (Col 593)

Adonis offers 3 lessons: maintain an active state, set targets and keep innovating –

Impending change of Comms Director at DfE:

Twigg has been reading Ken Robinson on creativity: – Land&Jarman’s study is suspect

This Fortnightly Review poster doesn’t think much of Twigg’s new-found interest in creativity:

Full list of the 72 consultation documents DfE has published since May 2010:  (Col 809W)

Hang on! This Twiggian ‘standards not structures’ mantra doesn’t fit at all with Squaddie Schools, does it?


Other Research, Reviews and Reports

Direct link to CBI Education and Skills Survey 2012:

CBI’s Press Notice on today’s Skills Survey:

Direct link to the Finch Report on open access to research:

Cabinet Office paper – Test, Learn, Adapt – Developing Public Policy with Randomised Controlled Trials

Direct link to the European Commission Survey of Language Competences:

Portfolio DfE Research Report on what we know about pupil behaviour:

Final report from Ministerial Advisory Group on action research into evolving role of LA in education:

Critical Australian NAO report on its National Partnership Agreement strategy to support literacy and numeracy:

DFE Research Report: Evaluation of City Challenge:  – Broadly positive but not entirely so

DFE Research Report: The Impact of Sure Start Local Programmes on 7 year-olds and their families:

New DFE Evaluation Report on the Gaining Ground Strategy 2009-11:

Direct link to Boys’ Reading Commission Report:  – not much here about able boy readers

Government response to consultation on 16-19 study programmes:

New DfE Equality Impact Assessment on Study Programmes for 16-19 year-olds:

NAEP’s National Indian Education Study 2011:  – no significant improvement at advanced level

The Center for American Progress survey report which found extensive under-challenge in US schools:

Insightful post on the future of educational research:

I haven’t got time to read The Gobal Innovation index 2012 but here it is if you want to: (UK ranks 5th amazingly)


Online and Social Media

How will MOOCs make money?

GiftedPhoenix: Looking forward to ‘contestable policy-making’ and use of new media Twitter?) to widen access to policy debates:  (p15)

Nice BBC piece on edX:  gifted learners will be huge consumers of online HE

Don’t think I’ve so far linked to new Cabinet Office guidance on social media use by civil servants:

Why the internet is integral to education (a powerful riposte to that recent speech by the chair of the GDST):



The invitation to tender for the National Citizen Service 2013 is now live:

Plans to join up National Citizen Service with other programmes to create a ‘social action journey’ from age 10-20:

Norwich to get a 2nd university (and Bishop Grosseteste to win prize for the university with the most ridiculous name):

The path of least resistance – @markmleach on what yesterday tells us about the next step for HE reforms:

CPAG: Ending Child Poverty by 20202: Progress Made and Lessons Learned:

Yesterday’s DfE/DWP Report on progress towards the 2010 child poverty target:  – like pushing an elephant upstairs

Updated DfE Need to Know Timeline for Heads and Governors:

Yesterday’s Lords Debate on schools’ contribution to well-being and personal/social needs:  (Col 1459)

DfE is inviting EoIs in an evaluation of early education in England: – deadline 29 June

We may still need local authorities, but maybe not over 150 of them to oversee school improvement?:

Can’t see how Johnson can grab more powers over London education without a team (aka bureaucracy) to undertake them:

I’ve always thought referencing education’s moral purpose appears rather self-congratulatory: – a phrase to avoid imho

SSAT awards certificates to top 10% of member schools on %age of pupils achieving 5+ GCSE A*/A incl Eng + Ma

DfE ITT for proposals to support a military ethos in schools:  – Mysteriously I can’t track a reference on DfE website

Apparently Cameron announced cadet force expansion plans yesterday. Here are more details:

Labour’s reinventing specialist schools, military this time  This is the liquorice allsorts approach to education reform

The Murphy/Twigg explanation of their new-found interest in Services Schooling: – not even a 2nd order issue, surely

Apparently those Squaddie Schools are going to sort out social mobility: Of course they are!

Service Schools: the New Borstals: – doesn’t pull any punches

Extensive autobiographical post from Michael Rosen on schools in the 1950s:

Not another review of school food! – I put standards ahead of structures and structures ahead of lunchtimes!

BBC summary of the Evaluation of City Challenges recently published by DfE:  – accentuates the positive

Positive evaluation of BSF released after FoI: – rather meaningless now

TES article on Singapore’s education system:

According to TES, Schools Network management buy-out has left 1000 creditors out of pocket, including many schools:

Not to labour the point, a London Mayoral Middle Tier would be educational bureaucracy incarnate:

SFR on SEN in England January 2012:



July 2012

An Analysis of ‘Educating the Highly Able’

This post is a critical commentary on: ‘Educating the Highly Able’ (2012), a report on gifted and talented education in England commissioned and published by the Sutton Trust.


In July 2012 the Sutton Trust finally published a long-delayed report on gifted and talented education commissioned from the Centre for Education Employment Research (CEER) at the University of Buckingham.

CEER is a small three-person operation which produces reports on a wide range of educational issues. It has no particular expertise in gifted education.

The Sutton Trust contract was awarded directly, without competition, so the commission was presumably secured on the basis of an existing relationship between CEER and the Trust, though neither party admits to any formal connection on its website.

The Report was originally due for publication in November 2011 but was unaccountably delayed for eight months. Consequently much of the material it contains is now rather old.

Initial commitments were made to share drafts for comment but these were not honoured, despite several reminders.

The Trust originally said that it did not expect to undertake any follow-up to the Report, once published, so it was a surprise that the Press Release included a related call for proposals:

‘to pilot projects supporting and stretching the highly able in non-selective state schools. These projects will be rigorously evaluated, with those that are successful scaled up to many more schools’

The successful pilots will be selected by the Sutton Trust and the cost of the pilots and subsequent roll-out will presumably be met by them too. Since there is currently no central Government funding explicitly for gifted education in England, this is a potentially valuable commitment, though the maximum sum available is not specified.

It is conceivable that a critical commentary on the Report that spawned such largesse will not be regarded as consistent with an application to secure some of it.

But here’s hoping that what follows is taken in the right spirit, as a robust explanation of the faults in ‘Educating the Highly Able’, undertaken in the hope that the Sutton Trust’s forthcoming pilot projects will develop exemplary practice that properly fits the context provided by current national education policy and reform.


Structure of the Report and Survey Methodology

The Report opens with a Foreword by Peter Lampl, Chairman and Founder of the Sutton Trust. He suggests that part of the solution to the problems identified in the Report is adoption of the Trust’s Open Access Scheme (an argument that I contest in this earlier post).

But, Lampl adds:

‘at the same time we need to improve the support for the broader group of highly able children across the state system’

suggesting a two-tier approach of some kind, though he fails to explain the criteria for determining which pupils would fall within each tier.

Following an Executive Summary, there are seven brief chapters:

  • Chapter 1 summarises recent national policy initiatives in gifted and talented education with a predominant focus on the last decade or so, since the election of the 1997 Labour Government.
  • Chapter 2 offers a treatment of the ‘emergence of the gifted and talented construct’, traced back to Galton, Spearman and Binet and culminating in the definition adopted by the Labour Government in the late 1990s.
  • Chapter 3 examines School Census data from 2006-2011 on the distribution of gifted and talented learners in English maintained primary and secondary schools. It also comments on schools’ approaches to identification drawing on survey evidence. The survey methodology is summarised in an Appendix (see below).
  • Chapter 4 considers the ‘validity’ of ‘the exercise of identifying the gifted and talented’. The text (paragraph 4.9 suggests that the term is used in the sense of construct validity – whether a given scale measures or correlates with the ‘gifted and talented’ construct. This section consists of a statistical analysis of the correlation between identification and educational outcomes.
  • Chapter 5 uses evidence from the survey to supply an outline of current provision distinguishing school-based and out-of-school activity, as well as reviewing resources (staffing, funding and sources of external support, including support from central government). It includes a section summarising the perspectives of those interviewed on future provision and support.
  • Chapter 6 is called ‘Highly Able in Other Countries’ but is actually a comparative statistical analysis of the results of high achievers in PISA 2009. Appendix 2 contains further tables associated with this chapter. The analysis looks at performance at levels 5 and 6 on the PISA tests, emulating (but unfortunately not referencing) my 2010 post on the same topic.
  • Chapter 7 sets out the Report’s conclusions and recommendations, already outlined in the Executive Summary.

Appendix 1 addresses methodology. The survey underpinning the Report comprised in-depth interviews with individual representatives from just 20 schools (12 secondary and eight primary schools). No formal interviews were conducted with anyone with a more strategic perspective on gifted and talented education.

The authors suggest that their sample might be unrepresentative, so inclined to give too positive a perspective:

‘Originally, it was intended to have a larger sample, but schools seemed reluctant to participate, especially if they had identified only a few as “gifted and talented‟.  Our respondents are, therefore, those who were sufficiently proud of what they were doing to want to talk about it.  Thus, the interviews, although illuminating, are likely to have presented us with a rosier picture than actually existed.’

But the text reveals that five of the 12 secondary schools and two of the eight primary schools (so 35% of the sample) returned low percentages of gifted and talented learners. In the case of the primary schools, these were below 1%. This makes them highly atypical, as the Report’s own analysis in Chapter 3 shows.

The interviews were conducted a full year prior to the publication of the Report, in June and July 2011.


Conclusions and Recommendations

The final chapter offers a series of recommendations framed within a commentary that draws on material in the preceding chapters. I have summarised this below, highlighting the recommendations in bold italic text.

Clarifying the Construct

The fundamental problem preventing the success of policies ‘intended to enable highly able children fulfil their potential’ lies in the construct ‘gifted and talented’ which ‘has taken policymakers down a number of blind alleys’. It should therefore be abandoned and

‘the focus, as far as schools are concerned, should be on those capable of excellence in school subjects, pupils we have termed simply as ‘the highly able’.

This will enable schools ‘to pinpoint exactly which children and how best to provide for them’.

Since ‘the best indicator of high attainment is high attainment’, it is recommended that:

Key Stage 2 tests should be used to identify the highly able, using a criterion to be determined in pilot studies (possible criteria would be attaining at least at the 90th percentile, or at least at the 95th percentile, or achieving the new Level 6).’

There is no further reference to these proposed pilot studies.

This will provide a single universal standard rather than allowing schools a degree of flexibility in defining their gifted and talented populations. Because the pupils meeting the standard will be unevenly distributed:

Key Stage 2 tests should be used to create a numerical map showing which primary schools the highly able children are in, and to which secondary schools they go’.

So, if the definition is fixed at the 90th percentile in end of Key Stage 2 tests, the primary school location of all these children – somewhere over 60,000 – would be plotted, as would the secondary school locations to which they transfer. The purpose of this map is not explained.

Evidence from the current School Performance Tables shows the uneven distribution of pupils performing above the expected level. Some highly able learners ‘often from low income homes’ are likely to be relatively isolated in schools with few others of comparable ability. It is recommended that the Government:

consider the plight of these pupils and make provision for them’.

There are no proposals for the form that such provision might take.


Current accountability arrangements judge schools’ performance on the basis of their weaker and average pupils. This is said to apply to the floor targets and also to ‘standards’ (it cannot be said to apply any longer to performance tables). This should change:

Starting from where England’s school system is now, the education of the highly able should be given greater prominence through modifying the performance measures and accountability arrangements.’

The Performance Tables should be revised to include a sharper distinction of high attainment than the current measure (performing above the expected level):

the School and College Performance Tables which now differentiate pupils into three broad bands of prior attainment be further modified to show the progress and performance of the highly able (defined as achieving at least at the 90th  percentile, or achieving at least at the 95th percentile, or the percentage achieving the new Level 6)’.

This seems to suggest that the current tripartite division should be retained, but that the ‘high attainer’ band should be further subdivided so that the top attainers are separately identified, even though there may be one or two only in each school (and possibly none at all).

It is not suggested that this distinction should be applied within the ‘narrowing the gap’ section of the Tables, to the performance of those eligible for the Pupil Premium.

There is a separate recommendation that the accountability system:

should also be designed to recognise and reward secondary schools for bringing to the highest levels pupils who did not show up well in the Key Stage 2 tests.’

This appears to contradict the exclusive emphasis elsewhere on high performance in Key Stage 2 tests. It offers the possibility that support for ‘late developers’ might be incentivised in some way, but we are not told how this might be achieved.

Although it is suggested in the previous recommendations that Key Stage 2 tests are used exclusively to identify the highly able, there is recognition that the main tests may not be capable of differentiating the highly able so:

We welcome the piloting of Level 6 tests at Key Stage 2 and it may be that in future these could be used in the identification of the highly able’.

There is therefore some hedging of bets as to most suitable test instrument and the most suitable benchmark for defining ‘the highly able’.

Turning to Ofsted inspection, the performance of highly able pupils should be one of the criteria determining whether a school continues to maintain ‘outstanding’ status. :

We recommend that evidence of the under-performance of the highly able be a trigger for the inspection of schools rated as outstanding by Ofsted and which otherwise would not be re-inspected.’

This would suggest that the performance of the highly able should also be a criterion for achieving outstanding status in the first place, though that is not mentioned.

International Comparisons

The heavy emphasis on accountability arrangements is justified as:

‘the best immediate hope of incentivising schools to pay greater attention to the highly able’.

But, to achieve more fundamental improvement:

England should seek to improve its education system by taking a close look at those jurisdictions, especially those in Europe, such as Flemish Belgium, Switzerland and Germany, where many more reach the highest levels of achievement’.

These are amongst the countries that managed a higher percentage of students achieving the highest Level 6 in PISA 2009 maths tests, but there is no explanation why we should focus particularly on maths or on the performance of these European jurisdictions rather than other high performers. Of course, gifted education in these countries tends to be organised at the regional level (via cantons or lande).

It is suggested in the earlier analysis of PISA outcomes that very few of the English students who achieve PISA levels 5 and 6 in maths and reading are attending non-selective state schools, but no firm evidence is provided to show that this is the case.

So it is recommended that:

The data should be analysed further to reveal exactly how many pupils in the general run of maintained schools achieve at the highest PISA levels.’

Nothing is said about what should be done about this circumstance once proven.


There is a generic recommendation that:

 ‘provision for the highly able should be integral to schools and not a bolt-on’.

It is not clear what this means, other than that ‘highly able’ should be defined in terms of ‘the major school subjects’ as defined by the National Curriculum (the status of RE and other basic curriculum subjects is not mentioned).

Attention should be focused solely on the core subjects in the first instance:

provision and accountability for the highly able should be introduced first in the core subjects of the national curriculum followed by the foundation subjects’

There is passing recognition that a subject-specific definition of this kind will result in domain-specific provision – that ability in different subjects may not necessarily be shown by the same pupils, but this is not further pursued. The relationship between identification based on maths and English tests and attainment in all National Curriculum core and foundation subjects is not developed or explained.

There are no further provision-related recommendations.


Wider Reforms

There is implicit criticism of the suggestion in the Report of the Expert Panel for the National Curriculum Review that it can shift the bell curve to the right, because it is argued that this would only be achievable by denying the highest achievers an opportunity to excel.

The opposite is the case:

We recommend that national tests and exams should include more difficult questions, so that there is ample opportunity for the highly able to show what they can do’.

Because the gap between 11 and 16 is so long and the school participation age is increasing to 18, it is also recommended that examinations at age 16 should be dispensed with in favour of a national exam at age 14 providing a basis for selection into different post-14 pathways.

The idea of adopting a four-year 14-18 integrated curriculum – another model developed in Singapore – is not mentioned, even though this was floated as a possibility in 2011 and addressed in this post.

Opportunities for post-16 selection are currently being extended through the free schools route, but this should be pushed down to 14:

Enhanced opportunities could be provided for the highly able in specialist schools from the age of 13/14 on the university technical college model.’

It is not explained how selection at 14 would be consistent with the previous recommendations that ‘highly able’ pupils should be identified solely on the basis of tests undertaken at the end of Key Stage 2.

Finally, there should be separate provision for the ‘exceptionally able’, provisionally defined as the top 1% (presumably once more identified on the basis of Key Stage 2 tests, but this is not made explicit).

As for provision ‘it would be for individual schools to recognise them and challenge them in different ways’ but:

Since, on average, there would only be about two per year per school, there should be ways of bringing them together,  for example, through through master classes or in specialist schools

The final phrase offers the possibility of ‘super-selective’ free schools.

No thought is given to the support schools might need to undertake the in-school dimension of this provision, even though a single personal example cited in the text portrays a pupil being insufficiently challenged by his grammar school.

There is a brief final reference to out-of-school provision, though no accompanying recommendation:

 ‘We have addressed ourselves mainly to provision in schools since that is a matter for national policy. This is not to underestimate what can be achieved outside schools.  It is to be hoped there would continue to be a rich menu of master-classes, competitions and visits, from among which schools could choose.  Universities, professional bodies, sports clubs, orchestras and bands, art classes and many others can contribute to enabling young people to flower in a multitude of ways.  If organisations for the ‘gifted and talented’ want to be involved, their support is to be welcomed on its merits.’

It is not explained why out-of-school provision would fall outside national policy (many of the former initiatives cited in earlier chapters would fit this description).

A final footnote excuses the absence of costings:

‘because we have been mainly concerned with the principles of what should be done and have not wanted to get bogged down in discussing what is reasonable at a time of austerity.  We do not believe that costs would be the barrier to what we are proposing.’

The Call for Proposals

The separate call for proposals document says (my emphases):

‘The Trust wants to add to its portfolio of programmes a range of initiatives aimed at supporting highly able students in non-selective state schools, from the beginning of secondary school upwards

  • We would like to receive project proposals that focus on those pupils capable of excellence in core academic school subjects – pupils we have termed simply the ‘highly able’.
  • We are open to considering various methods of defining this group – for example those attaining at the 90th percentile and above, the 95th percentile, or the new Level 6, as recommended by the University of Buckingham research.
  • As many of these pupils will be in grammar and independent schools, we are also open to projects which define the highly able on the basis of school performance and local context, providing the selection method can be justified.
  • Projects may also focus on the “exceptionally able” pupils.  Since, on average, there may only be one or two per year per school, we are interested in imaginative ways of bringing them together.
  • The Trust is also keen to explore provision for highly able pupils that is integral to schools and not simply a “bolt-on” to mainstream provision
  •  The Trust already supports a wide range of initiatives focussed on university access at age 16-plus.  We are therefore particularly interested in programmes that start earlier on, in key stage three or four, but which may continue to support the students through their transition to FE and HE.
  • Applications can come from any not-for-profit organisation, including schools, charities, universities, colleges and social enterprises.
  • All funded projects will be independently evaluated for impact by leading researchers in the field.

Brief proposals must be submitted by 30 September 2012 setting out:

a summary of the project’s aims and how they would be delivered; how the students would be selected; the evidence behind this approach and its likely impact; as well as indicative costs and envisaged scale.’

What Are We To Make Of The Report?

The last section but one highlights several unanswered questions and gaps in the logic of this Report which serve to undermine its authority. There is also a litany of factual errors and lacunae in the main body of the Report which it is beyond the scope of this commentary to address.


A Coherent National Policy?

The description of the nature and development of national gifted education policy under Labour, from 1997 to 2010, is characterised in Chapter 1 as a series of unrelated developments, unaccountable U-turns and short-lived initiatives.  This enables the authors to allege, from the opening of Chapter 2, that:

‘The difficulties that the Blair and Brown governments had in framing consistent and coherent policies for the “gifted and talent‟ [sic] stem in part from a lack of clarity in the construct itself….

National schemes have barely begun before being abandoned. Schools have had only a very broad definition of “gifted and talented‟ with which to work…’

This is a misrepresentation of reality, in that several of us worked extremely hard throughout this period to articulate and develop these different strands of activity into a coherent national policy programme, designed to impact on every single school and college and bring about significant improvements in the overall quality of our education system.

We faced similar difficulties to all other policy-makers in achieving that, including:

  • rapid turnover of Ministers and senior officials, some much more committed than others to addressing this particular issue;
  • difficulty in securing consistent and ring-fenced funding, leading to dependency on elements of larger funding pots, some of them secured in opportunistic fashion;  and necessary compliance with the three-year funding horizons dictated by the spending review cycle;
  • limitations on the length of Government contracts with third parties, requirements for competitive reprocurement, and contract management problems, the latter mostly attributable to a mismatch between the contractor’s requirements and the service delivered;
  • limited leverage and capacity to force compliance on a minority of schools that resisted engagement, often on the basis of misunderstanding and ideological commitment to an inflexible ‘all children are gifted’ mindset. (And also a marked unwillingness to pursue forced compliance through rigid top-down prescription.)

The notion of a national policy programme was dispensed with in the last days of the Labour Government, in favour of provision devolved entirely to schools, though that scenario could not come entirely into effect until outstanding contracts were ended in March 2011, on the other side of the imminent Election.

The incoming Coalition allowed these contracts to run their natural course and did not renew them.

However, several elements of Coalition education policy have subsequently emerged which could – with some commitment, ingenuity and effort – be properly linked and construed into a coherent policy agenda.

Some are mentioned on the DfE’s web page ‘Academically More Able Pupils’ others are not (sometimes because they embrace a wider notion of ability).

They include:

  •  The Pupil Premium;
  • 16-19 selective free schools, including an anticipated cadre specialising in STEM (and possibly other subjects too);
  • Level 6 tests and performance table reforms;
  • The Recent Ofsted report recommending additional challenge and support for able pupils in maths;
  • References in the new Teacher Standards and School Inspection Framework;
  • Specialist Leaders of Education with an able pupils’ specialism providing support through the Teaching Schools network;
  • The Social Mobility Strategy, including the Dux Scheme, impending Destination Measures and references to improved admission of disadvantaged students to Oxbridge and Russell Group universities within DfE’s overall Impact Indicators;
  • HE policy to support fair access and create a market for students with ABB+ at A level;
  • The National Curriculum Review (assuming the remit to advise on support for able pupils’ progression is fulfilled);
  • A DfE-commissioned research project examining school and college-level strategies to raise the aspirations of high-achieving disadvantaged pupils to pursue higher education; and
  • The Music and Dance Scheme (MDS).

Few of these are mentioned in the Report which concludes that:

‘Under the present government there seems to be no overall policy for enabling those capable of excellence to achieve it’.

It is true that the Coalition Government has not articulated an overall policy, but I would not recommend it to look to this Report for a comprehensive treatment of the issue.

Clarifying the Construct

The Report’s treatment of the historical development of concepts such as intelligence and giftedness is partial and not particularly relevant.

The broad definition adopted in England was deliberately different from any of the hundreds of alternatives (Gagne’s is mysteriously the only one cited here). Ministers wanted a clear distinction between what one might crudely term ‘academic ability’ and talent in other fields.

By failing to reference any of the Government’s guidance on identification of and provision for gifted and talented learners, the Report manages to convey the misleading impression that schools were left entirely to their own devices over such matters.

In fact, there was a deliberate decision to eschew:

  • Either narrow top-down prescription and the imposition of a one-size-fits-all solution on well over 20,000 hugely different educational settings
  • Or complete flexibility over definition and identification, in favour of

Should include all pupils meeting published criteria for the national top 5% by ability aged 11 upwards (originally those eligible for NAGTY). (Towards the end of the period we were planning to define this group entirely in terms of high attainment but that was not the case in 2008.)

Should include other learners who are judged gifted and talented relative to their year group in their own school.

Should not assume a nationally prescribed percentage of learners that they must identify, but should assume that there are gifted and talented learners in every year group in every school and college. (The Report mistakenly assumes that the EiC injunction to identify 5-10% of pupils continued to apply.)

Should expect learners to move in and out of the gifted and talented population, though such movement might be expected to reduce with age (given that relative ability changes over time).

Should expect its gifted and talented population to be broadly representative of its wider intake (since ability – not attainment – is assumed to be evenly distributed in the population).

Should use a variety of quantitative and qualitative evidence to reach ‘best fit’ judgements (since there is no single, perfect identification instrument).

The Report gives no credence to the advantages of a flexible approach, choosing to use evidence from its small survey and analysis of School Census returns to argue for a universal, one-dimensional focus applied across all secondary settings.

It highlights the advantages of that approach, but fails entirely to explore the significant disadvantages, not least the capacity of schools to flex their policies to suit their very different needs and circumstances. It seems that autonomy must be confined to provision – where it is almost absolute – while being denied in relation to identification.

The first and foremost disadvantage of this approach to identification is that, by relying entirely on end of Key Stage 2 tests to select the highly able, one is not identifying the highly able at all, but only those who display high attainment in English and maths at age 11. 

This is a narrower focus even than many 11+ selection tests for grammar school entry, which often include a cognitive ability test of some kind.

High attainment is not the same thing as high ability because it dismisses any effort to identify hidden potential – and hidden potential is sometimes obscured by underachievement which may be attributable, at least in part, to socio-economic disadvantage.

Were we to follow the Report’s recommendations, challenge and support would not be provided to:

  • Any pupil of primary age (this arbitrary cut-off at the age of 11 is not explained. One wonders whether the primary schools questioned in the Report’s Survey would support it);
  • Any secondary student who failed to achieve the prescribed benchmark in  KS2 English and maths tests (I am not quite sure whether the preferred benchmark is defined by English or maths or English and maths – the Report seems rather coy about this);
  • Any secondary student who demonstrated high attainment in a subject outside the National Curriculum (and, in the first instance, while support is phased in, outside the core subjects). Incidentally, the relationship between identification through English and/or maths and attainment in, say, geography or modern foreign languages is another unexplained feature.

Such an approach is tantamount to applying an 11+ examination to all pupils in English schools, by determining that those who pass it shall be deemed highly able until they leave school at 18 while the remainder are neglected entirely. (One of the Report’s recommendations refers in passing to support for those who don’t achieve highly in end of KS2 tests, but fails to develop the suggestion.)

Because high attainment (rather than high ability) is unevenly distributed within the population, it is inevitable that the national cohort of pupils identified by this means will be drawn predominantly from the higher socio-economic groups. Many will attend selective schools (or independent schools if they are included in the exercise). There will probably be more girls than boys. Some ethnic groups will be disproportionately represented, especially Chines and Indian; others – especially Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils – will be conspicuous by their absence.

It is therefore highly likely that the imbalance perceived in PISA 2009 results – between high attainers in comprehensive schools and those in grammar and independent schools – would be increased rather than reversed.

It is hard to see how support for the ‘highly able’ built on these principles could be anything other than a sop to the middle classes.


Chapter 4 poses the question:

‘Does the percentage of pupils returned as “gifted and talented‟ predict how well the schools do in national tests and examinations?’

It rests on the completely false assumption that identification as gifted and talented should necessarily be predictive of high attainment and entry to selective universities.

It is not clear why anyone with any knowledge of how the national gifted and talented policy operated at this time would expect to look at a school’s gifted and talented population to ‘tell how well a school is likely to do in national tests and examinations’ (para 4.5)

The Report is seeking to impose its own narrow attainment-based assumptions about what constitutes high ability without taking the trouble to understand that:

  • Many of these schools were deploying a more sensitive and nuanced appreciation of the difference between ability and attainment;
  • They were drawing on evidence of ability and potential which had not (yet) manifested as high attainment;
  • They were taking account of the gap in performance between those from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds;
  • They were identifying learners with talent in sports and creative arts (gifted and talented are combined in the census because only one census question was permitted, even though it would have been preferable to have two).

It is certainly the case that some schools failed to understand – probably even to read – the guidance. The group of grammar schools that returned all their pupils as gifted and talented could well have been operating within the guidelines, but those who made nil returns would not have been doing so.

Perhaps they wrongly assumed that the national policy was not meant for them, conveniently ignoring the argument that effective top end differentiation is just as much an issue in a selective environment as anywhere else (as is demonstrated by the anecdote in this Report about an exceptionally able boy who is under-challenged in a grammar school environment).

I reject the assumption here that, to be valid, a construct must be capable of only one narrow interpretation. I also reject the assumption that School Census questions can only be confined to constructs which have no scope for flexible interpretation.

If that were the case, it would not be possible to include questions about SEN, or ethnicity. The Information Authority’s advice on the Ethnicity Data Standards says:

‘Ethnicity relates to how a person feels not necessarily how they look or how they are perceived by others. For example, it is possible for a person of mixed Asian and white ancestry to look entirely white but to feel kinship with their Asian heritage.’

So if ethnicity can be reported on an entirely subjective basis, what is wrong with reporting the outcomes of a flexible definition of who is gifted and talented?


The Report’s recommendations are focused disproportionately on adjustments to the accountability framework, all but one of them relating to the School Performance Tables.

This approach rests on the assumption that schools must be ‘incentivised’ through the Performance Tables to focus on high attaining pupils, as well as those who are not yet achieving national benchmarks.

According to the Government’s Response to the Bew Review (July 2011):

‘We welcome the Review’s endorsement of the importance of supporting the progress of the most able primary pupils and the new level 6 test. The test has been available to schools to use on an optional basis for the first time this year. In accordance with the Review’s recommendation it will continue to be optional for schools to use and it will be for schools to decide whether to enter pupils for the test. However, we also believe that it is right that schools which use the test, and successfully support their highest attaining pupils, are given credit for doing so. We shall also therefore consider how best to incorporate this measure in the accountability system.’

This stops short of a firm commitment to incorporate Level 6 outcomes in the Primary Performance Tables.

The Report is right to argue that the current distinctions in the tables between high, middle and low attainers are too crude.

They are based on performance across English and maths, rather than in each of those separately, so pupils must achieve above Level 4 in both subjects to count as a ‘high attainer’. But, in other respects, the threshold for this category is not set particularly high. The ‘high attainer’ group in the secondary tables includes some 38% of all assessed pupils.

This has been has been criticised by academics because it means that schools with relatively advantaged intakes will be favoured:

‘Differences in league table performance between schools will reflect differences in intake as well as effectiveness.’

These researchers had previously proposed an alternative approach based on narrower ranges:

‘We defined groups by quite narrow ten percentile bands, the low attaining group lying between the 20th and 30th percentiles in the KS2 distribution, the high attaining group between the 70th and 80th percentiles, and the middle group between the 45th to 55th percentiles. While clearly there is still variation in student ability within each band, it is second order and the main differences between schools in performance for any group will come from variation in schools’ teaching effectiveness.’

Although such an approach might create presentational difficulties, especially if some schools do not have any pupils in the relevant bands, it would preserve pupil anonymity.

Conversely, it is doubtful whether the data could remain anonymised if any of the three approaches proposed in the Report – 90th percentile at KS2, 9th percentile at KS2, or Level 6 outcomes – were adopted.

And these thresholds could not be applied within the Narrowing the Gaps section of the Performance Tables, where there is a case for extending the existing crude tripartite approach, so parents and other stakeholders can be assured that schools are using the Pupil Premium to improve the attainment of those likely to exceed the national benchmarks.

But the fundamental problem with this section of the Report is that the Government has already announced that the existing eight-level National Curriculum scale will be abolished.

From 2014, there will no longer be a Level 4, 5, or 6. As things stand, we have only a broad commitment to develop:

a qualifications and curriculum framework which supports and stretches every child’ (see Col 181)

And, recognition that, while National Curriculum levels will not be replaced:

‘In terms of statutory assessment, however, I believe that it is critical that we both recognise the achievements of all pupils, and provide for a focus on progress. Some form of grading of pupil attainment in mathematics, science and English will therefore be required, so that we can recognise and reward the highest achievers as well as identifying those who are falling below national expectations. We will consider further the details of how this will work.’

Because the future of National Curriculum assessment is unknown, all of the Report’s Level-based recommendations for the identification of highly able pupils and securing accountability through performance table reform are fundamentally irrelevant. 


Effective Provision for Highly Able Learners

Perhaps the most disappointing feature of the Report is the negligible attention it focuses on defining and describing what constitutes effective whole school provision for the highly able.

We have a sum total of two recommendations, one that provision should be integral rather than bolt-on, the other that it should be defined by the National Curriculum and phased in, with the core subjects coming first.

Chapter 5 of the Report relies exclusively on material gleaned from the small-scale survey. Short statements from different teachers are stitched together into a narrative which is heavy on anecdote but light on effective practice.

There is again no reference from the authors to the content of national guidance documents, including the National Quality Standards, so one is left with the misleading impression that schools have been left more or less entirely to their own devices.

It may be that the Sutton Trust’s change of mind – its decision to follow-up the Report with funded pilot activity focused on effective provision – is recognition that the Report itself is a hollow shell, with nothing meaningful to say about what schools should actually do to challenge and support their highly able learners.

This would have been the section in which to reference more of the aspects of Coalition Government policy I have listed above – and explored the extent to which they offer coherent support for highly able learners. That would have permitted the Report’s recommendations to be presented as complementing and supporting the existing policy agenda, instead of pursuing an almost entirely separate agenda.


Highly Able in Other Countries

The analysis of PISA 2009 data is interesting evidence that there are significant differences in the proportion of high attainers in different countries (and it gives the lie to statements – attributed to Andreas Schleicher – that

‘The top 20% of students in England perform as well as the top 20% anywhere in the world’

It helpfully reinforces points made in my own 2010 blog post on the same topic, though unfortunately without making any reference to the existence of that post.

It would have been even better had it drawn attention to the limitations of PISA-based evidence, and also drawn on data from TIMSS and PIRLS studies to explore the extent to which they tell the same story. Material differences would raise interesting issues about the reliability of such instruments for policy benchmarking purposes.

We know that at least part of the explanation for some countries securing a significantly higher percentage of high attainers is the greater equity they demonstrate in educational outcomes – their results are not tied so strongly to class and socio-economic background – though this is by no means universally the case.

Another part of the explanation may just be that their educational systems are better than ours. (At gifted education conferences it is rare indeed to escape hearing a statement to the effect that good gifted education is nothing more than good education per se.)

The fundamental point is the very justification for the existence of this blog – that gifted educators in England (and everywhere else in the world) have much to learn from careful study of each other’s policies and practices, not to feed some misguided enthusiasm for policy tourism, but to help inform their own national decisions about optimal solutions.

It is a shame that this Report fails to draw on such evidence, though it does at least call for further analysis, based on the PISA differentials. There is no sign from the call for proposals that the Sutton Trust will be funding such work.



Given the lengthy delay in its appearance I had expected great things from this Report, but have been sorely disappointed. It is methodologically suspect and chock-full of factual mistakes, logical non-sequiturs and blind leaps of faith.

The definition of highly able learners that it proposes would derive a population consisting entirely of high attainers or, more accurately, those that were high attainers at the age of 11 on the basis of performance in two of the core National Curriculum subjects.

While that might have the advantage of leaving schools in no doubt which learners to select and support, it would be even less defensible a selection mechanism than the 11+, sharing all its faults and adding a few more besides.

It is undoubtedly the case that the national policy programme analysed in the Report has been misunderstood and misinterpreted in some schools, sometimes wilfully, but other schools stand out consistently as beacons of exemplary practice. Unfortunately, their testimony does not feature within the Report, while the bigger strategic picture is missing entirely.

Considering the country as a whole, huge progress was made from virtually scratch over the decade from 1999-2009 but, by the end of that period, there was still considerable room for improvement.

The Report accentuates the negative for its own purposes, failing entirely to recognise and celebrate the positive – and largely because of its blinkered adherence to such a narrow and impoverished conceptualisation of gifted education.

Faced with a stark choice between:

  • an imposed requirement based on the recommendations in this Report, or
  • a flexible framework permitting a degree of autonomy in accordance with the principles laid down in the national identification guidance and Quality Standards

I would choose the latter every time – and I believe that most schools would do so too.

By all means let us develop and implement a strategy to support our high attaining learners, but let us not pretend – as does this Report – that support for high attainers is synonymous with a properly designed gifted and talented education strategy.

There is considerable irony in the fact that the Sutton Trust – an organisation established to champion social mobility – has published a Report which, if its proposals were implemented, would almost certainly strengthen the advantage enjoyed by high-attaining students from more privileged backgrounds, while denying support to exactly those learners who need it most.

In gifted education, as in all education policy, we must maintain a judicious balance between excellence and equity. To espouse one at the expense of the other does not cut the mustard.



July 2012