Gifted Phoenix Twitter Round-Up: Volume 10


Here, rather belatedly, is my latest review of @Gifted Phoenix Twitter activity.

The previous edition was published as long ago as 14 July, so this post covers over four months of activity.

I intend to publish approximately termly reviews henceforward – either three or four a year, depending on my level of industry (and Twitter activity) and your level of interest!

I have made some adjustments to reflect these new arrangements. Rather than attempt coverage of my entire Twitter feed, I have concentrated on drawing together material relevant to gifted education.

As far as wider education policy is concerned, I have included only those tweets that are pertinent to gifted education in England.

The review is organised as follows:

  • Global gifted education – I have divided this into two sub-sections, one covering the World Council’s activities, the other everything else.
  • Separate sections for Africa, the Americas, Asia, Australasia and Europe (other than the UK) respectively. The Americas is divided into three: Other Than USA, US National and US Local. The latter covers material relevant to states, cities, counties, gifted centres, universities and schools.
  • UK, again sub-divided into three: Gifted, Related Issues and Data.
  • Thematic, which also has three sub-sections: Twice Exceptional, Creativity and Innovation, Intelligence and Neuroscience.
  • Commentary, which is once more tripartite, containing subsections entitled Gifted Research, Academic/Gifted Education and Advocacy/Parents/General Interest.

I have exercised some discretion in placing tweets into categories. Some would fit in two or more different sections. Some of my categorisations, especially in the UK and Commentary sections, are also a little rough and ready.

The tweets in each section are organised so that linked material is together, but are otherwise in broadly chronological order. As ever, all the tweets are mine, though a handful are retweets or modified tweets originated by others.

The photographic accompaniment is also supplied by yours truly, collected on my last visit abroad. But where did I go?


Global Gifted Education


World Council/World Conference

WCGTC conference Auckland July 2013: earlybird registration for non-members falls NZ$ 174 to NZ$ 825 (£428)

The results of the 2012 International Chemistry Olympiad, just finished in Washington DC:

WCGTC is celebrating an International Week of Giftedness in August 2012 – and again in August 2013:

More about the WCGTC International Week of Giftedness:

More again about the WCGTC International Week of #Giftedness, which has its own hashtag #IWG2012:

The World Council Executive Committee (sans President) at their new HQ in Bowling Green Kentucky:

@wcgtc Do you support the African Council for Gifted and Talented as claimed here?

Breaking news: World Council 2013 Gifted Conference in New Zealand cancelled. Nothing here yet:

Nothing on the World Council site either about cancellation of the 2013 Conference in NZ:

NZ Gifted Conference 2013 scrapped due to lack of sponsorship; organisational differences with World Council:

World Council Gifted Conference has been cancelled at short notice for second time in succession

World Conference cancellation is a huge blow to NZ gifted education: – but it also begs questions …

With just 10 months before World Council conference runs, even US fallback locations will be hard to find:

Maybe the IRATDE Conference in Turkey could be rebranded as a joint World Council/IRATDE conference:

Look what I’ve found! Could the 2013 World Council Gifted Conference be moving to Dubai?

The site has now moved to a different URL: – Think this is the venue ICIE used in Dubai

WCGTC Conference 2013 has a byline and workshops (mostly Exec Committee members) but still no location

World council gifted conference in Kentucky USA as predicted  but Louisville rather than Bowling Green

World gifted conference dates moved to August 10-14. No other details on programme or host location:


Other Global

A timeline of developments and influential people in gifted education: – WARNING highly US-centric!

IRATDE’s 3rd International Conference on Talent Development and Excellence in Turkey, September 2013:

Review of and link to @gtchatmod’s webinar about #gtchat:

Did you know? #gtchat now has a blog! Sneak peek @  for chat summaries, links & news

Visit our new #gtchat Blog 4 chat summaries & news about upcoming chats at

IBO and World Academy of Sport offer a flexible Diploma to accommodate talented young sports stars:

The results from the 24th International Informatics Olympiad, just finished in Italy:

Facebook and Gifted Education listings: – thanks for including me!

Mensa for Kids is running an Excellence in Reading Award:

Mensa for Kids Reading Award booklist for Grades 9-12? – Curious. Would love to know the selection criteria

Pearson’s Project Blue Sky looks interestingly relevant to gifted learners:




More about sponsorship of Kenya’s gifted learners:

Messy end for an independent school for gifted learners in Kwa-Kulu Natal:

President Jonathan visits Jigawa State Academy for the Gifted, Nigeria: – background here




Other than USA

Caribbean Science Foundation is running a pan-Caribbean summer school for gifted students:

‘SO(bre)S(alientes Reloded’: The revival of a blog about gifted education in Mexico:

The Iberoamerican gifted education conference starts today in Buenos Aires Argentina:


US National

US NAGC view of the year ahead: Making a Difference with Small Actions:

Preview of US NAGC Convention in November:

Details of US NAGC’s Back to School Webinar Series (£):

Joy Lawson Davis has a place at the US NAGC Board of Directors’ table:

US NAGC’s Report on support for gifted disadvantaged learners: ttp:// – At first glance this looks rather pedestrian

Edweek on the NAGC report on gifted disadvantaged learners that I called pedestrian yesterday:

Will the National Association for Gifted Children’s (@NAGC) new paradigm be divisive?

Has Mariam Willis left US NAGC? Parenting High Potential Blog has been dormant for 3 months:

Unwrapping the Gifted’s report of Day 1 of the US NAGC convention:  – mostly Common Core

Excellent review of day 2 of the US NAGC Convention from Unwrapping the Gifted:

SENG’s National Parenting Gifted Week Blogtour details:

Catching up: the full roster of blog posts from the SENG National Parenting Gifted Children Week:

Update on SENG activities:

Article about the 2012 Davidson Fellows:

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation to dish out $500K annually for talent development: – 1st recipient Renzulli Academy

National Consortium of Early College Entrance Programs just met – but no insight here into proceedings

Feature on the iGifted School, a US-based non-profit provider of after school activities:

Welcome to Right Side of the Curve – a new US-based online gifted education community:

I see Tamara Fisher, author of the Unwrapping the Gifted Blog, has joined Twitter as @thethinkteacher :

US Government tracker says, optimistically, that Grassley’s gifted bill has 1% chance of enactment:

Passing reference to gifted learners in Obama’s Educational Excellence for African Americans initiative

Education Next feature on selective ‘exam schools’ in the US: and a comment on same:

Extended Washington Post article on development of maths as ‘competitive sport’ in the US:

Three reasons why Americans ignore gifted children:

This Dropout Nation post says US gifted education is a legacy ‘of racialist thinking’ and should be ditched:

A critical commentary on the Chester Finn piece about US neglect of gifted learners:

‘Solving America’s Math Problem’ through better differentiation including for top performers:

More Advanced Placement controversy: and and

The ‘Asianification’ of selective US high schools: – a selection issue as yet largely ignored here in the UK?

Worrall et al on minority gifted students: – fails to state firm principle that ability is evenly distributed

US Needs to Focus Its Educational Efforts on Talented Americans (@JonathanLWai):

‘The smartest kid in the room’ – another current state of US gifted education article:


US Local

First part of a critique of gifted education in the Southern states of the USA:

Second part of that blog post on being gifted in the Southern states of the USA:

Michigan educators worry whether the emphasis on gap-narrowing there will disadvantage gifted learners:

It’s Time to Respect Our Gifted and Talented Students – a Delaware USA perspective:

Minorities are under-represented in Virginia’s gifted education programmes:

Gifted jobs: Virginia Association for the Gifted requires a PT Executive Director: ($35-40K)

The scary state of gifted education in Ohio:

Gifted education issues in Ohio:

A state of the state report on gifted education in Oregon USA:  – the ‘quiet crisis’

Your  Member Newsletter: Gifted Education News from MCGATE

The Gifted: Left Behind? (in Montgomery County):

A view of gifted education from the Chicago suburbs:

Ethnic bias in admission to NYC’s selective high schools and efforts to rectify that via the DREAM programme:

Can opening up NYC selective high schools help poor kids?

James Borland lays into NYC’s gifted education programme, and with some justification:

Finn says selective high school admission in NYC needs reform but dislikes ‘disparate-impact analysis’

Why the Naglieri test won’t make admission to NYC’s gifted programme more equitable:

More on what’s wrong with gifted education in NYC:

Gifted education jobs: MIT seeks Assistant Director of Admissions to lead on recruitment of talented students:

Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth appoints new Director, though Stambaugh remains Executive Director:

Gifted jobs: William and Mary CFGE seeks Assistant Clinical Professor leading on publications/professional development

Belin Blank advertises its international credentials: and has updated its website

Belin Blank’s Colangelo is retiring imminently:

More about CTY’s Rural Connections Gifted Programme:

Looks like expansion at CTY given some of these new posts:

Gifted jobs: National Society for Gifted and Talented requires a Program Director based in Stamford CT USA:

CTD’s Summer 2012 newsletter on implications for gifted students of the Common Core:

September News from the Gifted Development Center:

Jonathan Plucker – the excellence gap expert – has moved to UConn’s Neag School of Education: Jefferson HS in the US is being sued over non-admission of gifted Black and Latino students:

Interview with the Director of the Institute for Talent Development at Northern Kentucky University:

Gifted jobs: Western Kentucky University requires an Assistant Professor with gifted education emphasis:

You can only be Professor of Gifted Education at Whitworth University if you’re a committed Christian

Gifted education jobs: Notre Dame of Maryland University seeks a specialist Assistant Professor:

Thomas Jefferson High School and the Search for Equity in the Nation’s Schools:

A bunch of Thomas Jefferson students have launched a social learning start-up:




More from the opening ceremony of the Asia-Pacific Conference:

Malaysian 1st Lady’s remarks at Asian-Pacific Gifted Conference More on her involvement

Plug pulled on eagerly awaited gifted classes in China (Anhui province):

Mensa China’s chair joined ‘to land an intelligent boyfriend’: – old one couldn’t understand her jokes

S Korea, US and China lead the medals table at the 2012 International Maths Olympiad. This report from Vietnam

A useful outline of gifted education in Vietnam and other ASEAN countries by Kim Ngoc Minh:

Funding problems for gifted schools in Vietnam

Wow. Vietnam invests US$20m to improve quality of gifted education in rural and disadvantaged areas:

Singapore’s Gifted Education Programme (GEP) cracks down on questionable private tuition providers:

Outstanding Performance by Singapore at the 2012 International Science Competitions

A documentary and review about Singapore’s Gifted Education Programme (GEP):

Thoughts on gifted education in Singapore:

Interesting Singaporean parental view: ‘Let’s not hold back children who are gifted’:

A brief but fascinating insight into gifted education in North Korea:

An article on recent developments in Malaysia’s Permata Pintar gifted programme: (via @noorsyakina)

Looks like Malaysia plans significant further steps in its national strategy for gifted education:

Here’s that Malaysian Education Blueprint Document – plans for gifted education are on pp116-117:

Commentary on Malaysia’s new plans for gifted education:

Brief report on gifted education in Sarawak, Malaysia:

Malaysian DPM seems to be inviting international efforts to contribute to Malaysian gifted education:

A slightly different take on what the Malaysian DPM said yesterday about #gifted education:

Teach For Pakistan is launching the Pakistan Talent fund, an annual competition for talented young Pakistanis

Cramming is now less virulent in Taiwan because it has so many (some would say too many) universities:

A senior Filipino politician proposes a Bill to support gifted learners and those with special needs

Filipino House of Representatives passes Bill establishing local resource centres for gifted and SEN learners

Iran’s Ayatollah engages with the country’s gifted young people: – I find this rather disturbing

It’s the 55th anniversary of the Abai Kazakh Language and Literature Residential School for Gifted Children!

Arab Bureau of Education argues for Gulf-wide collaboration in gifted education: – Too many rivalries?

The Saudis have been to check out Gatton and WKU – Minister to follow in January:

Dhool Ke Phool – Neat Indian talent development model that blends X-Factor and support for most disadvantaged:



A mixed picture of threats and opportunities in NZ gifted education:

New Zealand’s undertaking a new national survey of gifted education More use than a dodgy Sutton Trust report

The latest edition of giftEDnewz from new Zealand:

Revised, updated version of New Zealand’s handbook on Meeting Needs of Gifted Students has been published at

The NZ Ministry of Education Gifted Handbook in alternative format (for those having trouble with the PDF):

Media coverage of release of updated NZ Handbook on Meeting the Needs of Gifted Students:

NZ Education Gazette article on revised NZ Gifted Education Handbook: – memorably calls one author ‘Roger Molten’

NZ Journal of Gifted Education Vol 17.1, featuring some gifEDnz conference papers:

Evidence of increased focus on Maori giftedness in New Zealand:

To be gifted and Maori:

Some support from NZ’s Labour Party for gifted education there:

Item about NZ’s Future U competition for gifted young thought leaders:

New NZ site on mentoring in gifted education: – developed as a student project

An insight into gifted professional development activity underway in New Zealand:

Gifted Resources August newsletter can be read online at

Gifted Resources Newsletter August (vol 2):

Gifted Resources September newsletter can be read online at

Gifted Resources October newsletter online at

A second October Gifted Resources newsletter can be read at

November 2012 Gifted Resources Newsletter from @jofrei

A new article by the Chair of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into gifted education:

A post by @jofrei on the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into gifted education:



Javier Touron blogs (in Spanish) about the imminent ECHA12 Conference:

Christian Fischer article ahead of ECHA12 in Die Welt (in German):

Interview with Peter Csermely mentioning European Centre of Talent Support:

Mission statement for the European Talent Centre:

Elsewhere on the gifted conference front, I can find out nothing more about the mysterious Polish event:

…Except that there is now a satellite event for East European experts in Hungary a few days later:

Details arrive of the Polish Gifted Conference, just under a week before it happens! Here’s the Programme:

@tanzania8 will present in Poland on UK good practice: Could you live tweet and share presentations Margaret?

Sweet FA from the Warsaw gifted conference. No presentations or tweets. All there is (in Polish):

Information about ECHA 2014:

Our Slovenian colleagues are to be congratulated on setting up an ECHA2014 Forum: – open registration

Smart Kids, Bad Schools – A Norwegian perspective (courtesy of Krumelurebloggen):

Irish Times piece on How to Make a Modern Superhero – mentions CTYI:

The autobiography of a gifted counsellor with Romania’s IRSCA Gifted Education Programme:

TES reports on a Finnish teacher’s book alleging that gifted students’ needs are neglected there:

Description of UYEF, the ‘Federation of Gifted Children Education’ in Turkey:

Article about the Enderun, an Ottoman school for the gifted (15th to 19th century):

CTYI students report on the CTYI experience:

Gifted education in Malta:

Los ninos de alta capacidad son el 3-5% de la poblacion?

Aqui­ esta la nueva entrada. Espero que is interese

Aqui­ estan las 10 claves para hablar de la identificacion. Saludos

Sobre la identificacion de los mes capaces

Cuantos alumnos de Alta Capacidad hay en Espana? Unas cifras para la reflexion via @jtoufi  rendimiento en PISA y talento.

Una Vision Grafica Del Rendimiento en PISA 2003, 2006 y 2009 (from @jtoufi ):

National Report on Identification. oy si aprendemos de los demos?

La excelencia nacional. Un informe interesante.

Los instrumentos de medida en la identificacion






Sutton Trust report on educating highly able pupils-but does it cut the mustard?

Ian Warwick’s dissects Sutton Trust Highly Able Report:  – Been there, done that already:

Summary of Sutton Trust Highly Able research: – rather spoiled by an inaccurate commentary at the end

@EducationElf I fear there is bias and misinformation in your commentary on Sutton Trust Highly Able research:

Apropos the IMO, here are the UK results from the 2012 Olympiad, because they won’t get reported here:

Good luck to Team UK, heading to Germany to compete in the International Geography Olympiad!

Arts Council PN confirming Sadlers Wells will run the new National Youth Dance Company for 16-19 year-olds:

LSU gifted education professor addressing Oxford Round Table event on Talent Development of Olympic Athlete:

Indy Leader uses the G word of sportspeople with zero embarrassment: – Linguistic discrimination

Martin Stephen pleads for the Olympic investment to be extended to our academically gifted learners too:

Meanwhile the Mail produces its annual ‘zoo exhibit’ story about a gifted child So predictable; so depressing

Does the British culture celebrate mediocrity and penalise success? Gifted education is part of the solution

Evidence of the huge variation in schools’ capability to support their highest attainers:

Article summarising Mujis research on the relative success of sixth form colleges in securing top A level grades:

UCAS Chief floats 1-10 A level grading with 9 and 10 pitched above A* to raise ceiling for gifted learners:

Gifted learners need flexibility within curriculum frameworks that tie learning to specific year groups:

Inter alia IFS notes case for action to narrow the excellence gap between poor and other gifted learners

New IPPR Report on Closing the Attainment Gap Notices the gap at top grades p16, but doesn’t really address it

Feedback link on DfE’s Dux awards page contains no feedback; Schools Network link’s moribund; no link yet to GT Voice:

Milburn’s Report lays into the Dux Scheme: (p 38) – that won’t please DfE

Of course independent heads will support Open Access if Government pays: But it’s politically rash and too expensive

Lampl’s still pushing open access – His other suggestion on fair access to grammar schools is more of a runner

Lampl wants Government to stump up 100s of £m to denude state schools of their most able pupils. Idiotic:

Apply between 7 and 30 September to be a Specialist Leader of Education with expertise in highly able pupils:

How seriously does England take education of its most able?  On PISA high achiever data (my analysis included)

Farewell then Mike Baker, a friend of gifted education:

Ian Warwick on KS2 Level 6ness: – Level 6 is of course slated to disappear by September 2014

More from Ian Warwick on ‘level 6ness’: – a concept with a very limited shelf-life

Moynihan says Government sports strategy fails to support talent identification or progression to elite sport:

Need to see detail of London Mayoral Gold Club of schools ‘to stretch the brightest pupils’ – what will it do?

Wall to Wall is preparing a Child Genius Show:

Why Do We Underestimate Our Most Able Pupils?  – Agree in spades with the final section!

Lampl still flogging his Open Access dead horse:  – Only a crazy or desperate party would add it to their 2015 Manifesto

Richard Garner in the Independent supports Lampl’s Open Access scheme Government and Opposition more sensible!

Oral PQ reply on steps taken by Government to improve attainment of most able pupils in maths: (Col 14)

Truss’s argument for investment in intellectual capital goes beyond STEM: it’s the case for gifted education:

Truss maths speech also cites lack of gifted young mathematicians Concerted strategy is needed to change that

It’s a small victory that this DfE press notice cites the disparity in high attainers’ PISA outcomes in maths:

Arts Council is to pilot a Music Industry Talent Development Fund:

Gender imbalance revealed in Cambridge Chemistry Challenge:

UK’s It’s Alright to be Bright Week is scheduled for 20-27 October 2012, details to follow:

On Giftedness and ‘It’s alright to be Bright!’- The UK celebrates a 2012 Gifted Awareness Week!-

It’s Alright to Be Bright Week is well underway:

I kid you not, GT Voice Board member Jonny Ball is to be a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing:

Apart from me all this lot still serve: – The item on my resignation has vanished – must repost

GTVoice Bulletin for October 2012:

Take the gtvoice survey:

I see Warwick University/IGGY’s offering scholarships for 2 gifted education PhDs (but they’re still in my bad books)

IGGY revitalisation press notice: – Targets to ‘reach’ 15K students in 1 year; 50K in 3 years (ie not members)

@iggywarwick: The beta version of our new website  Let us know what you think!

IGGY’s not new, dating from 2007. Useful resource, but won’t alone secure quality gifted education in schools

Jimmy Saville’s MENSA membership is quietly expunged. Compare 2010 FAQ: with new version:

I don’t want to labour the Savile/Mensa connection, but someone shelled out £160 for his Mensa scarf and tie:



Related Issues

More on Cambridge and contextualised admission: – Does it all boil down to confusion between ability and attainment?

Apparently a 5.3% rise in state school admissions to Cambridge, but I can’t find the source:

Peter Wilby suggests imposing a version of the Texas 10% model on Oxbridge: Right principles but details awry

Do you ever read a newspaper story and think ‘I told you so’: – impact of stalling A level grades on AAB grade HE entry

More evidence that AAB recruitment didn’t work out exactly as it should have done for many selective universities:

Higher report says A level students with AAB grades were projected to increase by 4000 but numbers stayed unchanged:

Statistically I’m unclear why a bigger cohort increases A level pass rate but reduces proportion of top grades

Here comes the ABacc: – basically ‘gold standard’ A level with choice limited, plus academic/service learning bolt-ons

KS5 performance tables already have A level AAB+, RG/Oxbridge destination indicator from 2013 – now ABacc measure too?

Interesting Ofqual research on comparative A level stretch and challenge: – though definition’s a tad basic

Cambridge’s post-16 maths project: – is actually £2.8m to strengthen NRich so nothing to do with A level reform

Why We Need Olympic-style Maths Academies: Forgets there’s funding for a tranche of 16-19 maths free schools

TES reports results of AQA further maths certificate offering A* with distinction:  – see

It won’t be straightforward to add top-end stretch and simultaneously eliminate tiering from a single son-of-GCSE exam:

Son of GCSE to be graded with 1-6 (7 a fail) with 5-10% limit on grade 1 (norm or criterion-referenced unclear):

If only the percentage achieving the top EBC grade is fixed that discriminates unfairly against high attainers

The brakes will be applied to GCSE results as well as A levels: Disproportionate impact on top grades again?

Thankful for small mercies? It seems that O level mark 2 will be takeable in Spring 2016 after one year of study

EBC consultation document shows early entry in core subjects will be impossible in 2016 after all (para 1.4):

Blistering attack on EBC proposals, including idea of a cap on percentage achieving top (all?) grades:

Irresponsible early entry reporting – Can be right for gifted learners but only those secure in A*/A should be entered

Wilshaw’s comments on early entry to GCSE pre-empt a report to be published shortly. Ofsted press notice at:

The Mail and Smithers should temper their enthusiasm for GS until they see FSM pupils’ HE destinations data next year

Answer to the question of how to make grammar schools more socially inclusive isn’t necessarily more grammar schools:

Doubt Brady will ever get new 11+ grammars into a Tory Manifesto, but that doesn’t stop him endlessly trying:

Graham Brady is in broken record mode about grammar schools – has nothing new to say:

Redwood on selection:  – Presumably Brady and Daley contributions come later

Kent is looking for a ‘less coachable’ 11 plus test: – but less coachable is still coachable. Half measures.

Why would you set up a determinedly mixed ability free school and still select 10% of pupils by aptitude? Contradictory

Ministerial statement on the Olympic sporting legacy: (Col 36WS): a bit thin on school PE where ‘more needs to be done’

Nrich has had a makeover:

Sutton Trust press notice accompanying the report of their recent Social Mobility Summit:

Hodgson and Spours on ‘squeezed middle’ in the attainment spectrum: – Is Government overly focused on top 30%?

Barber IPPR essay fails to recognise how Asian Tiger gifted programmes help drive achievement AND innovation



330 of 2164 schools and colleges sent no pupils to RG universities in 2009/10; 1395 sent none to Oxbridge:

Slight increase in Cambridge applications; slight fall in Oxford applications – doesn’t tell us much:

Percentage of students achieving 3+ A levels at A*/A fell from 13.1% to 12.5% (Table 1b):

In 2011/12, 33,154 students gained 3+ A*/A grades at A level:  (Col 200W)

Overall UK GCSE results: A* grades down 0.5% on 2011; A*/A grades down 0.8% on 2011; A*-C grades down 0.4% on 2011:

Percentage of pupils making 3 levels of progress from KS2-4 increased by 3.7% in maths but decreased by 4.2% in English

23.3% of pupils achieving KS2 L5 in English failed to make 3 levels of progress by KS4: (Table 1d)

20.4% of pupils achieving KS2 L5 in maths failed to make 3 levels of progress by KS4: (Table 1d)

23.3% of pupils achieving KS2 L5 in English failed to make 3 levels of progress by KS4: (Table 1d)

2012 Performance Tables to show AAB A level grades but not KS2 L6 results (but L6 counts in progress measures)

KS2 SFR shows that in 2012 11% of those achieving L3 in KS1maths managed only 1 level  level of progress to L4

But KS2 SFR also shows that 14% of those achieving L3 in KS1 maths achieved L6 at KS2:

KS2 SFR shows that in 2012, 16% of those achieving L3 in KS1 English managed only one level of progress to L4:

KS2 SFR shows that around 900 pupils achieved L6 in reading and  3% achieved L6 in maths:

KS2 SFR shows L5 maths up from 35% to 39% in 2012, a significant increase on the previous 3 years:

KS2 SFR shows L5 reading up from 43% to 48%, restoring most of a big 7% dip in 2011:

KS1 SFR shows much bigger FSM gaps at L3 than at L2 across all of reading, writing, maths and science:

KS1 SFR shows 1% increases in L3 TA in Reading, writing, S&L, science and 2% increase in L3 TA in maths






Great blogpost on being twice-exceptional: – Required reading for a certain Ms Teather I would suggest

Twice Exceptional Newsletter 26 July 2012:

Twice Exceptional Newsletter 13 August 2012:

Twice-exceptional Newsletter 4 September 2012:


Creativity and Innovation

The tension between schooling and creativity from a gifted perspective:

How lucid dreaming can support creativity and innovation:

10 Suggestions for Raising Creative Kids: – I would personally omit number 6!

Identifying the Creative Child in the Classroom:

Informative extended article on creativity (especially musical creativity) and the brain:

Creativity and Chaos:

Does social rejection fuel creativity? – Low need for conformity; high need for uniqueness. Recognise that profile!

Interesting article on the components of creativity:

Creativity and IQ – what is divergent thinking and how is it helped by sleep, humour and alcohol:

Another version of the constituents of creativity:

Maybe Gifted Underachievers are More Creative:

Grounding Creative Giftedness in the Body, from @sbkaufman


Intelligence and Neuroscience

How do cognitive abilities change over the lifespan? Number sense as an exemplar:

Short Time article on recent ‘genes for learning’ studies:

The (limited) contribution of brain imaging to distinguishing intelligence:

Intensive practice in reasoning skills can change the brain – Does tuition have a value beyond mere rehearsal?

On whether neuroscience supports free will or determinism:  (warning: you may need to read this 7 times)

How early social deprivation impairs long-term cognitive function:

Are great leaders born or made? Do they need intelligence and creativity?

Evidence that adult brain structure changes as a consequence of learning:

Cogmed working memory training: does the evidence support the claims?

The relationship between genes and intelligence is still far from understood:

Another piece on the relationship between genes and intelligence:

More from Willingham on working memory training:

The prevalence of ‘neuromyths’ amongst UK and Dutch teachers:

Why social and mechanical reasoning are mutually inhibiting:

Perfect Saturday reading – an academic paper about Einstein’s brain:





Gifted Research

Seeking participants for research on gifted kids and their hobbies

The impact of genes on athletic performance: – a brief review of research evidence

Algebra for All Harmed High Achievers, Study Finds:

Working paper on Conscientiousness, Education and Longevity of High Ability Individuals by Peter Savelyev:

The value of deliberate practice (as opposed to practice per se) in achieving (musical) excellence:

The impact of self-regulated learning (from Ericcson’s expert performance perspective): (via @sbkaufman)

Top Maths Achievers Spread Unevenly Across Schools – Ed Week report on a (£) academic paper:

Review of a recent French book by Lignier – A Sociology of Gifted Children:

Gifted and Talented International edition with Persson’s article on cultural bias in research and responses:

@JonathanLWai on a (£) Gifted Child Quarterly edition devoted to responses to that Subotnik et al article:

You can access Subotnik’s target article free but these Gifted Child Quarterly responses are sadly $20 a time:

The Entire “Rethinking Giftedness” Debate – from Gifted Child Quarterly

Thanks to @sbkaufman for publishing the full Gifted Child Quarterly edition on Subotnik et al’s paper:

A critical Koshy paper on English primary gifted education which, on a quick skim, is very curate’s eggy:


Academic/Gifted Education

A gender dimension to the Flynn effect? Mr F promotes his new book:

Interview with James Flynn: and his article in Wall St Journal:

An interview with June Maker, speaking at the Asia-Pacific Conference:

The concept of Optimum Intelligence – and what happens when you’re outside those boundaries:

Some complex thinking aloud about distinctions between high IQ and genius: – don’t think it’s that simple!

An interview with @sbkaufman

A restatement of the nature/nurture balance in development of genius:

If expertise has such limitations does that undermine gifted education theories predicated on its development?

The changing nature of expertise: – has implications for expertise-in-development models of gifted education

Feature on Olympic talent development based on work by Rita Culross at LSU:

CTD at Northwestern on flipped classrooms:

Belin Blank’s Colangelo on high attaining learners’ progression to teaching as a career:

Part 5 of Belle Wallace’s gifted blog on developing a problem-solving pedagogy

Final Belle Wallace article in series of 6, on ‘Whole Brain Based Learning’: – not sure this one quite works

Nine ‘research-supported facts’ about gifted education: – some are contestable though…

The relative impacts of harmonious and obsessive passion on performance:

The relationship between ability and motivation:

Learners need  knowledge as well as resilience. More commentary on Tough’s book:

A bit more follow-up on the Paul Tough book:

Hirsch on Tough:

Even more ‘true grit’ (and its impact on student achievement):

I thoroughly commend this blog post about a gifted driven model of teaching and learning by @headguruteacher

Interesting post incorporating Sternberg presentation on assessing creativity, common sense and wisdom

Review of Finn and Hockett’s ‘Exam Schools’ and the merits of balancing excellence and equity:

Another review of the Exam Schools book:

From the Curry School of Education Blog – I share this perspective on social and emotional needs

Camilla Benbow gifted education article:  (I reckon she has the best name in gifted ed btw)

The Pesky Persistence of Labels from @sbkaufman

Duke TIP blogpost on academic self-concept:

Q. What can we learn from international best practice in gifted education?: – A. Much from careful scrutiny

Paula O-K takes a sensible middle way on social and emotional dimensions of giftedness:

Links between child prodigies and autism (summary):

Impact of openness to experience on cognitive ability:

In which Brink Lindsay, author of Human Capitalism fails to take on board the Smart Fraction argument:

Everything you ever needed to know about prodigiousness (and more):

Restatement of an old question – do objective standards (of excellence) exist in the arts?

Long Subotnik et al article in Scientific American: – the eminence trajectory remains the weak link

10 Lessons on Gifted Education – Part 1 (by @RichardCash)

Valentine Cawley argues that gifted people suffer as a consequence of the Dunning-Kruger effect:

The arguments for and against detracking:

WCGTC 2013 Conference post on highly proficient readers:

World Conference 2013 blog on Technology: – High time for gifted educators to enter the 21st Century

@ByrdseedGifted proffers an example of a ‘fuzzy problem’ for gifted learners:

How black gifted students are ‘living between two races’:

Catching up: Mainstreaming effective gifted education practices:

More ways to use Twitter in gifted education:



Advocacy/Parents/General Interest

Nicole Kidman – a Brief Profile of High Ability and Complexity:

Are we doing enough to support the parents of gifted children?

More valuable advice about parenting a gifted child:

Everyday Glimpses of Giftedness:

Catching up: ‘why is my gifted child so anxious all the time’:  (causation/correlation health warning)

Catching up: a blog post on gifted labelling:

What should we do about gifted and talented pupils? Do they exist? New blog post

Catching up: The Smartest 1%: Do Americans Value Intelligence?

Catching up: Advocacy Groups for Parents of Gifted Learners:

50 Essential Links for the Parents of Gifted Children  Has transformed the very English Gifted Phoenix to Kiwi! (no 28)

Catching up: Gas station without pumps cocks a snook at National Parenting Gifted Children Week:

Catching up: A post about Raising Gifted Children:

Pondering the Olympics from a gifted perspective:

Why Gifted Teens Should be Sponges Not Spongers:

Wouldn’t it be Weirder if I Didn’t Think my Child was Gifted?

Blog post on The Value of Exclusive Gifted Programmes:

Why Are All the Smart Kids Cheating (an inaccurate headline but worth reading anyway):

US comparison of academic v sporting success Raises big questions about support for elite academic performance

A comparison of gifted education and varsity athletics:

All kinds of smart: applying lessons from the Olympics:

Online education for gifted homeschoolers:

Sibling rivalry: Blog post – Life Among the Gifted

The Talent Myth:

Ideas on the causes of negativity towards gifted learners and gifted education:

Insights into gifted adults in the workplace:

Raising the floor but neglecting the ceiling:

Daniel Coyle offers some tips on talent development:

Courtesy of @sbkaufman the correlation between national chocolate consumption and number of nobel prizewinners

Bullying and the Gifted:

An article advocating IQ testing of gifted children:

A contrary view about the value of IQ testing:

Strategies for helping gifted children back to school:

How does one discuss giftedness with a gifted learner?

New post on Gifted Resources blog: virtually attending the ECHA conference

Can’t find a school for your gifted child? Start your own:

Grades and gifted learners

Young gifted and neglected:

Gifted Exchange on tuition for tests giving entry to gifted education programmes: – a can of worms

Do teenage gifted writers have sufficient opportunity to engage their imagination in school?

From the editor of Concord Review: why are we afraid to show off our brightest students?

Withholding appropriate education from a gifted child is educational neglect:

Against Accelerating the Gifted Child:

In which I respond to nearly 200 @NYTMotherlode comments re: acceleration in gifted education:

The advantages of acceleration:

Inductive learning for gifted students:

Things I’ve Learned About Parenting a Gifted Child:

The Highly Distracted Gifted Child:

A Prezi on Talent Identification and Development in Sport:

Universal Traits of Giftedness – – there are of course no such thing!

Leave gifted children alone: – I think he actually opposes hothousing rather than support

The 2 worst words in gifted education, parts 1 – – and 2 –

How to Recognise the Parent of a Gifted Child:

Stacie says ‘Shut up about what a burden your gifted child is’:

Holding back gifted learners:

Differentiating between gifted and high-achieving students:  – Better imho to treat latter as subset of former

Is there an emotional intelligence equivalent of the Flynn Effect?

Ten myths about gifted students and programmes for the gifted:

New post at GPS, “Just My Imagination”

New post at Gifted Parenting Support, “Accentuate the Positive”

New post at GPS, “Supporting Your Child’s Gifted Teacher”:

New post @GPS, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting? The Unexpected”

New post on GPS, “Nurturing the Global Nature of Giftedness”

Check out our latest gtchat blog post on the ECHA12 Symposium @  – Thanks Lisa!

‘Is there a place at table for parents’? from Gifted Parenting Support:

New Gifted Parenting Support post from @ljconrad  on standardisation:

New post on our #gtchat Blog, “The Middle School Years”

Gifted Resources Blog post about #gtchat

Couldn’t make #gtchat this week? Check out our blog  for  summary & links!

Missed Friday’s #gtchat ? ‘Collaboration, Not Confrontation” Transcripts:

Giftedness as a Special Educational Need, chat transcript:

Transcripts of the last 2 #gtchats with guests van Gemert and Housand respectively: and

Transcript of yesterday’s #gtie chat on gifted education research: – Thanks so much for referencing my blog!

Transcript from tonight’s chat, Essential Websites on Giftedness:  (and thanks for the reference)

Transcript of When Parents Push Too Hard

Some #IWG2012 blog posts: and and and

Another selection of #IWG12 posts: and  and and

A 3rd selection of #IWG12 blogposts and  and and

A further selection of #IWG12 blog posts: and and

A 5th set of #IWG12 blog posts: and and and

Today’s selection of #IWG12 posts: and  and and

Couldn’t fit these #IWG12 posts into the last round-up: and

Sunday’s batch of #IWG12 posts: and and and

….and one last one:

A final (?) #IWG12 post: and one that perhaps should have been:



November 2012

Where is New Zealand’s Excellence Gap? – Part 2


This is Part 2 of a Post for the Blog Tour associated with New Zealand’s Gifted Awareness Week 2012. If you missed Part 1 you can find it here


I have set aside until now any discussion of the nature and application of deciles so as not to confuse the treatment of the substantive issue.

For, if it wasn’t bad enough to take New Zealand to task for apparently using ethnic background as a proxy for socio-economic disadvantage, I feel there is also some cause for concern in its tendency to use a school-level measure of disadvantage as a proxy for individual disadvantage.

The two issues are related, in that they potentially create a ‘double whammy’ situation for disadvantaged European/Pakeha learners who have the misfortune to attend a relatively advantaged school.


What are Deciles?

But non-Kiwi readers will first require an explanation of how deciles are derived and how they work.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Education explains that:

‘A decile indicates the extent to which a school draws its students from low socio-economic communities. Decile 1 schools are the 10% of schools with the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic communities. Decile 10 schools are the 10% of schools with the lowest proportion of these students.’

It follows that deciles are not always a reliable measure of the individual socio-economic backgrounds of pupils in a school. A significant minority of the pupils at a low decile school may be relatively advantaged and vice versa.

Deciles are calculated following each 5-yearly New Zealand Census, though schools can apply for a review betweentimes. The calculation is based on the smallest census areas (known as ‘meshblocks’) in which a school’s students live.

It is based on five percentages:

  • households with adjusted income in the lowest 20% nationally;
  • employed parents in unskilled and semi-skilled occupations;
  • crowded households (ie less than one bedroom per couple, per single person aged 10 or over, or per pair of children aged under 10);
  • parents with no school or tertiary qualifications and
  • parents who directly received income support from specified sources.

These five factors are weighted to reflect the number of students per meshblock, so those housing more students will have a relatively greater impact on the school decile.

Schools are placed in rank order for each of the five factors, receiving a score for each. The five scores are totalled and the total scores are used to divide schools into the 10 deciles, each containing the same number of schools. No further weighting is applied.

The published Schools Directory contains the decile alongside each entry, so parents are fully aware of a school’s decile and that knowledge may influence their admissions preferences.

The Ministry’s guidance on applying for a change of decile notes:

‘In the past, boards and principals seeking a review have provided information on such things as rurality, fluid rolls, the incidence of single parent families or students with special needs. While such matters certainly impose organisational problems on a school, they are not factors that are used to determine the decile.

The decile does not indicate the “average” socio-economic status of families that contribute to the school roll, but focuses on five specific factors that have been shown to affect academic achievement.’

Deciles are used to determine the funding received by a school. Indeed, several different funding elements are allocated on this basis:

  • Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement (TFEA) (deciles 1-9)
  • Special Education Grant (SEG) (deciles 1-10)
  • Careers Information Grant (CIG) (deciles 1-10)
  • Kura Kaupapa Māori Transport (deciles 1-10)
  • Priority Teacher Supply Allowance (PTSA) (deciles 1-2)
  • National Relocation Grant (NRG) (deciles 1-4)
  • Decile Discretionary Funding for Principals (deciles 1-4)
  • Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs) Learning Support Funding (deciles 1-10)
  • RTLBs for years 11-13 (deciles 1-10)
  • School Property Financial Assistance scheme (deciles 1-10)
  • Study Support Centres (deciles 1-3)
  • Social Workers in Schools (deciles 1-5)
  • District Truancy Service (deciles 1-10)

Some sources suggest that deciles impact on some 15% of schools’ operational funding overall, but the first element in the list above seem by far the most significant for the purposes of this post.

Lakeside courtesy of Chris Gin

Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement

Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement (TFEA) is:

‘a resource provided to assist boards of decile 1–9 schools to lower barriers to learning faced by students from low socio-economic communities. It is calculated and funded on a per pupil, decile related basis’

So, whereas a significant proportion of school funding is dependent on school decile, the TFEA element of that funding is derived on a per capita basis. The text is ambiguous but, as far as I can establish, this sum is payable for every student on the school roll, rather than only for students below a specified personal threshold of disadvantage.

If so, there will be an inevitable element of deadweight in lower decile schools and a degree of rough justice in higher decile schools, because that is the way a proxy operates.

The current rates for TFEA are set out below, with figures provided inclusive and exclusive of Goods and Services Tax.

As one can see, the rate varies significantly according to school decile. The highest rate for decile 1 schools is approaching 50% more than the highest rate for decile 2 and 3 times as much as the highest rate for decile 3.

For decile 5 and below, the sums available are relatively insignificant and, for the highest decile, they disappear entirely.

The History of Deciles and TFEA

There is useful background about the development of this system in a December 2003 Inquiry into decile funding by the Education and Science Committee of the New Zealand House of Representatives

TFEA was first introduced in 1995 but, until 1997, it was awarded only to low decile schools. It was the first tranche of funding awarded using the decile system – all the other elements above have been added subsequently.

The 18 funding steps in the TFEA system were already present at the time of the inquiry. (The three different rates for schools in each of deciles 1-4 are presumably calculated by dividing each ranked decile into three equal parts, but the text does not state this.)

When the Inquiry was held in 2003, deciles were derived from six indicators rather than five, the sixth being the proportion of students of Maori or Pacific Islands origin within the meshblock.

Some of the Inquiry’s respondents were reportedly critical of this:

‘Some contended that as Maori and Pacific Island families are over-represented in statistics reflecting socio-economic disadvantage, there may be a ‘double counting’ of disadvantaged minority groups, thus skewing the decile rankings of some areas.’

 In other words, because Maori and Pasifika were already over-represented in the other five ethnically-neutral elements of the calculation, there was a risk that areas with a significant Maori/Pasifika population would benefit disproportionately.

Some of the Inquiry’s members felt this:

 ‘creates an incentive for schools to push the boundaries regarding the proportion of Maori and Pacific Island students on their roll’

though why that should be a bad thing is never explained.

Such was the sensitivity of any adjustment that it was referred to a much wider review of targeted programmes. The Minister responsible declared that:

‘The objective of the review is to give ministers and the public assurance that policy is being developed on the basis of need, not on the basis of race’

showing that the Government of the time was thoroughly alert to the risk that I have been discussing in this post.

But the report of the first results makes it clear that the review did not examine the full range of education policy. The Minister says:

‘The Labour-led government firmly believes in giving everyone a fair go. Unlike the National party, we are committed to lifting Maori and Pacific Island job prospects, educational achievement and health.

We will continue to use targeted programmes and policies for specific ethnic groups that prove effective at addressing proven needs, just as we do for other groups of New Zealanders who need specific help, such as the elderly or those in rural communities.

These reviews have confirmed that for most of these programmes, targeting by ethnicity is appropriate, as there is good evidence that this sort of targeting is addressing need effectively. Because of this these programmes will not be changed.

In fact, the review concludes that change is required in only a single area – the calculation of deciles.

Even so, the Minister feels it necessary to announce additional targeted support to sweeten the pill:

There is increasing evidence and research that suggests that lifting educational achievement for Maori and Pasifika students is better done through tailored programmes that address certain factors – such as giving teachers the support and the skills to teach students from different backgrounds who have different needs.

We are investing in these sorts of programmes already. As well, I am announcing today two new initiatives, worth $11.5 million over three years, that will support more effective teaching. The first will develop, pilot and establish a national approach to training educators who teach teachers. The second will apply recent research findings about what works in the classrooms for Maori and Pasifika students to ten pilot studies involving teachers in clusters of schools.’

The first part of this quotation explains why there has been continuing emphasis on targeted support for Maori and Pasifika learners under successive Governments.

But it begs the question whether other disadvantaged students would not benefit from similar tailored programmes, rather than relying principally on the distribution of weighted funding to low decile schools.

Meanwhile, the Inquiry into decile funding also recommended that the Ministry of Education should undertake research into the effectiveness of TFEA in improving the learning outcomes of disadvantaged students and disseminate best practice guidance to schools (and schools should also account for how they spend this resources):

 ‘Due to the absence of research in this area, we have been unable to determine how effective the Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement scheme is at improving the outcomes of students who face barriers to learning due to their socio-economic status. We believe that such research is important to ensure that decile-based funding is achieving its stated goals.’

I have not been able to track down any research commissioned in response to this recommendation.

In a submission to the Inquiry the New Zealand Council for Educational Research argues that:

Closing the overall gap in student achievement levels in relation to schools serving different socioeconomic communities is a somewhat different purpose from that of improving the learning outcomes for individual low-achieving students, in whichever decile school they attend. There is overlap between these two, which is evident in some of the views expressed by those in high decile schools concerned about meeting the needs of their lower-performing students….

Trying to assess individual student learning needs and provide funding accordingly on an individual basis would prove to be enormously expensive. The testing required would withdraw money from the public funding available which many in the sector already regard as inadequate for the higher expectations we now have that every student will achieve a level of educational performance which will be satisfying, and provide a useful basis for meaningful employment and social participation.

If such a system were used only for those students thought to face additional learning barriers, and based on school applications, then it would face the same problems of lack of fairness and inconsistency that were apparent in the system replaced by the decile rankings, and would not reach all those who might need it.

Individual vouchers would prove costly and very difficult to administer, and put school principals under great pressure, as the experience of principals with parental expectations related to the average per student funding of the ORRS scheme used in special education shows (Wylie 2000). Nor have individual vouchers for students proved to make a difference for student learning… What does make a difference is to build on what we know to ensure teachers are well equipped with the knowledge, curriculum and assessment resources, and time to work with individual students, and to work together to share knowledge of individual students, and to improve their practice.’

This suggestion that individual low-achieving students should be targeted rather misses the point. Isn’t the first question to address why individual disadvantaged students should not be targeted in this manner?

The assumption that the only solution lies in vouchers is also misplaced, as the English Government’s decision to adopt a Pupil Premium demonstrates. As far as I can see, there is fundamentally no reason why TFEA could not be awarded to schools on the basis of individual student need. All that would be required is a robust definition of need which could be applied to all learners.


Te Anau courtesy of Stuck in Customs

Distribution of pupils by ethnic background according to School Decile

There is no doubt that pupils from different ethnic background are very differently distributed within high and low decile schools.

The July 2011 data gives the following rounded percentages (the totals also include learners from other backgrounds):

European/Pakeha Maori Pasifika Total
Deciles 1-3 8 44 60 22
Deciles 8-10 50 16 12 39

It is quite clear that funding and policies targeted at low decile schools will disproportionately benefit learners from Maori and Pasifika backgrounds.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to track down any data showing the distribution of economically disadvantaged learners between schools in different deciles. We cannot see the extent to which learners’ personal background reflects the decile of the institution that they attend.

There is bound to be significant overlap between these two given the way New Zealand school admissions operate and how deciles are calculated, but the match will only be approximate – there will be a minority of individually disadvantaged learners attending schools above decile 3 and, similarly, advantaged leaners attending schools below decile 8.

So we have a second proxy in play that will tend to put disadvantaged learners from European/Pakeha backgrounds who have the misfortune to attend mid and high decile schools further towards the back of the queue.

If TFEA funding was tied explicitly to meeting the needs of the disadvantaged pupils who attract it – which is not strictly the case with the Pupil Premium in England – a significant proportion of the deadweight in the current allocation could be eradicated.

It would also help ensure that gifted learners from disadvantaged backgrounds were equal beneficiaries, since there is otherwise a risk that the funding is tied almost exclusively to eradicating New Zealand’s ‘long tail of underachievement’ at the lower end of the attainment spectrum.

The Range at Night courtesy of Stuck in Customs


What do we know about New Zealand’s Disadvantaged Gifted Learners?

As far as I can discover online, relatively little is known about the size and composition of New Zealand’s population of disadvantaged gifted learners.

New Zealand’s guidance does not rely on a fixed percentage definition of gifted learners, pointing out that different approaches to identification can result in very different outcomes – the variance is from 1-15% of the school population, assuming that the guidance is rigorously observed in every single school.

If we estimate, for the sake of illustration, a mid-point of around 8% then, on the assumption that giftedness is evenly distributed in the school population – and on the basis of 2011 school rolls – New Zealand’s national gifted and talented population would include some 61,000 gifted and talented learners all told.

  • Overall, over 33,000 European/Pakeha learners will be gifted and talented, approaching 14,000 learners from a Maori background and around 6,000 from a Pasifika background
  •  About 13,400 of those will be attending disadvantaged decile 1-3 schools. Over 6,000 of them will be from a Maori background, approaching 3,600 from a Pasifika background and around 2,600 of them European/Pakeha.

While there is apparently no hard data, we do know – from the sources I have already quoted – that pupils from Maori and Pasifika backgrounds and from disadvantaged backgrounds (whether or not represented by the proxy of low decile schools) are heavily under-represented.

That seems fairly typical of gifted and talented populations worldwide.

Another conclusion we might reasonably draw is that, with approximately this number of disadvantaged gifted and talented learners concentrated in a relatively small land mass, it ought to be feasible to design a single personalised intervention programme to support them all, funding permitting of course…

How Might We Learn More?

Although there are significant political and professional hurdles to overcome, most of the elements are seemingly in place to secure useful national data about New Zealand’s gifted disadvantaged learners.

New Zealand’s National Administration Guidelines require school boards to:

‘on the basis of good quality assessment information, identify students and groups of students:

i.        who are not achieving;
ii.        who are at risk of not achieving;
iii.        who have special needs (including gifted and talented students)’

Such groups must include Maori students by virtue of a separate requirement:

‘in consultation with the school’s Māori community, develop and make known to the school’s community policies, plans and targets for improving the achievement of Māori students’

There are no other specific requirements relating to the ethnic or socio-economic composition of these groups.

However, where a school has students enrolled in Years 1-8, the board is required, from 2011, to use New Zealand’s National Standards to:

‘Report in the board’s annual report on:

              i.     the numbers and proportions of students at, above, below or well below the standards, including by Māori, Pasifika and by gender (where this does not breach an individual’s privacy); and

ii.     how students are progressing against the standards as well as how they are achieving.’

The New Zealand Government seems to have decided in favour of the public dissemination of such data, despite professional fears about the creation of school league tables and their capacity to mislead the public

The Ministry of Education is reportedly compiling a report based on the first round of data, to be published in September. The Prime Minister has argued that there is parental demand for such data, which will in any case be made available by the media, who can access it under the Official Information Act.

The twin requirements on school boards to identify gifted and talented learners and report achievement against the standards provides a mechanism which could potentially be used to collect data about the incidence of gifted and talented learners, broken down by ethnicity and gender, and their performance (recognising the limitations of the four-level scale deployed within the standards for this purpose).

Such data would certainly be analysed by school decile – so using the familiar proxy for personal disadvantage – which would permit the derivation of approximate data about the numbers and distribution of gifted disadvantaged learners, though with the shortcomings we have identified above.

If the Government were also prepared to specify that the data collection should include disadvantaged learners identified on the basis of a personal measure of disadvantage, that would of course be far preferable.

Meanwhile, the lack of national data collection on this basis would not prevent the collection of sample data by the gifted education community from schools willing to supply it.

Whakapapa River courtesy of ed37

How Might New Zealand’s Gifted Disadvantaged Learners Be Supported?

What follows is a personal perspective from a distance of several thousand miles – only New Zealand’s gifted educators will know whether these ideas make sense in their particular national context, but here goes anyway!

In researching this post, I have come across several interesting initiatives that were new to me, including the University of Auckland’s Starpath Project and  the First Foundation which seem commendably focused on disadvantage regardless of the ethnic background of the disadvantaged young people they are supporting (though in both cases, school decile seems to be an integral part of the identification process).

A map of such existing provision would help to identify the gaps that need to be filled, and inform any intention to draw existing provision into a single framework servicing the entire gifted disadvantaged population.

Other possibilities include:

  • Ensuring that national and school policy statements explicitly recognise the complex relationship between ethnic background, disadvantage and several other key variables such as gender, special educational need, even month of birth.
  •  Making clear the downside of a proxy-driven approach – specifically that some key parts of the disadvantaged gifted population are overlooked while other, relatively less disadvantaged learners will benefit in their place.
  •  Introducing strategies to encourage schools to identify gifted and talented learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. For example, guidance could promote the idea that schools’ gifted and talented populations should broadly reflect their intake. Schools’ decisions could be audited, perhaps on a sample basis. Effective school level strategies could be developed and disseminated nationally;
  •  Developing greater understanding of how disadvantage impacts on gifted learners, including those from non-Maori and non-Pasifika backgrounds. Is there a distinct poor European/Pakeha population whose needs are not being met? Do Asian learners from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to overcome these more readily, as is the case with some Asian populations in England? If so, what can be learned from that?
  •  Developing personalised solutions that address the very different causes of disadvantage faced by gifted learners, ensuring that support for Maori/Pasifika dimensions is proportionate and part of a sophisticated toolkit of strategies available to schools. These could be targeted on the basis of a needs analysis process, as embodied in the recently published questionnaire)
  •  Developing guidelines for the providers of generic non-targeted out of school programmes to ensure that they too provide support for a population that  is broadly representative by gender, ethnic background and other such variables, rather than disproportionately serving one group or another.
  •  Monitoring and evaluating the impact of this strategy and progress towards specified outcomes, tied explicitly to reducing the excellence gap.

For what it’s worth, current interest in charter schools seems largely irrelevant to this discussion because the terms of reference are explicit that such schools will not be selective, so they will not be able to prioritise disadvantaged gifted learners in their admission arrangements.

Whereas in England free schools for students aged 16-19 are not caught by the Government’s moratorium on new selective schools, there doesn’t seem to be a similar escape clause in New Zealand. So charter school pilots might serve at best as models and laboratories for disadvantaged learners of all abilities.

Assuming, of course, that they will really serve disadvantaged learners, rather than acting as a magnet for the middle classes.

The Prospects Are Good

There is evidence to suggest that new Zealand’s disadvantaged gifted learners are already relatively well-placed.

Another PISA publication called ‘Against the Odds: Disadvantaged Students Who Succeed in School’ uses PISA 2006 science results to inform an analysis of resilient students from disadvantaged backgrounds who score highly on the PISA assessment.

The report uses two definitions of resilience:

  • A within-country definition which looks at those students who fall within the bottom third of their country’s distribution by socio-economic background but who nevertheless score within the top third of PISA entrants in that country;
  •  An across-country definition which looks at students who, as above, fall within the bottom third of their national distribution by socio-economic background but who performed in the top third of all PISA entrants after controlling for socio-economic background.

New Zealand is one of a handful of countries in which the proportion of such students is close to 50%. These resilient students ‘are more motivated, more engaged and more self-confident than their disadvantaged low-achieving peers’.

This finding is supported in domestic studies by Nadine Ballam:

‘Socioeconomic adversity was found to be more intrinsically valuable than damaging in terms of talent development and self-identity. This challenges stereotypic perceptions that may be commonly held about individuals who come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. It also broadens the picture of what has traditionally been suggested to be characteristic of people living in low socioeconomic situations. Participants reported that drive and determination, a strong work ethic, and an appreciation for things that may be less significant to more financially advantaged young people were the most intrinsically beneficial elements of their financial constraints. While many participants also experienced some negative impacts related to their socioeconomic circumstances, it appeared that their determination to change their situations tended to counteract any long lasting influence that these effects may have had…

Further findings from this study revealed that physical assistance provided in the form of tangible resources and opportunities actually contributed to the participants’ overall sense of wellbeing. However, it could well be that more focus is also required on the intrinsic aspects, and on supporting and empowering these young people to develop a strong and secure sense of their own identity, whatever this may mean for the individual within the context of their challenging situations.’

For many disadvantaged young people, that identity will include belonging the Maori or Pasifika communities, but for others it will not.

Last Words

This post has explored a perceived tendency for New Zealand to use ethnic proxies for personal educational disadvantage rather than relying on a more targeted measure.

It has:

  • Examined how this is evidenced in key documents and considered whether the available data supports or contradicts the tendency.
  • Suggested that the pre-eminent use of deciles to target funding and support compounds the problem.
  • Pointed out the implications for gifted disadvantaged learners and for the country’s efforts to tackle the excellence gap between the attainment of its advantaged and disadvantaged gifted learners.
  • Cautiously proposed some starting points for further information-gathering about the size and distribution of New Zealand’s gifted disadvantaged learners and for designing a coherent response to their needs.

The result is a jigsaw puzzle with several pieces still missing.

When I do finally visit New Zealand I hope to find out whether the adoption of Maori and Pasifika background as a proxy for disadvantage is a reality.

If so, is it a ‘truth that dare not speak its name’ or an openly acknowledged accommodation that reflects the historical guilt of one community and the historical suffering of two more?



June 2012

Where is New Zealand’s Excellence Gap? – Part 1

This post is my contribution to the Blog Tour for New Zealand’s Gifted Awareness Week 2012. It asks:

  • Whether New Zealand is too ready to adopt proxies for educational disadvantage and
  • If that hinders its capacity to narrow the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged learners, especially the ‘excellence gap’ between gifted learners from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds.

It is written with half an eye to the New Zealand audience, while the other half is trained on a global readership. The former may find I am telling them too many things they already know; the latter may feel that some essential background material is lacking. I have tried to steer a middle way.

I present this analysis with all due humility – as appropriate for a non-Kiwi who has never once visited New Zealand and is relying exclusively on material available online – but in the genuine hope that it will stimulate further discussion and debate.

I have divided the text into two parts on an entirely arbitrary basis, simply because it is too long to form a single post.

Reflections on Last Year’s Post

In 2011 my contribution to the New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week (NZGAW) Blog Tour was a two-part analysis – here and here –  of how vouchers could be applied to gifted education, featuring the proposals in Step Change: Success the Only Option.

As we all know, education vouchers are a controversial market-based education reform, increasingly prevalent in the United States but with a relatively limited foothold elsewhere. They are as yet almost entirely unknown in gifted education.

I am afraid I was rather dismissive of the politically-inspired proposals within ‘Step Change’, though I did not dismiss outright the potential of voucher schemes to support gifted education. Despite the shortcomings of the Step Change scheme, its originators deserve some credit for framing the suggestion in the first place.

I thought my post was rather provocative, but it raised barely a whimper.

Vouchers may excite policy wonks but they are some distance away from the everyday concerns of busy educators. As far as New Zealand colleagues were concerned,  they were little more than a theoretical irrelevance, because the Step Change proposals had been ditched, publicly and unceremoniously, by the time I published my post.

In Search of a Topic for 2012

Charter schools are the latest ‘big idea’ imported into New Zealand, currently receiving consideration by a dedicated working group. At this early stage it is hard to know whether the report it will produce in due course is destined for the same treatment as ‘Step Change’, though that is a distinct possibility.

I could have written about charter schools but, in reflecting on them as a possible topic, I found myself distracted by a much more fundamental, sensitive and controversial question to which I did not have the answer.

Unlike vouchers – and probably charter schools too – it goes to the very heart of New Zealand’s educational policy and practice, and is directly relevant to how New Zealand policy makers and practitioners envision and implement gifted education.

Quite rightly in my view, New Zealand places very strong emphasis on a socially and culturally inclusive approach to education, and gifted education is no exception. It is rightly expected that gifted learners will be drawn from across society, including from Maori, Pasifika and disadvantaged backgrounds.

But, although this expectation is expressed in terms of ethnicity and disadvantage, it often seems – at least from this distance – that the issue is being addressed almost entirely in terms of ethnicity.

It seems that there is, quite rightly, a big investment in meeting the needs of Maori and Pasifika learners, including gifted learners, much of it on the basis that belonging to those cultures is synonymous with disadvantage.

Now I perfectly understand that learners from those backgrounds are heavily and disproportionately represented amongst the socio-economically disadvantaged population in New Zealand.

But I am also sure that there is a minority of relatively advantaged Maori and Pasifika learners and, perhaps more to the point, a significant number of socio-economically disadvantaged learners who are not from Maori and Pasifika backgrounds.

I wondered whether this appearance is reflected in reality and, if so, why New Zealanders have reached a position where Maori and Pasifika cultural backgrounds have become an imperfect proxy for socio-economic disadvantage.

I was curious if, as a consequence, poor learners from other backgrounds are relatively neglected, perhaps even overlooked. I wondered whether that circumstance might apply equally to gifted education.

This topic seems almost taboo in New Zealand educational circles. I am sure that many readers will feel I am trespassing into territory I do not understand – and clumping around in hobnailed boots where angels fear to tread.

It may be that the evidence overall does not support this analysis, in which case I am more than ready to adjust it accordingly. But I feel the need to pose the questions nevertheless.

A Drive to Remember courtesy of WanderingTheWorld

 New Zealand’s Educational Policy and Priorities

To get a grasp on how national educational priorities are articulated within Government, I began with the Ministry of Education’s Briefing to the Incoming Minister (December 2011).

The Executive Summary illustrates beautifully the disparity between expectation and implementation I outlined above.

The opening paragraph expresses the overarching aim thus (the emphasis is mine):

‘Our over-riding goal is a world-leading education system that equips all learners with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful citizens in the 21st Century. Although New Zealand’s education system has many strengths, with systematic under-achievement for Maori, Pasifika and other learners from poorer backgrounds, we are a considerable way from achieving that goal. New Zealand’s highest achieving learners compare with the best in the world, but those groups least well served by New Zealand’s education system achieve outcomes comparable with the lowest performing OECD countries.  The social consequences of this are all too clear. The economic consequences are equally unacceptable.’

This text might be criticised because it implies that Maori, Pasifika and poor learners on one hand and high achievers on the other are two mutually exclusive populations but, that aside, it states New Zealand’s fundamental educational problem with admirable clarity.

But, having stated the problem in this manner, the next few paragraphs make no further reference to those ‘other learners from poorer backgrounds’, implying that there is no policy solution targeted specifically at them.

Instead, the issue is addressed entirely in terms of ethnic background:

‘The attainment gaps between learners of different ethnicities are stubborn and in danger of being viewed as inevitable. They are not…

the issue of Maori and Pasifika underachievement is pervasive and needs to be addressed in every setting, and in schools of every decile…

….Educational achievement for all is the single most important issue facing New Zealand education and in order to achieve a step change in outcomes for Maori and Pasifika we need to be relentless in our focus on good education outcomes for every single child and adult learner.  We need to “stress test” all of our current policy settings, including funding mechanisms, programmes and interventions and ask if they are doing all they can to address this fundamental weakness in New Zealand’s education system.’

The original point about the distribution of disadvantage is reinforced later in the Briefing, within an analysis of performance against key indicators by ethnic group:

‘Despite some overall improvements, the gap between our high performing and low performing students remains one of the widest in the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These low performing students are likely to be Maori or Pasifika and/or from low socioeconomic communities.

Disparities in education appear early and persist throughout learning. The Table below highlights some of this participation and achievement disparity between Maori, Pasifika and non-Maori/Pasifika…Although there is a relationship between socio-economic status, ethnicity and achievement, these are not pre-determinants for success or failure. There is a spread of achievement within these groups.’

We will return to the Table later. For now the critical point is the recognition of a complex relationship between ethnicity, socio-economic disadvantage and achievement.

Given that understanding, one might expect the next stage of the argument to be insistence on a personalised approach, designed to meet the very different needs of disadvantaged learners, who are affected in complex ways by the interaction of these and several other variables.

Instead, we are told that that a key challenge has to be addressed:

We must support Maori, Pasifika and students with special needs to realise their inherent potential to achieve educational success.   This goal requires giving full effect to the Government’s strategies for these groups: Ka Hikitia: Managing for Success, the Pasifika Education Plan and Success for All – Every School, Every Child.’

Special needs makes it into the equation, but what has happened to those from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the misfortune to sit outside the Maori and Pasifika communities?

This is by no means an isolated example. The same elision features in the Ministry of Education’s Statement of Intent 2012-17 which again identifies four priority groups:

Improving education outcomes for Maori learners, Pasifika learners, learners with special education needs and learners from low socio-economic backgrounds’

But when the ‘operating intentions’ are spelled out, we seek in vain for separate and specific reference to targeted support for the latter group:

‘We will improve education outcomes for our priority groups by focusing on the evidence of what works best. We will use policy, accountability and funding levers to maximise improvement for these learners. To make the system work, it is critical to have and use information that informs best practice and makes it possible to target support and resources effectively….

We will report regularly on the progress the system is making towards improving its performance for and with Māori learners, using Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success as the framework. We will implement a refreshed version, Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success 2013-2017, based on emerging research and evidence. This will further focus the Ministry’s activity and that of education providers to improve the education system for and with Māori.

As part of the refresh of Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success, specific targets will be set and communicated. These targets will address the Government’s priorities and will align with the Better Public Services result areas. Targets will be set to increase the proportion of:

    • Māori children participating in early childhood education
    • Māori learners with NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification
    • Māori 25- to 34-years-old, with a qualification at level 4 or above on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework…

…We will implement a new, updated Pasifika Education Plan for 2013-2017, which will support the education system to perform better for Pasifika learners, and to focus on sustainable and continuous improvement. The plan will set ambitious targets to increase Pasifika participation in early childhood education and the percentage of Pasifika learners with NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification, aligning with the Better Public Services result areas.

Setting, and then achieving, the goals and targets of the plan will be a joint project between the Ministry and the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs. We will work with education agencies to ensure their plans for increasing Pasifika learners’ achievement align with the Pasifika Education Plan….

…We will continue to implement Success for All – Every School, Every Child to ensure all learners with special education needs are able to learn and succeed in the education setting of their choice.

The Government has set a performance target of 80% of schools demonstrating inclusive practice of learners with special education needs by the end of 2014, with the remaining 20% demonstrating good progress. No schools should be doing a poor job of providing an inclusive learning environment for these learners.’

Are we to conclude that, for learners from low socio-economic backgrounds who fall outside the other ‘target groups’, there is no need for targeted intervention? If so, what is the rationale for this decision and where is the evidence presented?

The Remarkables courtesy of WanderingTheWorld

The Elision is Repeated in NZ Gifted Education Documents

Some of the key reference documents for New Zealand’s gifted educators perform exactly the same trick, though this is not universally true. The older documents appear more inclusive, perhaps suggesting that the socio-economically disadvantaged did not disappear from view until midway through the last decade.

The Ministry of Education’s publication: Gifted and Talented Students: Meeting their needs in NZ Schools (2000) notes that:

‘New Zealand is a multicultural society with a wide range of ethnic groups.  The concept of giftedness and talent that belongs to a particular cultural group is shaped by its beliefs, values, attitudes, and customs. The concept varies from culture to culture. It also varies over time.

It is important that each school incorporates relevant cultural values into its concept of giftedness and talent. These values will also influence procedures used for identifying students from different cultural groups and for providing relevant programmes. Culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged students are grossly under-represented in programmes for the gifted and talented. Schools must make a special effort to identify talented students from these groups.’

It moves on to consider identification issues for each of a series of vulnerable groups and offers specific guidance on identifying disadvantaged gifted learners:

‘Students from Low Socio-economic Backgrounds

Disadvantaged gifted and talented students (or gifted and talented students from low socio-economic backgrounds) are difficult to identify and are seriously underrepresented in programmes for the gifted and talented. Since the performance of these students generally declines the longer they are at school (by comparison with students from more advantaged backgrounds), it is critically important to identify them as early as possible. Attention should focus on early childhood education and on the junior school.

Traditional identification methods tend to be ineffective with this group of students. Standardised tests of achievement and intelligence may penalise students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Non-verbal tests of general ability, such as the Standard Progressive Matrices, are more culturally fair although they do not predict academic performance as well as some tests.

The accuracy of teacher identification can be increased with the use of checklists designed specifically for identifying disadvantaged gifted students. Peer nominations have proved promising, particularly where peers have identifi ed areas of special ability outside the classroom, such as art, music, sport, and leadership. Of particular value, however, has been the responsive learning environment approach for this group of students. When coupled with early identification and intervention, it is usually the most effective method.’

But, moving ahead to 2008, while the ERO Report on ‘Schools’ Provision for Gifted and Talented Students’ follows the earlier Ministry publication in advocating identification processes that:

‘Identify special groups, including Maori, students from other cultures/ethnicities,            students with learning difficulties     or disabilities, underachievers, and those from low socio-economic backgrounds’,

when it comes to reporting on and exemplifying effective practice, the latter group simply vanishes.

  • In establishing indicators of good practice for defining and identifying giftedness, ERO sought evidence that Maori and multicultural concepts were incorporated and that students identified ‘reflected the diversity of the school’s population’.
  • Only 5% of schools could demonstrate a ‘highly inclusive and appropriate’ approach on these terms, with a further 40% deemed ‘inclusive and appropriate’. Practice in the remaining 55% of schools therefore fell short of this expectation.
  • The ensuing discussion of good practice references the incorporation ‘of Maori or multicultural concepts of giftedness and talents’ in schools’ definitions (the majority of schools had not demonstrated this).
  • Just 15% of schools included Maori theories and knowledge in their identification process and even fewer – 12% – incorporated ‘multi-culturally appropriate methods’.
  • ‘Identified gifted and talented students reflected the diversity of the school’s population at just under half the schools. This diversity included ethnicity, year levels, gender, and curriculum areas’.

Socio-economic factors are neither explicitly identified in ERO’s template of effective practice, nor referenced explicitly in the practice they surveyed. There is a clear problem in respect of Maori and multicultural representation, but the issue of socio-economic representation is entirely invisible.

The only reference to disadvantage is in terms of schools:

‘In general, high decile schools were more likely to have good quality provision for their gifted and talented students than low decile schools. Similarly, urban schools were more likely to have good quality provision for their gifted and talented students than rural schools.’

which leads to a recommendation that the Ministry:

‘Provide targeted, high quality professional development to rural and low decile schools on providing for gifted and talented students’

We shall return later to the issue of support differentiated according to school decile, since that too is a questionable proxy for individual socio-economic disadvantage.

The current TKI Gifted site follows the 2000 publication up to a point:

‘Disadvantaged gifted and talented students (or gifted and talented students from low socio economic backgrounds) are difficult to identify and are seriously underrepresented in programmes for the gifted and talented. Since the performance of these students generally declines the longer they are at school (by comparison with students from more advantaged backgrounds), it is critically important to identify them as early as possible. Attention should focus on early childhood education and on the junior school.’

But it carries no links to programmes or resources that explicitly address this issue.

The letter signed by various New Zealand organisations and just issued to Members of Parliament references their commitment to a vision that:

‘All gifted and talented learners have equitable access to a differentiated and culturally responsive education. They are recognised, valued and empowered to develop their exceptional abilities and qualities.’

But there is no mention of disadvantaged gifted learners in the associated recommendations for practice, though there are references to research in ‘Pasifika concepts of giftedness and Maori perceptions and understanding of giftedness’.

This formulation cannot be criticised on the grounds that it focuses exclusively on Maori and Pasifika disadvantage. Rather, the emphasis on disadvantage is missing entirely – and only the need to account for different cultural perceptions remains.

There is a fascinating – and in my view telling – extract in The Extent, Nature and Effectiveness of Planned Approaches in New Zealand Schools for Providing for Gifted and Talented Students (2004).

It appears during a discussion of cultural issues, and specifically the representation of Maori and Pasifika students:

Socioeconomic factors. Keen (2001) hypothesized that the under-representation of Mäori and other Polynesian children that emerged in his research could be related to socioeconomic status rather than ethnicity. He notes that children of beneficiaries and unskilled labourers are also under-represented amongst the gifted and that “a disproportionate number of Mäori fall within these occupational categories” (p. 9). Similarly, Rata (2000) maintains that ethnicity has been credited with a greater influence than it actually exerts and that poverty is principally responsible for the educational and social inequalities that exist in New Zealand. However, Blair, Blair, and Madamba (1999) argue that it is virtually impossible to separate the potential effects of ethnicity and social class, while Bevan Brown (2002) and Glynn (cited in Bevan-Brown, 2002) maintain that it is a pointless exercise anyway as both these dimensions need be taken cognisance of in any educational provisions for poor Mäori students with special needs and abilities.’

It appears that, around the turn of the century, various experts were arguing that poverty rather than ethnicity was the real problem that required addressing in relation to under-representation in gifted populations.

Others regarded these two factors (quite wrongly in my view) as indistinguishable. Others saw the issue entirely through the lens of support for Maori learners, and so entirely missed the point.

Is this the real heart of the issue? Have the arguments advanced by Keen and Rata been set aside too readily in an effort to address the under-representation of Maori and Pasifika gifted learners?

Earlier in this Report we are told:

‘It is beyond the scope of this review of the literature to examine the recommendations for each potentially under-represented group of gifted and talented students; however, given the cultural diversity of New Zealand, issues related to the identification of minority cultures, and specifically, Mäori students, are of utmost importance. This is discussed in the section on cultural issues of this literature review.’

Is that the nub of the problem, and have we identified the turning point in New Zealand’s gifted education discourse?

Waterfalls at Midnight courtesy of Stuck in Customs

Is this Conflation of Ethnicity and Disadvantage Borne Out By the Data?

I want to turn to the statistical evidence about the extent of disadvantage in New Zealand, the composition of the disadvantaged population and the impact of disadvantage on educational outcomes.

The Extent of Disadvantage and Breakdown by Ethnic Background

I haven’t found it an easy matter to derive estimates of New Zealand children living in poverty broken down by ethnic background. Such statistics are less readily available than one might expect.

The 2010 Social Report defines low income as 60% of the 2007 household disposable income median, minus a 25% deduction to account for housing costs. The total is adjusted to reflect inflation so it remains level in real terms.

In the year ending in June 2009, 15% of New Zealand’s population had incomes below this threshold. However 22% of children aged 0-17 lived in households with incomes below this level.

The Report does not provide an analysis by ethnic background because sample sizes are said to be too small to provide a robust time series. I am no statistician but this seems a rather convenient and only partially accurate excuse.

The August 2011 publication ‘Household Incomes in New Zealand: Trends in Indicators of Inequality and Hardship 1982 to 2010’ informs us that:

  • New Zealand does not have an official poverty measure – the Report uses the 60% of median household income and also a 50% median household income measure. It notes that both are regularly used by the EU and OECD
  • Of New Zealand’s total population of 4.26m (2010) some 500,000 to 750,000 are in poverty depending on which definition is adopted.
  • The childhood poverty rate is 22% to 25% depending on the definition adopted. Of the 1.07m dependent children under 18 in New Zealand (2010) between 170,000 and 270,000 were in households in poverty
  • Over the period 2007-2010, one in three Maori children one in four Pasifika children and one in six European/Pakeha children were living in poverty.

(For those readers outside New Zealand, ‘Pakeha’ is the Maori word for New Zealanders of European descent.)

The Social Report tells us that, at 2006, 72% of 0-17 year-olds were reported as of European or ‘Other’ origin (‘Other’ including ‘New Zealander’); 10% were reported as Asian, 24% as Maori and 12% as Pacific Peoples.) Some were obviously reported as belonging to more than one ethnic group.

Using the Statistics New Zealand Table Builder, one can derive estimated numbers of 0-14 year-olds and 15-19 year-olds by ethnic background in 1996, 2001 and 2006.

So the totals for 0-19 year-olds in 2006 are:

European or Other (including New Zealander) – 645,300 + 222,370 = 867,670

Maori – 215,300 + 65,980 = 281,280

Pacific peoples – 110,300 + 31,830 = 142,130

Asian – 83,600 + 35,840 = 119,440

Recognising the inaccuracy of the figures – one can roughly estimate an order of magnitude for the number of children from each background (other than Asian) living in poverty, by applying the proportions given in the Social Report:

European or Other (including New Zealander) – 16.67% of 281,280 = 46,890

Maori – 33% of 281,280 = 92,820

Pacific Peoples – 25% of 142,130 = 35,530

One can conclude that:

  • the total number of children living in poverty in New Zealand is relatively small in absolute terms, but constitutes a significant proportion of the total population of New Zealand children.
  • While only a minority of Maori and Pasifika children live in poverty…
  • In numerical terms, roughly twice as many Maori live in poverty as European/Pakeha but the latter significantly exceed the size of the Pasifika-in-poverty population.
  • Almost 50,000 young New Zealanders – well over 4% of the total national population of 0-19 year-olds – are neither Maori nor Pasifika yet live in poverty.

It is this group that seems most at risk of neglect when it comes to the delivery of education interventions, including gifted education interventions.

Data on Educational Performance by Ethnic and Socio-Economic Background 

Ethnic Background

As noted above, the Ministry of Education’s Brief to the Incoming Minister carries a Table showing several indicators of relatively poor Maori/Pasifika educational performance. This is reproduced below.

These figures tell a bleak story and they are reinforced elsewhere, though the data does not always give a consistent picture.

The Social Report 2010 provides evidence of performance by both ethnic background and disadvantage, but unfortunately no analysis of the relative impact of each of these two factors.

In relation to ethnic background:

  • The proportion of secondary school leavers who left school with an upper secondary qualification at NCEA Level 2 or above: in 2008, 71% of all school leavers achieved this benchmark. The comparable figures by ethnic background were: European – 75.2%; Maori – 50.4%, Pacific peoples – 62.9%.
  • The proportion of the population aged 15 and over enrolled at any time during the year in formal tertiary education leading to a recognised NZ qualification: during 2009, 426,000 young people achieved this benchmark (12.4%). The age standardised ethnic breakdown was: Maori – 17.1%; Pacific peoples – 12.1%; Europeans – 11.4%. The age standardised percentages for enrolment in bachelor’s degree courses was: Europeans – 3.5%; Maori – 3.1%; Pacific peoples – 3.0%. Females from Maori and Pacific backgrounds were more likely to be enrolled than males from European backgrounds.

Education Counts provides an analysis of the proportion of students leaving school with a university entrance standard in 2010. Overall, 42% of leavers achieved this measure. The ethnic breakdown was: Asian 65.3%, European/Pakeha 47.5%, Pasifika 25.8%, Maori 20%.

Data from PISA 2009 adds a further dimension. The NZ Ministry of Education publication ‘PISA2009: Our 21st Century Learners at Age 15’ provides useful evidence of the impact of ethnic background on achievement in literacy.

We learn that:

  • Overall, 16% of New Zealand’s students achieved level 5 and above on the PISA 2009 literacy test and 14% achieved below Level 2. The former is comparable with or exceeds the outcome in other high-scoring countries but the proportion of weaker readers is relatively larger than in most other high-scoring countries other than Australia and Japan.
  • 19% of Pakeha/European students achieved level 5 and above, as did 16% of Asian students. The comparable figures for Maori and Pasifika were 7% and 4% respectively. Conversely, the figures for those achieving below Level 2 were 11% Pakeha/European, 18% Asian, 30% Maori and 48% Pasifika.
  • Amongst the eight highest-performing countries, New Zealand had the widest gap between the scores of its top 5% and its bottom 5% of performers.

Punctuated Sky courtesy of Chris Gin

Socio-economic Disadvantage

The Social Report 2010 reveals  the proportion of secondary school leavers who left school with an upper secondary qualification at NCEA Level 2 or above in terms of school decile, showing that 57% of pupils at relatively disadvantaged schools in deciles 1-3 achieved this benchmark, compared with 67% at schools in deciles 4-7 and 82% at schools in deciles 8-10.

Education Counts similarly deploys school decile when considering the proportion of students leaving school with a university entrance standard in 2010. It notes:

‘A clear positive correlation between the socio-economic mix of the school the student attended and the percentage of school leavers attending a university entrance standard…Students from schools in deciles 9 and 10 were three times more likely to leave school having achieved a university entrance standard than students from schools in deciles 1 and 2’


There is a large variation in the proportion of school leavers achieving a university entrance standard amongst schools within each decile.’

This is exemplified in the table below. If similar distinctions occur in the achievement of disadvantaged pupils in these schools, then the shortcomings of a decile-based approach are clear.

Interestingly, New Zealand’s domestic analysis of PISA 2009 does not examine variations according to socio-economic background, so we must turn to the original PISA 2009 Results (Volume 2).

This provides useful international comparisons of:

  • The percentage variation in student performance in reading explained by students’ socio-economic background (the strength of the gradient showing the association between student performance and background) and
  • The average gap in reading performance of students from different socio-economic backgrounds (the slope of the gradient measuring by how much student performance changes when socio-economic status changes).

The table reproduced below shows that, on the first of these measures, New Zealand is three points above the OECD average of 14%, so in the upper part of the distribution but not too far distant from other high performing countries (eg Singapore 15%, Shanghai 12%, Korea 11%, Canada 9%.

But on the second measure, New Zealand’s score of 52 exceeds that of every other country in the table. Competitors’ scores include: Singapore 47, Korea 32, Canda 32, Finland 31, Shanghai 27 and Kong Kong 17.

The text tells us:

Where the slope of the gradient is steep and the gradient is strong, the challenges are greatest because this combination implies that students and schools are unlikely to “escape” the close relationship between socioeconomic background and learning outcomes. In these countries, this strong relationship also produces marked differences in performance between students from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds. Where the slope is steep and the gradient weak, the relationship between socio-economic background and learning outcomes is an average tendency with many students performing above or below what is expected by this general trend.’

Only Belgium and New Zealand demonstrate ‘high average performance and large socio-economic inequalities’.

I sought in vain for a publicly-available and reliable outcome measure – whether of achievement or destination – that would throw further light on the existence of an excellence gap between advantaged and disadvantaged high attainers.

But one can reasonably assume that the relationships identified in this PISA analysis apply at each level of performance, so that New Zealand’s excellence gap is likely to be fairly pronounced.

Cross-referencing Data on Ethnic and Socio-Economic Underachievement

Maybe I haven’t been looking in the right place, but educational achievement data that cross-references ethnic and socio-economic background seems conspicuously thin on the ground.

This Table offers a beguiling glimpse into analysis across both these variables. It too uses school deciles as a proxy, but groups them into five quintiles:

From this we can infer that, although European/Pakeha tend to achieve more highly:

  • Maori in decile 7-10 schools (quintiles 4-5) and Pasifika in decile 5-10 schools (quintiles 3-5) are more likely to achieve a university entrance standard than European/Pakeha in decile 1-2 schools (quintile 1)
  • Maori and Pasifika in decile 9-10 schools (quintile 5) are more likely to achieve a university entrance standard than European/Pakeha in decile 1-6 schools (quintiles 1-3)

However, the overall variation we have already noted between schools in the same decile on this measure suggests that there will be similar variation as far as disadvantaged students are concerned (to the extent that they are represented in higher decile schools). It is perhaps likely that the strongest schools in deciles 1-5 will tend to out-perform the weakest in deciles 6-10.

So we have evidence of a significant ethnicity-based performance gap and a significant socio-economically based performance gap with a degree of overlap between them, though not to the extent that one entirely explains the other.

The New Zealand Institute’s NZahead report card explains it thus:

‘New Zealand’s overall strong performance in PISA masks three important problems.  First, wide disparities in student achievement exist between ethnic groups.  Māori and Pacific peoples’ average PISA scores are much lower than the average for Pakeha/European students…. the gap has not been narrowing fast enough over the years for Māori and not at all for Pacific peoples.

Over the seven years from 2004 to 2010 Māori and Pacific candidates for NCEA at all three levels and for University Entrance were consistently less successful than European and Asian candidates.  For example in 2010, 61% of Māori and 52% of Pacific candidates gained NCEA Level 3 compared to 79% for NZ European and 78% for Asian candidates.

Second, wide performance disparities exist for students from different socio-economic backgrounds.  In Education at a Glance 2011, New Zealand is shown to have the greatest difference in reading performance between students from different socio-economic backgrounds out of all OECD countries.  Although the relationship between students’ background and school performance is evident in all countries, New Zealand is the least successful at mitigating the effect a student’s background has.

Third, too many young New Zealanders are becoming disengaged and not remaining in education as long as their OECD peers.’

These are clearly overlapping problems but here they are presented as quite distinct, which rather begs the question why they are confused together when it comes to the implementation of educational policy solutions.


June 2012


Gifted Phoenix Twitter Round-Up: Volume 7

This is the Seventh Edition of my monthly review of @GiftedPhoenix Twitter activity, covering the period from 5 April to 9 May 2012 inclusive.

My Twitter feed is almost exclusively dedicated to gifted education, wider English education policy and associated topics. I am to make these posts a fairly comprehensive record, incorporating all those Tweets that carry a hyperlink to an online resource while discarding those that are merely badinage.

I haven’t rechecked all the hyperlinks, so apologies if any are broken.

The categorisation I’ve used on this occasion is slightly revised. There are three sections on:

  • 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, which is focused predominantly on developments in England and is broken down into several thematic subsections – several more than I have used previously.

The final section covers some material of interest to gifted educators but also extends into wider areas of domestic education policy. It should provide a fairly comprehensive overview of most of the live topics in English education policy, though with a significant bias towards the schools sector

The vast majority of these are my own Tweets, but a few are modified tweets or retweets of originals sent by others. I have removed addresses and hashtags – except where these are integral to the tweet – and corrected a few typos. The Tweets in each section are broadly in chronological order, though I have grouped some together where that makes sense.

Otherwise this is largely an unadulterated record of proceedings, though with added fish! I hope you find it useful.

Gifted Education Worldwide

The 2012 Torrance Legacy Creative Writing Awards:

The WCGTC 2013 Conference blog, including part of the speaker line-up:

Free webinar series: Supporting Gifted Students with 21st Century Strategies:

Brief report of the APEC Future Scientist Conference in Java: 120 gifted learners from 16 (or 9?) countries involved:

Mother’s Day SENGinar on mother/daughter relationships of profoundly gifted girls  – early am 11/5

WCGTC marketing for 2013 conference in NZ: – I love the geographical optimism of slide 2!

Round-up of summer professional development in gifted education:  Mostly US but includes @Begabungs SL events

#gtchat transcript from last week on Adult Giftedness:

The transcript for tonight’s chat on Role Models For Gifted Children:

Gifted Underachievement with @Josh_Shaine, transcript 18/4 has been chirpified!

Transcript for last Sunday’s #gtie, “Cyberbullying and Gifted Education”:

Transcript from tonight’s #gtie: 5 Give-away Signs of Giftedness for Teachers


Kenyan pupils call for ‘a curriculum review to incorporate competences, skills and talent development at all levels’:


FICOMUNDYT IX Congreso Iberoamericano de Superdotacion, Talento y Creatividad, October 2012:

Puerto Rico Legislature Considers Laws to Boost Gifted Children

Gifted trivia: what’s the connection between Francoys Gagne and Star Wars? Answer: (I should do more of these!)

National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT) in US has College Board agreement to run SAT test in summer school:

Gifted Jobs: Louisiana School for Math Science and the Arts needs a Director of Admissions and Outreach

NYC gifted kindergarten entry articles: and  and

More about gifted kindergarten admissions in NYC: and and

Another one on NYC gifted kindergarten admissions: – It’s not called Gotham City for nothing!

Coaching and private tuition strengthen their fiendish grip in NYC:

Rundown of gifted and talented schools in NYC including hyperlinks to their websites:

Study calls for NYC to test all kindegarten pupils for giftedness since many poor families don’t use service:

Yet more on the impenetrable mystery that is NYC gifted education policy:

Belin-Blank outlines its summer professional development programme:

Online gifted education as an option in Minnesota:

A second US blogger posts on distance learning for gifted kids: ttp://

Are gifted learners informationally fluent? CTD is aiming to ensure they are:

Updated links to test scores for all major talent searches – plus other test score percentiles

Valerie Bostwick, a PhD student at UC Santa Barbara, plans an economic evaluation of gifted + talented magnet schools:

Upcoming Duke Conference featuring Project Bright Idea, applying gifted education approaches for all learners

Carolyn Callahan appears for defence in US gifted lawsuit; contests Donna Ford’s testimony for prosecution

A second report on the Elgin gifted education lawsuit:

Gifted jobs: DC Public Schools (no less) is looking for a Director of Gifted Education: ($89-97K)

Petition to Vermont Commissioner of Education to provide adequate public education for gifted children:

Deb Delisle confirmed as nation’s new assistant secretary of education

Education acceleration bill heads to Gov. Rick Scott FL

Norwich (Connecticut) plans 40th anniversary reunion for participants of 1973 elementary gifted programme:

On Native American gifted education:

Whitworth University confirms who is sponsoring their $3m dollar endowed chair in gifted education:


Taiwan has reviewed its talent development policies and will produce a White Paper in the next year:

Taiwan moves to improve quality of English, especially in rural schools:

Oman follows Taiwan in declaring need for a National Talent Development Plan  Can we have one of those?

Philippines’ Department of Education increases SPED funding (including gifted education) by 56%

On this otherwise quiet gifted news day I bring you the results of the aforementioned Philippines run for gifted kids!

Questions asked in Singapore Parliament today about the impact of their Gifted Education Programme (GEP):

Malaysia’s worried about failure to progress to Harvard places: a target for the Permata Pintar gifted programme?

Upcoming HKAGE Professional Development Seminars by messrs Porath, van Tassel-Baska and Chandler:

Hong Kong’s 2012 Biennial Gifted Education Conference in May is another van Tassel-Baska/Chandler show:

Who’s in the running to establish a new university campus on a premium Hong Kong site?

The pressure’s on to secure a place at one of Vietnam’s High Schools for the Gifted:

English medium teaching in Vietnam’s High Schools for the Gifted runs into difficulties:

Vietnam is experiencing a brain drain of gifted students, but only from urban areas:

Wow! Israel’s Education Ministry has a ‘super gifted’ programme comprising 15-18 students a year:

Two reports on giftedness and gifted education from Bangalore India: and

Looks like ICIE is planning a January 2013 gifted education conference in Chennai India:

Arab News carries a short article highly critical of the Saudi gifted programme (Mawhiba):  Brave!

Gifted jobs: teaching posts in trilingual (Kaz, Rus, Eng) Kazakhstani Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools:


More on Jill Bevan-Brown’s work on gifted Maori learners:

Access the presentations from the recent giftEDnz conference in NZ:

ERO Report on science in the NZ Curriculum: – notes that gifted learners get favourable treatment in a few schools

Two Sydney Morning Herald pieces on giftedness and gifted education: and

The line-up for Australia’s 13th National Conference on Gifted Education, July 2012:


A report (in sub-standard English) of recent developments in gifted education in Russia:

Russia’s Ivanovo Region is opening an orphanage for gifted children: with Medvedevian support

El bachillerato de excelencia: igualdad o equidad?

8 razones por las que atender la Alta Capacidad y el Talento

Mi hijo tiene alta capacidad, se lo digo?

“Mama, no quiero ir al cole, me aburro!”

Desarrollar el talento, promover la excelencia: dos exigencias de un sistema educativo mejor

Gifted education in Spain – @Begabungs interviews @jtoufi

The Netherlands Education Ministry on transport for gifted students (in Dutch):

The fissure within the Leonardo Foundation, supporting Netherlands gifted education, is made public (in Dutch)

Talent I Skolen: – gifted education in Denmark

On gifted education in Norway (in Norwegian):

Stortingsmelding 22 og ‘De hoyt presterende elevene’ (in Norwegian):

PISA 2009 data on the proportion of high-achieving learners in Ireland:

Interview with Colm O’Reilly of Center For Talented Youth Ireland (CTYI):

The speaker line-up at yesterday’s MENSA Greece Conference on Gifted and Talented Children and their needs:

CBO is setting up a school for gifted children in Flanders:


Pauline Dixon, a UK specialist in development education, including support for disadvantaged gifted learners:

More ‘genius children’ coverage from the BBC:

A superb Heroes and Heroines Comic produced by Southwark’s gifted kids:

Hoping to find out more this morning about IGGY’s future plans:

Michelle Obama as ambassador for gifted education:

Shami Chakrabarti supports the gifted programme at her old school in Stanmore:  – a potential  GT Voice ambassador?

Gifted Jobs: IGGY Warwick requires a Sales and Marketing Manager: – Up to £45K, deadline 7 May

DfE want your summer schools top tips: – Mine is of course to run them for gifted learners

Competition to encourage more UK students to study in Hong Kong: prize is HK summer school:

Lampl says (at 53mins) Sutton Trust report on gifted education due out in June (Smithers qualifies):

Welsh Government’s launch of a new Training Pack for More Able and Talented equals a press notice but no pack:

Raising attainment of more able cited as area for improvement in 8 of sample of 30 primary inspection reports:

TES report on the School Games:

London Zoo Fish 1 Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Gifted Education Thematic

Twice Exceptional

Meet the Dugents: a twice-exceptional family:

Express article about a 2e learner in Wales: – unusually sympathetic for the Express!

NAGC chat transcript on the intricacies of 2e learners

Twice-Exceptional Newsletter 16 April 2012:

Twice Exceptional Newsletter, 22 April edition:

SEN Support Staff Scholarships can presumably be used for 2e training, if suitable courses are available

Free Asperger Syndrome and Giftedness Fact Sheet on our website (direct link)

The Saudi version of 2e ‘The Koran Memorisation Competition for Disabled Children’: – Words fail me….

Creativity and Innovation

The Creative Thinking Myth:

Douglas Eby on Jane Piirto:

4 Steps Towards Enhancing Our Own and Students’ Creativity:

The Seelig Innovation Engine Model to unleash creativity:

Guardian Review pulls no punches in demolishing Lehrer’s book ‘How Creativity Works’:

Adobe Report on the ‘creativity gap’ in 5 leading economies (including UK and US):

Who Creates the Innovator – A review of Wagner’s latest book (including intelligence/creativity relationship):

Helping A New Generation Nurture Creative Thinking and Innovation: The Creative Mind

Can Innovation Skills be Learned?

Intelligence and Neuroscience

Check out Cognitive Atlas: a work-in-progress knowledge base for cognitive science:

A post that rightly warns against the tendency of some gifted educators to misuse IQ stats:

Brain injury data used to map intelligence in the brain:

Excessive worrying may have co-evolved with intelligence:  (Complete with enlargeable photo of female person worrying)

Project ENIGMA ‘We found fairly unequivocal proof supporting a genetic link to brain function and intelligence

Heritability of IQ

Can you make yourself smarter? (An extensive NYT article):

@sbkaufman: “Brainy” is What “Brainy” Does (Psychology Today):

Time to put on your thinking caps (aka ‘mini-transcranial direct current stimulation devices’):

Willingham on Working Memory Training:

Shortcomings of the IQ-based construct of Underachievement

New centre at Oxford aims to understand how intelligence arises from brain’s circuits.

Neurobonkers blog (great name) on how UK media misrepresent neuroscience research:

Eysenck (1916-1997) Bad ass of assessment? 50 blogs on learning theorists in 50 days)

Gardner Multiple Intelligences or school subjects mirrored?

The limitations of IQ:

How fluid is intelligence? Hambrick inthe NYT:

Why Are We So Obsessed With Improving IQ? Psychology Today


Commentary and Research

Pushing the gifted adult conversation forward :

Social Reactions to Overconfidence  – Peers tend to believe they have superior social skills!

Stoeger and Ziegler: Deficits in Fine Motor Skills and their Influence on Persistence in Gifted Elementary Pupils:

Text anxiety in gifted learners:

Gifted education advocates should be more focused on equity issues says this blogger:

Check out this presentation : Raising Gifted Children

Belle Wallace: Who Are The Gifted? Where Are They? 1st of 6 articles:

Can ‘Genius’ be Detected in Infancy? – a helpful counterbalance to the wilder press coverage

New blogspot Goal Increased advocacy for culturally and linguistically diverse gifted learners

Read about teaching innovation through the arts in the Spring issue of CTD’s Talent Newsletter:

Evidence on Ability Peer Effects in (English) Schools: Lavy, Silva and Weinhardt:

Fascinating gender differences in impact of having many fellow pupils in top and bottom 5% by KS2 attainment:

Don Ambrose markets two forthcoming co-publications, one with Sternberg:

Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth have produced a retrospective 5-year Report:

Unwrapping Gifted: Differentiation LiveBinders

Final part of Borland’s ‘Problematising Gifted Education’:  Restatement of a position rather than anything new

The importance of increasing AP entry and success amongst minority student populations:

Busting one of the silliest but most common myths:you only use 10 percent of brain

More about the benefits of online learning for gifted learners:

First in a new series on Misdiagnosis and Giftedness:

Why Kenyans Make Such Great Runners: A Story of Genes and Cultures

Can you instil mental toughness (aka resilience)?:

Serving Gifted Students from Poverty, Part 3 of 3:

The value and impact of praise on [gifted] school achievement:

Stephanie Tolan: Who or What?

Gifted Parenting Support: Gifted Learners in Rural Areas:

An Evolutionary Perspective on Giftedness:

Going with the Flow: Student Engagement and Beyond:

Lots of excitement being generated about the potential of TED-Ed videos for gifted education:

The evolution of the geek infographic:

Elite Soccer Players’ Brains Excel At Planning And Problem Solving

How Geniuses Think – The Creativity Post

Being Black and Gifted is Nothing New: – on the work of Martin D Jenkins

Thanks to @MaryStGeorge for her thoughtful contribution to gtchat via her blog post “The Gifted Label”

Not All Highly Intelligent People Are Arrogant Pricks

Giftedness and liking…history from Innreach’s Blog:

Wise words on Creating Online Community for Gifted Advocacy:

“Eat it, Mills” – or how talent development adds to the underachievement problem

Excellent blog post on the gifted label: What’s in a Name?

@GingerLewman: Wanted to share my livebinder – iPad Apps for Gifted & High-Ability Learners

Red herring du jour: defining giftedness:  Broadly sympathetic with that position

Gifted Resources May Newsletter can be read online at

Gifted Exchange on incentives for early high school completion/college start:

Worried about identification for early-years gifted programmes? You will be after reading this!

US NAGC Conceptual Foundations Newsletter featuring article by Wenda Sheard, expat and UK NAGC trustee:

“It is not about intelligence. It’s not about talent, but the motivation to learn.”

Research questions Bell Curve: a few top performers typically carry the rest:  and

Post questioning long-held assumptions about the link between early US gifted education and the space race:

Coincidentally, a post on historical development of US gifted education that cites the influence of Sputnik:


The rapid expansion of AP courses isn’t entirely a good thing:

Delisle opposes Olszewski-Kubilius positioning of US NAGC  They must hold giftedness AND talent development in balance

Still a Square Peg and a Round Hole:

Moving Beyond Achievement: Nurturing Skills Necessary for Success in a Global Environment:

New blog post on acceleration for gifted

Just what is gifted and talented:  – Curate’s egg

London Zoo Fish 2 Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Related Education Issues

Fair Access to HE

GiftedPhoenix: HEFCE boss Langlands continues to highlight threat of AAB policy to social mobility despite BIS pressure:

DfE has published details of the Dux events at RG universities:  – schools have only until 27 April to register

OK I’ve been on my Dux Tour: Wish I could say all 20 RG universities had really pulled out all the stops…

Are your students thinking? How can I choose my “Dux” from Year 9?  – Thanks for the mention!

Revealing post by @xtophercook on relative chances of rich/poor admission to Oxbridge

New research on elite college admissions in the US:

Steven Schwarz says fair access is all about schools: Disagree. It’s a cross-sectoral issue

The Economist on Teach First HEAPS provision supporting HE progression for disadvantaged gifted learners:

Announcement on AAB cap in 2013-14 due by 30 April:

Apropos AAB cap, Willetts must catch up with Gove’s plans to make A level grades more demanding

Willets defines fair access as meritocracy, admitting ‘those who can perform best at any given university’

National Scholarship Programme guidance for 2013-14 to be released by HEFCE tomorrow (19 April):

BIS writing to HEFCE and OFFA seeking ‘a shared strategy for widening access’ to secure VFM: – some co-ordination then!

Overall, the Willetts treatment of the fair access issue manages to beg more questions than it answers:

RussellGroup: Our view on David Willetts’ HEFCE speech: liberated (AAB) places must go further next year

Mail continues to deride the Willetts line on fair access: probing at the fault line between DfE and BIS

Oxford’s UNIQ scheme:

HEFCE’s Provisional Allocations and Guidance for the 2013-14 National Scholarship Programme:

OFFA’s guidance on producing Access Agreements for 2013-14:

Anti-Willetts piece opposes his support of potential-driven fair access:  Worse, it was institution-specific potential!

Article on Cambridge University SU support for fair access:

When I found this website in development I thought PL might be developing a separate existence to the ST:

Become part of the Russell Group by recruiting lots more AAB students from independent schools:

Treasury fears have delayed announcement extending AAB market to ABB from 2013:

SecEd/ASCL guide for schools on meeting new ‘impartial and independent’ careers advice and guidance’ duty:

Sutton Trust release on Oxbridge advice: – Why are schools less likely to advise Oxbridge than 5 years ago? Mmm

Sutton Trust research begs question (again) whether staff should ‘advise’ or ‘discuss’ Oxbridge application

A whole gamut of non-educational reasons why children from poor backgrounds may never make it to Oxbridge:

Rather unedifying that schools blame HE and HE blames schools over Oxbridge applications issue. WORK TOGETHER!

Today is deadline for Dux awards registration: If you have reservations, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Stanford psychologist explains why meritocracy and diversity can be reconciled in HE admissions:

BIS on expanding uncapped recruitment to ABB HEFCE on same  NB ref to cautious estimates

What part should universities play in fostering academic talent?   A big one, jointly with schools and colleges

There may be trouble ahead – @guildheceo on what the latest student number control policies might mean:

Looks as though Stirling as well as Keele has joined US Common Applications system: and

Target Oxbridge to mentor African/Afro-Caribbean students in Years 11 and 12. Will poor benefit?:

Teach First HEAPS programme continues – though somewhat under the radar:

Are state schools biased against Oxbridge?

Social Mobility

British Sociological Association conference papers on social mobility: (pp37-38) All resoundingly negative

A new social mobility strategy from Clegg? – Don’t we already have one of those?

Interview with Alan Milburn on social mobility ahead of his Spring Report:

Milburn’s interview on social mobility in HE in the GMT e-newsletter: – with commentary by @tessa_stone

Preview of cross-party social mobility committee’s interim report out Tuesday: Doubt there’s anything new

So this interim report from the All-Party Parly Group on Social Mobility: – My verdict? Distinctly iffy

All-Party Social Mobility Group chaired by Hinds but members include the sainted Estelle, Field and Hodge

All-party Social Mobility Group has called expert witnesses including Barber, Lampl, Milburn, Woolf: (p3)

All Party Soc Mob Group convinced of importance of pre-HE attainment; dares not utter ‘contexualised’:

All Party Social Mobility Group sees nurturing outstanding talent as distinct area of focus (hooray!) (p9)

All Party SocMob Group priorities for nurturing talent : a. ‘needs blind/assisted places/selective’ (p32)

…and b.  ‘internships/HE exposure, Top Programmes (D of E etc)’ (p32) Latter is especially impenetrable

Before its final report, the All Party Social Mobility group should call on the #bridgegroup and #gtvoice for evidence:

Blears on the cross-party social mobility report:

More on the all-party social mobility report:

And a third treatment of the all-party social mobility report:

CYPN coverage of the interim report from the All Party Social Mobility Group on which I opined yesterday:

The Higher picks up on Lampl’s negativity re Government’s social mobility strategy:  Clegg won’t be happy

Narrowing Achievement Gaps

US post contemplating the case for ‘middle class studies’: – A topic in which England can lead the world!

DfE wants EoIs in the evaluation of the Summer Schools Programme for Disadvantaged Pupils: – deadline 17 April

Impact of the reduced subsidy for AP and IB exams on US disadvantaged gifted students:

Why does family wealth affect learning? Willingham:

DFE has published the technical spec for 2013 Schools Census: – the ‘ever-FSM’ Pupil Premium means increased complexity

Narrowing the gap targetry is needed in my view, but weren’t Coalition supposed to be anti-target? Dangerous precedent:

But effective Narrowing the Gap targetry must be differentiated by attainment, not just national benchmarks:

Children’s Society costing of FSM eligibility for all on Universal Credit omits cost of extra Pupil Premium funding:

Slightly worrying growth in attainment gap at Level 3 between FSM / non-FSM students

DfE SFR reports increase of 0.8% in FSM gap for 2+ A levels from 2010 to 2011: – Increasing A level demand will compound

Future First gets funding:

DfE to pilot Virtual Heads (a la looked after children) for Gypsy, Roma, Traveller children:

Academies Enterprise Trust will be spending Pupil Premium funding on online tutors – these in fact

Direct link to the SSAC Report on Universal Credit in which son-of-FSM options are explored: – Which is the least worst?

The Mayor London’s Mentoring Scheme for black boys seems to be in big trouble:

DfE Research: PISA 2009 How does England’s Social Attainment Gap compare with other countries and

JRF Review: ‘Widespread emphasis on raising aspirations…does not seem to be a good foundation for policy or practice’

JRF Aspirations report ultimately frustrates: more promising ‘area-based multi-strand interventions’ excluded:

JRF Aspirations-raising report raises important questions about the efficacy of interventions like Dux:

LKMCo blog post on the JRF Aspirations-raising report:

Performance-Based Scholarships: Emerging Findings from a National Demonstration (US):

Telegraph on the PISA social attainment gap:  – Data’s familiar but Telegraph accentuating the negative less so perhaps

The 80% of heads saying the Pupil Premium is being used to plug cuts will have to fabricate their published statements:

Twigg calls for clearer Pupil Premium accountability measures linking funding with achievement of specific pupils:

Evaluating the Pupil Premium – SecEd p9:

Australia is investing in pre-school tutors to tackle disadvantage:


Pupil selection and curriculum content: – Ultimately the issue was and remains progression to HE and beyond

On the beta of “Academies … can select pupils based on academic ability”

Bucks admits Truth that Must not be Spoken re 11+ bias: – Editor magics this into pro-academy spin

Love this grumpy report on a meeting of the Friends of Grammar Schools: – I see Mr Gove dropped in again…

Grammar schools help poor children to succeed? Hmmmm

Is it entirely a bad thing that Kent’s state GS are seen as a better option than any independent alternative?

That said, I still maintain that all GS should give priority to FSM-eligible candidates:

This answer on the criteria governing split site/satellite schools is as clear as mud: (Col WA427)

At last! The Great Expectations publication from David Jesson for the Schools Network via @dylanwiliam

‘Further work is in progress to extend these frameworks to more able pupils in all schools’ (Jesson):

Grammar schools vary considerably in quality. Some are outstanding, and some really rather mediocre:

Admissions and School Places

BHA Press Notice about its legal action against Richmond over that new RC secondary school:

Here’s the projections data I’ve found: (p16) Looks like births peak in 2014, then decline to 2030.

I’m posting this Fraser Nelson piece on school places because I’m genuinely unsure what to make of it:

Have you seen the full version of the GLA Projections Methodology they mention in the summary here (p1)?

I’m interested what happens when the numbers drop off again. I’ve been playing with this tool:


Welcome to the Academies ‘speed commission’:   though the commissioners are a bit usual suspectish and speed = 9 months!

This article on Left Foot Forward says the Commission will be independent: That should be in the remit

For me the biggest risk inherent in mass ‘academisation’ lies in wholesale disapplication of the National Curriculum:

Machin: ‘We do not yet have robust, academically rigorous evidence on [the impact of] coalition academies’:

Looks as though the enforced primary school battleground is shifting to Lambeth:

Not quite sure why the Government wouldn’t welcome the C of E as an academy sponsor with open arms? Indeed cherish it!

Ben Bradshaw questions due diligence processes for academy conversion citing West Exe Technology College: (Col 8)

More about due diligence over West Exe Technology College’s conversion to academy status in written PQ form: (Col 92W)

30 PFI schools have converted to academies – the list is here:  (Col 80W)

A fair amount of Downhills correspondence has been released in response to this FoI request:

A FoI has gone in requesting the Funding Agency report on financial management of the Lincoln Priory Federation:

Luton may or may not have three enforced primary academies: – The LA is denying it

In which @toadmeister ignores Machin’s plea – – and applies old research evidence to new contexts:

Blog on Academies Commission: – Wondering if proof’s in the pudding or the pie:

I must do my bit to advertise the reliance of Durand Academy on PR worth £200K: – Never believe the hype

More on the Seldon/O’Shaugnessy academies partnership  Positive Psychology’s worth £5m investment but SEAL is ‘ghastly’?

Dunford on middle tier For me the ideal model combines inclusive network and market elements; excludes new field force

EFA Framework Document para 1.4: ‘The EFA is not responsible for managing the performance of schools’:

A ‘failure to distinguish between the autonomy of school leaders as expert educationalists and organisational autonomy’

A Dover Academy HT has been appointed by DfE as a ‘short term intervention troubleshooter….superhead’:

Guardian coverage of News International’s aspirations to establish an academy: – they weren’t welcomed with open arms

Leveson has published the emails concerning News International’s interest in academies and free schools: (KRM21 + 22)

Will we see the emergence of more academy chains specialising in AP institutions, or will they join existing chains?

Cawley’s appointment as Secford Exec HT after chairing consultation raises questions for Seckford:

DfE has issued details and a statement of the financial investigation into the Priory Federation:

SOLACE Report: the Championing Role of English Councils in Education:

Director of Policy Exchange says phase two of the Govian revolution is all about chains

Michael Rosen twists the knife over accountability and transparency in relation to failing/problem academies:

DfE’s FAQs on academy chains with helpful powerpoint slides:

Have I read correctly? Seems to be no body overseeing complaints about academies?

128 academies will have to pay back an average £118K LACSEG by July: (TES)

Christine Gilbert thinks school collaboration can fulfil the missing middle tier role: – devil’s in the detail

NAHT has agreed a match-funded pilot with Government to support schools at risk of forced academisation: (at end)

More from NAHT about their planned role in school improvement: – conference has to agree first

More Downhills papers released by Haringey in response to FoI:  – interesting

Free Schools

The NUT’s free schools dossier: – presumably release of impact assessments is to inform potential judicial reviews?

Direct link to NUT’s analysis of free school costs: – which they will no doubt revisit quarterly

DfE Q and A: ‘The S/S would not automatically turn down a [free school] proposal simply to protect other local schools’

It’s the ubiquitous Rob Cawley again: – Will he soar to great things or, Icarus-like, plunge down in flames?

Do you have to be pregnant to get into Field’s free school? – Isn’t that selective?

Lisa Nandy: my response to Andrew Adonis on free schools in NewStatesman

Gibb say that data on FSM eligibility in free schools now in Commons Library (Col 805W) but not yet in deposited papers

Leveson has probably asked DfE for full access to papers on the proposed Murdoch Free School in Newham:

Rupert Murdoch reveals meetings with Michael Gove over free schools

NUT take umbrage at the idea of a News International-sponsored free schools – they want an enquiry:

More on the London Academy of Excellence: – Insufficient excellence; insufficient focus on disadvantage. Fail

Kerry McCarthy on FSM in free schools data now in Commons Library: It’s STILL not online however:

Seckford Foundation plan one manager for every 12 children. One Senior Leader per 30 children.

The State of the NYC Charter School Sector 2012:

In case you haven’t seen – Shanker blog on the test-based evidence on New Orleans Charter Schools:

More on New Orleans charter schools:

NEPC study of US charter school spending compared with public schools:

he influence and impact of founders on US charter schools’ performance: – Food for thought for free schools?

We should keep an eye on this combination of vouchers and charter schools in Louisiana: – it will surface here soon

Here’s the charter schools paper from the NZ Education Policy Response Group mentioned in the article:

The intro gives context. ACT (tiny minority party) has agreement with National to introduce charter schools:

For me Ch4 is more important than Ch6. The former’s criticisms could be extended to the latter:

The NZ Charter Schools working group has its own website here:

London Zoo Fish 3 Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Independent Schools

Not sure what to make of this interview with Head of St Paul’s for Girls:  Is it a trifle smug and complacent?

Worthwhile (and much-needed?) HMC initiative to share schools’ pedagogical expertise with HE:

Martin Stephen says independent schools must evolve or face extinction:

Highlights of Independent Schools Council 2012 Census  As of now only 2011 census is on ISC’s site

Private sector being squeezed: poor schools close; better ones become enclaves of overseas students, or academies!:

Curriculum and Pedagogy

GiftedPhoenix: Willingham-style FAQs on learning styles:

OFSTED notes ‘increasing autonomy’ over curricular decisions ‘may present some contradictions’: (para 70)

RSA worries whether teachers are equipped to exploit their new-found curricular freedoms:

A necessary focus on support for gifted learners is still missing from debate on computer science in schools:

Isn’t Williams responsible for RE not being in the EBacc, since he failed to organise a Bishops’ ambush in the Lords?

A broadly pro ability grouping presentation on Slideshare:

Unusually sharp words from DFE on the decline in MFL GCSE numbers: ‘a national scandal’: National strategy forthcoming?

Is there a particular emphasis on local issues? – If you’re right, are we looking at early May announcement?

Why no answers on detail of the NC review process?

Paganism makes it on to the Cornish Agreed Syllabus for RE: – and why not indeed?

Flexible ability grouping:

NUT Guidance on the EYFS Statutory Framework:

Music education jobs under threat as announcement awaited on successful music hub bids, due early May:

Reaction to ICT disapplication exemplifies the downside of excessive curricular autonomy We need a ‘flexible framework’

Looks like the President of the ALL wants ICT-type curricular freedoms for MFL – Interestingly the ICT lobby is less sure

DfE is commissioning research on the effects of the EBacc: – EoIs to be submitted by Friday 27 April

A reminder of the weaknesses inherent in Chapter 8 of the Expert Panel report on mastery and NC levels:

The problem of preparing teachers to implement the Common Core State Standards: – Prophetic of upcoming issues here?

Sentamu returns to the charge over RE in the EBacc:  – High time the developed an alternative REBacc?

Direct link to the Tombs report for Politiea on the history curriculum: – Do not read if of a nervous disposition!

Reaction to lazy newspaper coverage of the Politeia Report on History:

DfE next steps for EYFS

If there’s such a thing as ‘maths anxiety’ is there an equivalent anxiety for each other subject? Unconvinced

John Holman says the Government won’t make post-16 maths compulsory – so what are the policy levers?

Interesting @theschoolsnet article showing they had an inside track on NC consultation: – Should publish full evidence

NC Review must reconcile contradiction between dumping primary NC levels + rectifying ‘lack of pace and ambition at KS2

Music education hubs due for announcement today. I’m assuming the details will appear here:

Music Hub announcement reaction in West Sussex: and Brighton:

Some of the new music hubs are more hubby than others:

Willingham on why learning to read English is hard (with map to prove the point):

Assessment and Qualifications

A conservative defence of A level reform built upon Robert Coe’s research:

EoIs for the administration of PISA 2015: – deadline 27 April

OFQUAL has published undertakings by the different exam boards to improve exam paper quality and reduce errors:

Harris Federation postpones IB for a year because of high cost and low take-up: – worrying sign

@mikebakeredhack asks the awkward practical questions about HE-led A level reform:

DfE’s Standards and Testing Agency seeks a ‘maladministration advisor’ ‘registrations by sole traders may be rejected’!

Julius Weinberg, VC of Kingston University, appointed to OFQUAL Board, along with Barnaby Lenon:

A whole mass of data showing the prevalence of qualifications equivalent to GCSEs in academies: (Col 535ff)

Background on the new KS2 Grammar Punctuation and Spelling Test for introduction in 2013:

FAQs on the 2013 Grammar Punctuation and Spelling Test: – includes provision for Level 6 (last Answer)

KS2 grammar, spelling and punctuation test under threat of NAHT boycott:

OFQUAL to impose partial ban on exam board seminars for teachers: – will that eradicate the content tips? Not sure

OFQUAL has published its report on Exam Board seminars but, mysteriously, it’s password-protected Why?

Direct link to Nuffield Foundation study of maths content in A levels:  – SCORE report not up yet:

@emoorse01: My take on Mr Gove at the Education Select Committee: Didn’t he imply ditching levels wholesale?

Glenys Stacey refers explicitly to A level grade inflation The Emperor’s now officially naked – there’s no turning back

The Stacey A level interview – Raises the question whether changing too much at once brings diminishing returns

KS2 English writing – moderation: Level 6 exemplification guidance:

@RealGeoffBarton: thoughts on the grammatical/stylistic characteristics of A* English students

Gove to Select Committtee Q225 ‘one area where I am very strongly persuaded…moving away from levels at primary school’

Ed Week report on US pilot of a PISA-based test for schools (using PISA 2009 instruments): – Is there an English pilot?

Whereas NUT would boycott phonics test if results go in league tables, NAHT would boycott if pass rate set too high:

NAHT also voted to disrupt new KS2 SPAG test: and (along with ASCL) oppose loss of of AS Levels:

Black & Wiliam: Formative feedback key to better learning (50 blogs, 50 days on learning theorists)


There’s no one correct way to rate schools:

Campaign for Science and Engineering suggests STEM kitemark for schools With gifted education element I hope

How might OFSTED react to a flipped classroom? – Perhaps we should ask them…

New blog on some league table findings, including progress measures, intakes, GCSE entries

The author of the US study exploring the possible import of OFSTED -style inspection responds to his critics:

Interesting parallels between this Harvard work in the US and the development of Destination Indicators here:

Jay Greene on PISA-type comparisons and the dangers associated with selection on an unvarying dependent variable:

DfE confirms publication of Destination Measures in July: so correcting what Gove said to Select Committee

DfE’s Destination Indicators brief fails to clarify if HE indicators will show RG/Oxbridge separately:

I’ve little time for ‘what right have they to inspect us’ sentiment re OFSTED, but hands off left-handed ticks!

Pearson on unlocking the power of education data: – Big questions as critical variables like FSM and NC levels disappear

309 schools inspected under new Framework 6-20 Jan 2012: 45% primary + 58% secondary inadequate/satisfactory (Col 1239W)

It’s not just GS that should be judged on A*/A GCSE grades as per Jesson Gibb told Sel Ctee DfE is considering

Pro-OFSTED leader in the Independent: – Not sure the system is right if it arouses this level of antipathy…

So, allowing for risk assessment, it’s clear new OFSTED inspection regime is tougher  – and set to become tougher still

HMCI Wilshaw continues his rehabilitation process with the profession by adopting a more emollient tone:

TES on the mysteriously invisible Jesson Schools Network Grammar Schools study:

Wow – TES editorial gets close to agreeing with what I just said about OFSTED: – wonders will never cease

NAHT on OFSTED survey results and plan for School View: – NB 90% unhappy with tone /content of OFSTED announcements

Progress on US national assessment instruments linked with the Common Core:

Strong government rides roughshod over opposition; becomes weaker, offers concessions: – opposition exacts revenge

China’s blocking publication of national PISA scores; Schleicher gives an over-simplified explanation of Asian success:

Teachers and Teacher Education

The new-style NPQH will have all the in-vogue bells and whistles: – but what about the CONTENT?

Don Foster asks if about evidence that graduates with 1st class degrees make better teachers: (Col 11) – Answer No-ish

National Scholarship Fund for Teachers Round 2 Handbook: – same priorities (why not let schools decide?) Apply by 17/5.

Regional breakdown of funded training places for the national SENCO award, Sept 2009- March 2012: (Col WA371)

NUT Survey of SENCOs:

Today’s School Workforce SFR has a really handy table (12) giving headcount of secondary teachers by subject and KS:

Given the state of graduate unemployment, it would be seriously worrying if teacher training places weren’t filled:

Useful account of current US debate on performance related pay for teachers

Interesting re Teach First costs, which I hadn’t seen before, via @jpjsavage

Interestingly Lampl’s just said a. teacher effectiveness is a priority and b. TF isn’t scaleable

Education Select Committee calls for more research into qualities that support effective teaching: (Para 42)

Education Select Committee misses a trick in not connecting prospective teacher spotting to social mobility  (para 46ff)

Education Select Committee parrots the universal but rather uncritical endorsement of Teach First: (paras 64-66)

Education Select Committee Report very supportive of universities’ role in ITE:  (Para 67ff)

Education Select Committee critical of CPD – much taken by what they saw in Singapore but few new ideas: (para 92ff)

Charlotte Leslie calls for a Royal College of Teachers: – aka a new engine of bureaucracy to replace the GTC?

One comment only on teacher performance pay: it’s a blind alley and a bonanza only for economists of education:

Teachers and Performance Pay – Big Practical Obstacles to Overcome

Sadly it was only a matter of time before payment by results made the Atlantic crossing: – I repeat, it’s a blind alley

OFSTED analysis of responses to its consultation on inspection of initial teacher education:

New blog post: @beckyallen and Simon Burgess argue that teacher selection is the wrong way round:

Here: Impact of Teach First on recruitment not very clear.

Evaluation of US pilot incentivising effective teachers to transfer to low-achieving schools:

Creating a Comprehensive System for Evaluating and Supporting Effective Teaching – Darling-Hammond et al:


First e-bulletin from the Education Funding Agency:

Is Administration Leaner in Charter Schools? Michigan study says they spend relatively more on admin; less on teaching

Will Mitt Romney endorse vouchers as Republican education policy? When will they resurface here?

I believe the capital constraints on free school expansion will help push school vouchers back on to the agenda:

Chapter and verse for DfE turning down the Truss idea of a funding premium for maths A level: (Col 16)

Various Year 5 Milwaukee voucher evaluations:  and various NEPC critiques of same:

Yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate on School Funding: (Col 189WH)

Education Funding Agency e-bulletin 2 –

Central Government

The YouGov survey for NUT highlights concern at limited consultation over – and evaluation of – Government initiatives:

Wilby bemoans the loss of what used to be called the ‘checks and balances’ in the education system: He may have a point

The post that says there will be no SEN White Paper (and what there will be instead):

If you make it into Michael Gove’s office, you can enjoy a painting by one Bernard Cheese: (Col 329W)

Direct link to new NAO Cross Government Review on Implementing Transparency:

Guido and his acolytes have got hold of the Gove balloon story:

So DCMS could go to BiS who could then had over universities to DfE?

Back to the Future, or the nostalgic strand of Coalition education policy:

The conclusions and recommendations of the Public Admin Select Committee on Strategic Thinking in Government:

HEFCE has given its website a makeover:

Lib Dem proposal that education policy should be devolved to a partially elected Educational Council: Bureaucracy-heavy

DfE has published an updated ‘Myths and Facts for Schools’ document:

The Economist calls Govian reforms ‘brave’, ‘novel’, ‘risky’ and ‘bold’ –  – Yes Minister

This handy Dods supplement to The House magazine covers the No 10 operation in detail, even including contact numbers:

Here’s the Teaching Agency Business Plan for 2012-13:

The National College Business Plan for 2012/13:

Here is the 2012-15 Business plan for the Education Funding Agency, just published by DfE:

DfE has published the 2012-13 Business Plan of the Standards and Testing Agency:

14 DfE Free Schools and Academies Education Advisers’ named contracts are now on Contracts Finder (search on DfE):

Prophetic piece in the Telegraph just ahead of today’s elections:  – Interestingly omits Johnson from ‘the NI crowd’

Uncorrected evidence – Gove to Education Select Committee 24 April:

Other Reviews, Research and Reports

AERA’s 2012 Annual Meeting has an interesting theme: – You can search online for papers here:

Eurydice Report on Entrepreneurship Education in schools across Europe:

New McKinsey study on Mobile Education:

A range of new ADCS studies on the role of local authorities in school improvement:

Twigg, Devolution and Schools and Labour’s consultation document:

Direct link to new OECD study on socio-economic stratification between public and private schools: – covers vouchers

IEA Study: Policy, Practice and Readiness to Teach Primary and Secondary Mathematics in 17 Countries (excludes England)

EU (EENEE) study on equity issues in the economics of education:

This Schott Foundation Report of inequitable education in NYC should inform the London Mayor’s Education Inquiry:

Social Research Unit series of cost-benefit reports for children’s services, Investing in Children:

London Zoo Fish 4 Courtesy of Gifted Phoenix

Online and Social Media

Is blogging and tweeting about academic papers worth it? A UCL academic reports:

How to set up and run a MOOC: (Part 1 of 6)

A critique of the Minerva Project to create an elite online university from an unsurprising source:

Very useful list of 50 Best Sources of Free Education Online

Willetts speech today on open access research with support from Mr Wales: – More power to their elbows on this

Willetts pe-empts his speech later on open access to research:

The full Willetts speech on open access to research: – Sound, but he’s clearly not a Twitter user!

Willetts Speech on Open Access: Analysis

Why academic publishers’ days are numbered: – How close are we to open access educational research?

The World Bank and the EU lend their weight to the drive for open access academic research:

PA claims academic publishers earn their cut by ‘filtering’, ‘signalling’ and ‘amplifying’ research. No way Jose!

Google search education – help your students become better searchers:

EdX – the Harvard/MIT partnership that will provide free online courses worldwide:

The Virtues of Blogging as Scholarly Activity @mweller in The Chronicle –

The Edublogger is conducting a survey of the educational use of blogs:

A truly excellent and comprehensive guide to running a Twitter chat:


Progress on the RNCF’s Assisted Boarding Network: – placing vulnerable children in boarding schools

I keep forgetting to commend Donald Clark’s Plan B Blog for his very useful series on educational thinkers:

Done! 50 blogs in 50 days on learning theorists -Greeks to Marxists to present Psychologists

Deloitte offers to help HE provide a personalised student support service commensurate with higher fees:

Building excellence in education For me not necessarily teacher-led but essentially collaborative, networked, inclusive

I’m having trouble deciding whether this US article on university dress codes is a parody:

What’s the average admin cost of a truancy fine recouped via courts or child benefit? Bet it’s more than value of fine:

Academic repression of Emo subculture in Saudi Universities:  – Overly boyish female students thrown in for good measure

Shocked to see the great @DrPaulKelley has left Monkseaton – Parents unhappy new Exec HT wants to drop 2 GCSEs

At my school the be upstanding ritual was a superbly disruptive opportunity to scrape furniture across the floor:

Goading the Stodgy Middle:  – Applying this to education would bring on apoplexy in many of my acquaintance

Catholic Education Service in trouble for pushing anti-gay marriage petition on pupils

Brilliant Pink News editorial on the CES and anti-gay petitions including a telling ‘roles in reverse’ scenario:

Hope CES gay marriage investigations bring greater clarity on overlap between ‘religious’ and ‘political’ teaching:

Stiff Brook/FPA letter about CES anti-gay marriage petition:  ‘this naked attempt…to induce bigotry and intolerance’

The Welsh verdict on the anti-gay marriage petition circulated by the CES:  – schools not CES in the firing line

Educating Essex Deputy Head moves school…all the way to Brentwood:

BHA: no uncontested application for new school from a faith body rejected; just 6 of 39 non-faith applications approved

Direct link to NCB’s Beyond the Cuts report estimating children’s charities face cuts of £405m over 5 years:

This report on public sector delivery is well worth a read if you can see through the symbolic merry-go-rounds:

Brief report and a topping photo marking the first meeting of Camden’s Partnership for Educational Excellence:

Government has offered Sandwell £1m if it will drop its legal challenge over BSF:

The official position on BSF judicial review out-of-court settlements:  (Col WA426)

Priority Schools Building Programme announcement due this month (May): (Col 1239W)

Ever read a post and think – at last, a clear, succinct, balanced explanation? Try this on the economy by Colin Talbot:

US study on whether schools open too early: – Ironically undertaken in Wake County (North Carolina)

Saudi Arabia is planning an ‘independent higher authority to evaluate school education’: – A kind of OFSTED plus?

This makes an interesting read for Pearson watchers and education observers alike:

2011 CERP Literature Review on 1:1 Tuition online and offline:

Michael Rosen on schools for profit models: Asks questions re funding of Pearson School Model. Anyone have the answers?

Glatter reminds us of limited school effects and downside of a ‘no excuses’ culture: – prescribes various panaceas

Estelle Morris rehashes the ‘standards not structures’ mantra (which I too hold dear):

My alert system has only just picked up Twigg’s speech to the NASUWT:

Q: What ‘s the correlation between shared ‘religious culture’ of a church school and its performance? – A. Exaggerated

Q. Do students with water do better in exams because they’re hydrated?  A. It’s probably a proxy for wider preparedness

Interesting argument for the rejection of evidence-based practice  which misunderstands the nature of national standards


May 2012

School Vouchers and Gifted Education (Part Two)

In the first part of this Post we looked at school vouchers in theoretical terms before embarking on a detailed critique of the ‘Step Change’ proposals insofar as they impact on gifted learners.

Part Two concludes that critique, then broadens out the argument to take in other contexts and finally offers a preliminary framework for designing a viable gifted education voucher scheme.

The ‘Step Change’ Voucher

‘Step Change’ does not define specific objectives for the voucher scheme it proposes, other than to state that it will produce unspecified ‘measurably improved outcomes’, so it is not possible to trace how the various elements of the scheme are expected to impact on the two very different sets of problems that have been identified.

Following a rather cursory review of free schools in Sweden, charter schools in the US and academies in England (there is nothing on the Netherlands and Ireland as required by the terms of reference), it devotes much more space to a review of personalised education.

Although this section is rather confused, it does convey the central ideas that:

  • learning does not any longer take place exclusively in school and may involve a range of different providers;
  • a tailored programme can be captured in a personal learning plan that draws together these different elements into a coherent whole;
  • there is a potential role for ‘learning broker mentors’ to negotiate these plans with learners, secure provision against the plans from one or more providers and monitor and support learners’ progress.

This provides the central foundation for the eight-stage proposal that follows, which is expressed as a series of sequential steps in a voucher-driven process. The treatment below includes my commentary on the proposal:

First, learners are identified to participate in the programme on the basis of ‘National Standards and other age-based assessments’. We know that the Standards are not properly calibrated to identify G&T learners, showing only whether a learner is achieving at, above or below the expected standard for their age. The other assessments are unspecified. We are left unclear whether ‘gifted’ in this context is intended to denote high achievers but the reference to a fixed ‘quota’ of 5% might support this assumption.

Second, education providers are selected for the programme on the basis of their record of success, reputation for high quality leadership and teaching and capacity to deliver the specified outcomes. This must be assumed to apply to all kinds of providers covered by the scheme, whether or not they are schools. The wording implies that a high quality threshold will be imposed on the supply side from the outset, so we might expect a significant proportion of schools to be excluded on the basis of the ERO evidence. Later the report says that providers who fail to deliver will be dropped from the scheme. Capacity is clearly critical, especially for schools, since voucher holders will need to be accommodated alongside their existing students.

Third, the selected providers publish information (‘prospectuses’) about ‘how they lift and extend student performance’ including details of pedagogy, curriculum, IT, learner-teacher ratios ‘and other factors leading to student success and satisfaction’. This is to ensure that the demand side of the market has sufficient information to make sensible and rational decisions. As we have seen above, the media selected and the arrangements for dissemination of such material are critical, especially if the scheme is targeting ‘hard to reach’ families.

Fourth, voucher holders choose one or more providers who will meet their needs. The use of the term ‘provider’ allows for the possibility that none may be a school, eg in the case of home-educated learners. The drafting seems to suggest – rather sensibly – that, if a range of providers is involved, one must take the role of ‘principal provider’. Part of that role is to co-ordinate assessment and monitoring. There is to be scope for learners to change their provider(s) if their learning pathways change, but it is not clear how frequently such opportunities will be available.

Fifth, the selected provider(s) ‘sign up’ to the voucher holder’s personal learning plan. This formulation implies that the plan will have been prepared at an earlier stage in the process, but this is recognised only in three ‘optional steps’ which cover the selection of a leaning broker mentor. It is therefore unclear how and when the plan is prepared if no broker is involved. If the arrangements are such that the plan is drawn up by the school which then provides the bulk of the learning programme, that seems rather at odds with the principles of market choice, because the supply side has too much influence. For the system to work properly, there really needs to be ‘clear blue water’ between these two functions.

Sixth, providers receive a first tranche of the voucher payment ‘up front’. The value of the voucher (‘Step Change’ calls it a scholarship) is determined through a formula weighted to reflect the students’ needs. It will be necessary to remove funding from existing generic grants and reallocate it to voucher holders on a per capita basis. Reference is made to initial thinking on the design of the Pupil Premium in England – of which more later. We are told here and later that the scheme will be fiscally neutral – ie it will require no additional funding – but also that providers will ‘be incentivised by receiving more per capita than they currently receive’. It is hard to reconcile these two statements.

Dunedin courtesy of Zanthia

Seventh, the pupil’s performance is reviewed and assessed and the personal plan revised as appropriate. Monitoring information is collected into a central database which is accessible to all the users, including non-school providers. Data analysis may also inform professional development associated with the scheme.

Eighth, the provider(s) receive a second tranche of the fee as a ‘success bonus’ for:

‘substantially lifting the performance of low achieving students or gifted students to new levels’.

This is odd given that we thought we had already established that the problem to be addressed by the vouchers is not the performance of gifted students but the quality of the support provided to them by their schools.

It might be explained by making the assumption that students’ performance is the sole measure of their schools’ success, but we have already shown that New Zealand’s high achievers achieve their results in spite of the questionable support provided by a sizeable minority of their schools, so a much better success measure would be the proportion of providers judged to be of suitably high quality by ERO. The bonus would then depend on that assessment rather than on students’ performance.

It is not clear how the two payments would relate to the actual value of the voucher but I infer that the bonus would not be received unless the improvement is secured. Failure to deliver would therefore impact on the provider’s budget and, if sufficient learners were involved, could potentially put it out of business. The division of these payments between multiple providers would also be potentially problematic.

For all these reasons the bonus is a non-starter. Besides, the voucher concept rests on the assumption that sufficient incentive is generated by the increased demand from families for the most popular providers, so an added incentive in the shape of a financial bonus is not strictly necessary.

Because we are assured that the overall funding will be fiscally neutral, any additional costs, such as those attributable to the scheme’s administration and the potential employment of ‘broker learning mentors’ would need to be found from savings elsewhere in the education system. There is no costing whatsoever in the report so we have no idea how much this would cost compared with the current system.

The Report suggests that the scheme might support several different models of provision, eg ‘wrap around’ school-based provision, a school within a school, a school plus provision offered by independent providers, pupils working with several different providers, even one-to-one tuition.

It identifies implications for the recruitment and training of staff, especially the ‘learning broker mentors’. It anticipates that a range of new providers will enter the education system and that arrangements will need to be in place to facilitate the expansion of popular providers. There will also need to be a relaxation of the rules governing school admissions.

The text gets rather repetitive at this stage, before concluding with the proposal that a Taskforce is established to work up the initiative for implementation in 2011 (a pretty heroic timetable given the huge number of policy issues to be resolved and accommodations that would be necessary to get even a relatively small pilot scheme off the ground).

What does ‘Free to Learn’ add to the case for vouchers?

The companion minority report ‘Free to Learn’ has a much wider canvas which approximates more closely to the terms of reference given to the Working Group.

It considers the wider school choice reforms necessary to implement a universal voucher scheme: increased choice, increased autonomy for schools, improved teacher quality, capacity for the expansion of popular schools and the decline and closure of poorly performing schools, more and better information to support choice of school, freedom to choose between different schooling options and, finally, funding tied to the student.

This final section opens with a treatment of education reform through choice and competition which utilises many of the arguments outlined above:

‘The key, then, arguably, to improving education outcomes…is to permit public provision of schooling to be decentralised. It is to allow a competitive market in education and the funding to facilitate it; flexibility with ease of entry and exit for schools and learning environments; and families’ choice from among competing providers. Such a market flourishes when there are clear pricing signals for providers and the profit motive. Such a market also shifts education out of the hands of government quangos and into the hands of parents and teachers.’

It uses two of the three principles articulated by Mark Harrison in ‘Education Matters: Government Markets and New Zealand Schools’ (2004) to justify a neutral per capita funding scheme: schools are funded according to the number of learners they attract and the per capita sum is the same regardless of whether the school is public, private or integrated, so creating a ‘level playing field’ for market competition.

It considers the third principle – that parents should be allowed to top up this funding – to be ‘the most politically unpalatable’ and eventually discards it in favour of weighted funding to reflect students’ needs:

‘Governments weight scholarships for equity reasons to try to ensure that every child obtains a quality education. Recognising that some children are more difficult or costly to teach than others or require travel subsidies, central agencies add extra value to some of their scholarships in an attempt to increase the incentives for educators to take them’.

It suggests the decision is finely balanced since a weighted voucher arguably:

‘distorts the market making it difficult for providers to add improvements, ascertain their value and to meet the indicated demands of the people they serve…generating perverse incentives that keep those in need where they are because of the benefits accrued to them for remaining there’.

Following an analysis of current NZ funding arrangements and practice abroad, it devotes significant space to the consideration of tax credits as an alternative payment mechanism to a straightforward voucher scheme, but fails to choose between them.

There are no further practical details to add to the treatment in the main report.

Have gifted education voucher schemes been tried elsewhere?

Much of the preceding analysis is devoted to the not inconsiderable shortcomings of the IPWG’s work. Frankly, it is no surprise that this half-baked report failed to gain traction in New Zealand. But what of the case in principle for a gifted education voucher scheme?

I wondered whether the idea of targeting gifted learners came from an external source, or whether it originated with Heather Roy’s own personal interest in this issue. All the evidence suggests the latter, because there are no references in ‘Step Change’ or ‘Free to Learn’ to any existing schemes with such a focus.

NZ Bridge courtesy of Lockhear

I am personally aware of one near-precedent in the UK and, having sifted through the available online literature, I have traced just one further reference. So, unless readers of this post can tell us otherwise, it appears that there are no targeted voucher schemes explicitly designed to support gifted learners (as opposed to generic schemes that include them alongside other learners, or scholarship schemes that offer places only in private schools).

The single reference I have found is from an article published in 1998 by B D Baker called ‘Equity Through Vouchers: The Special Case of Gifted Education’

It argues that the widespread cuts then being made to free public sector gifted education services across the United States coincide with significant increases in fee-paying programmes, such as the residential summer programmes offered by the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins and many other similar university-based providers.

These tend not to offer significant financial aid so the vast majority of attendees are from relatively advantaged backgrounds. As a consequence, many poor gifted students are denied any support. One solution would be to provide ‘wealth-equalised vouchers’ to enable gifted disadvantaged students to attend these out-of-school programmes (though it is questionable whether these would compensate for a year-round school-based programme).

Compared with the ‘Step Change’ proposal, such a scheme would have very narrow scope. It could be regarded as little more than a variant on private school scholarships, but it is at least an earlier exposition of the idea that vouchers can be deployed to support access by gifted learners to education provided outside a school setting.

Almost a decade later, the UK Government awarded a contract to CfBT – a private contractor – to support the out-of-school education of gifted and talented learners throughout England, then numbered at about 800,000.

CfBT’s initial ‘pitch’ for the contract was voucher-based, as demonstrated by these contemporary press reports, from the Daily Telegraph, The Times and The Guardian.

The nub of the proposal was that all learners identified by their schools as gifted and talented would receive, regardless of parental income or socio-economic background, an initial stock of 151 learning credits with a monetary value, to be used by their schools to purchase a range of additional learning opportunities from approved providers.

The reports suggest that £65 million would initially be allocated for this purpose with additional support drawn from the national budget for personalised learning.

The Telegraph says:

‘The scheme also introduces to schools for the first time the concept of “vouchers” as part of an education market in which pupils are the consumers and decide how and what they want to learn. It follows a decision by the Tories last month to drop plans for a full-blown voucher, in which parents would get £5,000 a year to spend at the school of their choice — state or private.’

I can’t say whether Ministers were attracted by the political advantages of ‘borrowing’ a policy previously espoused by (and closely associated with) the Conservative Opposition – it would not have been the first time if so.

I do know that the scheme did not proceed in line with the ‘pitch’ because, when it came to the crunch, the Government would not contemplate additional ringfenced funding on this scale for gifted education, particularly at a time when their wider policy was to create larger pools of generic funding that schools could use to address their own priorities.

Although the basic idea was retained for subsequent use in a smaller element of the overall programme – the City Challenge Gifted and Talented Scheme, designed to support progression by gifted disadvantaged young people aged 14-18 to competitive universities – it did not amount to a genuine voucher scheme.

More information about how CfBT’s programme developed is set out in their Memorandum to the Education Select Committee which examined gifted education in April 2010.

Both of these examples fall short of the ‘Step Change’ proposal because they do not extend into mainstream schooling, covering only the additional out-of-school activities that complement the normal classroom experience. Although it is riddled with inconsistencies and has major shortcomings, ‘Step Change’ does seem to break genuinely new ground.

Other targeted voucher schemes (and broadly similar funding models)

Several US voucher schemes have been targeted specifically at learners with special educational needs and disabilities.

According to this article four states—Florida (1999), Georgia (2007), Ohio (2003), and Utah (2005) operate schemes that together support over 22,000 students.

Most of these are scholarship schemes that allow parents to transfer their children into selected private sector institutions, but not all.

For example the Georgia scheme outlined here provides for learners who meet the eligibility criteria to request transfer to:

  • Another public school within their district;
  • Another public school district;
  • One of the three state schools for the visually or hearing-impaired; or
  • A private school within the programme.

The article makes clear that special education vouchers do not escape the criticisms levelled at vouchers more generally. But they do demonstrate that vouchers can be designed to support other groups of learners whose needs are not entirely met by the schools in which they are currently enrolled.

A similar strain of thinking has informed England’s recent Special Needs Green Paper, which commits to the further development of personal budgets for families of children with SEN and disabilities:

‘Personal budgets…will enable parents to have a much greater say in the way their child is supported and give them a clear role in designing a personalised package of support for their child and family…

…the Government is already testing approaches to personal budgets, through the personal health budgets pilots and the children’s individual budget pilots. The children’s individual budget pilots have given parents control over funding for elements of their child’s support. This involves a combination of notional budgets, where parents can say how the funding for their child is spent (but do not receive this in a cash payment), and direct payments, where they receive the cash for the services they need and can then purchase the support they need directly….

We want to build on the positive experiences of these pilots and extend the scope of what can be included in personal budgets in a way that is beneficial to families…In particular, we want the pilot areas to test whether any school-based services could be included, and to provide more evidence about the cost and impact of providing support in this way.’

While on the subject of UK reforms, I should also mention briefly the Pupil Premium, because it is referenced in the two New Zealand reports.

The original concept for the Premium has been described as a ‘positively discriminating voucher’ – a more equitable version of the free market voucher. But in its current form it is not strictly a voucher at all. It is a supply-side per capita payment to schools for each learner aged up to 16 who is eligible for free school meals. This year the payment is just £430 per student, but it is expected to increase to something over £1,500 by 2014-15.

Moreover, the money does not need to be spent exclusively on the learner who brings the entitlement. Schools are free to decide how to use the Premium payments they receive, including by bundling them together into a single purchase, though they will need to publish details of how they have been spent.

So the Pupil Premium is really a red herring in the context of this discussion, and it is time to draw the argument to a conclusion

Oceania New Zealand courtesy of Anita363

Key features of a workable gifted education voucher scheme

It is no easy task to pull these various strands together.

The commentary that follows is very much a work in progress. It offers some starting points for further discussion of the core elements within a workable gifted education voucher scheme, benefiting from the example offered by ‘Step Change’.

But it is tricky to get the tone exactly right. For, if the statements that follow are too generic and vague they will have little practical value. Conversely, they cannot be too specific, for every voucher scheme must be carefully designed to achieve SMART objectives that respond to identified needs in a given educational environment. It is not feasible to generate hard and fast rules with universal application.

‘Step Change’ offers the salutary lesson that the ‘problem’ a voucher scheme is designed to tackle must be very carefully pinned down. Its failure to engage with this essential groundwork ensures that the proposal it outlines is a house of cards.

I have divided the commentary into two sections: ‘upside’ captures the elements that seem to me to be relatively positive; ‘downside’ outlines the most significant problems that would need to be resolved, and for which I have only limited solutions.


Despite all its faults, ‘Step Change’ introduces the important idea that the increasingly fragmented nature of contemporary education provides a new and compelling justification for the introduction of vouchers.

A voucher is seemingly a good mechanism for funding a personalised education plan that draws together inputs from a range of different providers.

Gifted learners are amongst those least likely to have their needs fully met by the school at which they are enrolled. They are relatively more likely to access significant external enrichment and extension opportunities to supplement their core in-school learning experience.

A voucher would provide a mechanism to ensure that all eligible learners receive the same quantum of support, which is then divided as appropriate between these providers. So if the core provision from the learner’s own school covers 50% of the plan, it would receive 50% of the voucher’s total value.

If the value of the voucher is set at the same value as the average annual per capita cost of public schooling in the host education system, this will ensure that gifted learners do not receive preferential funding through the voucher,compared with their ineligible peers.

But if the voucher was set at this level it would be unlikely to match the fees at the majority of private schools, which are likely to be relatively higher. So if one wanted to introduce a fully transferable voucher, one would need to ensure that, when the voucher is deployed at a private school, the funding gap between the fees and the voucher is met. One way this might be achieved is through a means-tested bursary, with full scholarships available to those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It should not be necessary to include in the policy design a system for financially penalising providers who fail to improve student outcomes and rewarding those who succeed. It would be complex to attribute responsibility for a student’s success or failure between several different providers. If results are published openly, it would be sufficient to rely on the market to deliver reward through increased numbers attracted to successful provision.

A gifted education voucher may be a valid policy response to the reduction or even the removal of funding from many public sector gifted education programmes – part of the squeeze on public expenditure now enforced in many countries around the world.

The elimination of poor quality publicly-funded gifted education may be no bad thing. Parents of gifted learners are often persistent critics of the quality of gifted education and support in the schools their children attend. Parent participants in #gtchat complain that their children’s teachers are inadequately trained, the leadership is unresponsive to parental concerns and the school ethos is concentrated not on educational excellence but on bringing all students up to the same minimum level of achievement.

If the market mechanism works properly, a gifted education voucher scheme will widen choice, enabling the families of gifted learners to ‘vote with their feet’. Funding will be concentrated on the most effective providers, who will expand, while poorer providers will go to the wall. So supply-side funding should end up being concentrated on the best providers rather than being used to subsidise poor and good providers alike.

A voucher scheme can also be used as an instrument of equity, targeting limited public funding at those from disadvantaged backgrounds who cannot afford to meet the costs of private sector provision. This may reduce the deadweight cost associated with provision for all students regardless of income – those that can afford to pay from their own pockets will still do so.

Developing this equity argument further, gifted learners from disadvantaged backgrounds – including twice exceptional learners – have a double justification for voucher support. This might be addressed by weighting the voucher, as suggested in ‘Step Change’ to reflect their additional needs, perhaps by adding a flat rate per capita addition along the lines of the Pupil Premium. If the weighting reflected that which already applied to existing per capita school funding, gifted disadvantaged students would continue to receive exactly the same level of support as their disadvantaged peers.

The additional weighted funding available to gifted disadvantaged learners might be used to meet the cost of additional support, designed to equip them with the skills, aspirations, social and cultural capital of their more advantaged peers, helping to address the ‘excellence gap’ and strengthening social mobility through improved progression to university and on into professional careers.

Returning to the impact on the supply side, a voucher scheme should lead to a situation where some schools in both the public and private sectors would emerge as specialist centres of excellence in core delivery.

A wider range of providers, including universities, private sector businesses, charitable foundations – could be expected to compete with schools, especially as ‘non-core, providers, offering a choice of face-to-face, blended and online out-of-school learning opportunities.

Schools themselves would be likely to invest more significantly in out-of-school provision for gifted learners, so that they could recoup income potentially lost to competing providers. Collaborative arrangements would emerge enabling gifted students to spend part of their time in other schools within a network or partnership – and the partnership might offer joint out-of-school opportunities to all their gifted students.

Productive partnerships would also be likely to emerge between schools and other providers. For example, a group of schools could work with a university to enable school-aged gifted learners to take courses at undergraduate level.

Auckland by Night courtesy of Light Knight


It is all too easy to design a scheme that does not reach the students who most need support. The market will always favour those equipped to make rational choices and act on them. Strong safeguards are needed to ensure that any given scheme does not become dominated by learners from relatively advantaged backgrounds, or even the ‘impoverished middle classes’.

It might be a requirement that the proportion of disadvantaged gifted learners engaged in the programme broadly reflects their wider distribution in their school or local authority. Crude quotas would be avoided, but arrangements should embody the principle that ability is evenly distributed throughout the population, whether by gender, ethnicity or socio-economic background.

But it is arguably the case that any market-driven model will leave behind the hardest-to-reach, because the safeguards we can introduce will not address the fundamental problem of low aspirations, low expectations and disengagement amongst some elements of the learner population.

It is also necessary to contain the additional central costs associated with a scheme, particularly the financial management of voucher payments and the ‘learning broker mentor’ role which seems essential to the successful implementation of a programme that brings together several different providers.

Some central funding will have to be devoted to providing the necessary quality assurance systems, a management information system and thorough formative and summative evaluation. There is also further cost attributable to the additional places that have to be maintained in the system to allow choice to operate.

Part of this extra cost might be recouped by charging all approved providers a relatively modest subscription in return for their inclusion in the programme. But it will not be feasible to achieve a fiscally neutral scheme if all these elements are included in the balance sheet.

Thirdly, and most problematic of all, is how to avoid a negative impact on students not selected for the programme, particularly if they are stuck in schools denuded of their gifted peers.

One might make a case that such negative peer effects would be balanced and potentially outweighed by the additional attention the school can now give to addressing the needs of the remaining, more homogeneous population.

The more fundamental question is whether selection and ‘labelling’ for inclusion in a voucher scheme would inevitably put a brake on the whole system’s capacity to develop excellence in the maximum proportion of its learners.

The answer may depend on your personal philosophy of gifted education – and how you position yourself against the three polarities I identified in this early post.

Last words

I conclude that a targeted voucher scheme could potentially form a valuable element of a more holistic policy to improve the quality of gifted education, though it would be unlikely to work as a solitary measure.

If the purpose is to improve the quality of supply side provision, as seems to be the case in New Zealand, the market effects of a voucher might usefully be supplemented by collaborative efforts to disseminate and embed effective practice across the system, provided that competition and collaboration can co-exist.

It is unlikely that any voucher scheme can rid itself entirely of some of the negative effects outlined above, so a decision to proceed would depend on a judgement that the potential benefits outweigh the disbenefits.

From time to time, vouchers rise back to the top of the agenda in different parts of the world. It may be that Prime Minister Key’s response to ‘Step Change’ means that they are now off limits in New Zealand, although they may perhaps reappear on the other side of the General Election, depending on the outcome.

For the time being in England the Liberal Democrat element of the Coalition will probably ensure that any voucher proposals are ‘translated’ into something more palatable to their supporters, although this story from November 2010 shows that proponents of the pure voucher concept still nurse their ambitions.

Although the term itself has not appeared in recent policy documents and consultations on school funding reform, it would not be impossible for ‘real vouchers’ to be introduced on top of existing reforms at a later date, should our politics lurch to the Right.

But it is in the USA where interest in vouchers remains at its strongest. Perhaps we should look in that direction for the the first substantive pilot of vouchers targeted at gifted learners.

Meanwhile, all credit to the ‘Step Change’ working group for generating such food for thought from a distinctly dodgy report!


June 2011

School Vouchers and Gifted Education (Part One)

It’s a great honour to be included in the Blog Tour celebrating New Zealand Gifted Awareness Week 2011. This post, which is Kiwi-inspired, considers whether school vouchers could be an effective tool to improve gifted education.

I ought to begin with a health warning, intended for those who may encounter this post outside its normal environment. Gifted Phoenix defies some of the standard blogging conventions, in that the posts are typically long and rather complex.

My idealised imaginary reader has an informed, possibly academic or professional interest in gifted education and is attracted by evidence-based argument, thorough analysis and synthesis of existing online material and an effort to offer a different perspective, occasionally even to inject some small element of new thinking.

Put another way, Gifted Phoenix posts are a touch idiosyncratic, an acquired taste, not everyone’s cup of tea, maybe just the tiniest bit…Aspergery.

This one is no exception.

Why Vouchers?

To add insult to injury, I’ve chosen for your delectation a topic that offers no hint of empathy or practical support to those wrestling daily with the challenges presented by the education and parenting of gifted learners.

While researching a short piece on gifted education in New Zealand – part of a series I’ve been writing for G&T Update(£) on gifted education worldwide – I re-encountered the two reports produced in February 2010 by Heather Roy’s Inter-Party Working Group (IPWG) for School Choice.

I’d scanned them when they were first published but hadn’t really engaged with them properly. As far as I could establish from this distance, they met with a fair degree of hostility from the professional audience in New Zealand, but otherwise sank without trace.

For, on the same August day that Roy was sacked from her posts as Associate Education Minister and Deputy ACT Party Leader, New Zealand’s Prime Minister quietly let it be known that the IPWG’s recommendations had also bitten the dust.

The school choice debate is politically polarised. It is rare to find a balanced treatment of the arguments for and against because we tend to adopt our different positions on ideological grounds.

The IPWG reports were pro-voucher propaganda, typically selective in their use of evidence, but were also quite rightly criticised for failing to address many of the practical implications of the reforms they proposed. So, like everyone else, I pretty much dismissed them.

But, this time round, I paused over the innovative proposal for a voucher scheme targeted specifically (but not exclusively) at gifted learners. I began to consider more seriously whether such a scheme might help to address the issues currently facing gifted education in New Zealand, England and many other countries around the world.

I was also curious to find out how far the academic debate on education vouchers had moved on since I last engaged with it seriously, back in the 1980s.

So this post will examine the IPWG proposal in that wider context, explore the arguments for and against vouchers – hopefully in an even-handed and non-partisan fashion – make connections with related English education policy and, finally, offer some starting points for the development of a viable gifted education voucher scheme.

As I write this introduction I feel like an experimental chemist, about to mix two highly combustible elements that are not normally forced together. The compound created by the ‘V’ word and the ‘G’ word may be extremely unstable, even potentially toxic.

It won’t be a panacea; it could have sufficient potential to warrant further consideration. Or maybe you were right first time and it’s merely a damp squib that should have been left to fizzle out.

NZ Parliament Building courtesy of wiifm

What are vouchers and what are they for?

Education vouchers are a funding instrument, normally advocated by those who believe that a competitive, market-based approach is more likely to deliver quality and efficiency across the education system.

They contend that government-led education is monopolistic and bureaucratic – inherently unresponsive to the various and rapidly changing needs of parents as consumers – and inefficient because there is too little incentive to control costs.

Vouchers are a mechanism for distributing to families public funding for the education of their children. A proportion of education funding is tied to the individual learner and typically channelled through the demand side of the market, instead of being paid as a block grant on the supply side.

Parents and learners choose which schools will benefit from their custom, so they have much more influence on the education they provide. The balance of power switches away from the supply side and towards the family as consumers.

The proponents – I will call them ‘the centre’ (convenient shorthand for the body or bodies responsible for the education system in question) – must decide to what extent they wish to regulate the market they have created. This they can do by superimposing a selection of ‘checks and balances’.

These will impact on parents’ free choice of schools and/or on schools’ freedom to deliver a distinctive educational offer to the maximum number of learners.

The exercise of choice depends critically on popular schools having the flexibility to expand in response to greater demand from parents for places. Since overall demand is relatively fixed (determined by the total number of learners in the system) it follows that less popular schools will contract. If they become unsustainable they will ultimately close unless the ‘checks and balances’ prevent this.

Supply side flexibility will be controlled by the continued imposition of any universal requirements that are judged necessary to protect standards. They will include the framework set in place to hold schools accountable for their performance. This typically sets out arrangements for inspection and review, and for the publication of performance data, both of which also help to inform school choice decisions on the demand side.

There may also be requirements or incentives for schools to collaborate for the purpose of system-wide improvement. But there is inevitably a tension between competition and collaboration.

The circle is squared if it can be demonstrated that successful schools are driving up their own standards while also improving – rather than damaging – standards in their competitors. Although it is sometimes argued that competition alone can drive system-wide improvement, a judicious blend of competition and collaboration may be more successful, provided that it can be made to work.

But, if improvements in one school invariably result in falling standards elsewhere in the system, opponents of a market-driven approach will quite rightly object that the overall impact on system-wide standards is undermined, especially if the distribution of high quality provision continues to favour learners from advantaged backgrounds.

It is relatively rare now to find educators in advanced education systems who support a rigid, top-down ‘command and control’ system that tightly prescribes the freedom of schools. This method of ensuring that every learner in every school achieves a defined national educational standard is more associated with developing systems.

So this is not really a debate between proponents of two polarised approaches. Since the majority accept that market forces are helpful to some degree, the real issue is how to secure the right balance between market forces and market regulation.

Vouchers are wrongly regarded as a kind of badge or label denoting the more extreme market-driven models, but the reality is that voucher systems can support very different degrees of marketisation.

The arguments for and against vouchers

It follows from the point above that the advantages and disadvantages of a voucher scheme will depend on the particular design of that scheme and whether it is achieving the outcomes it was intended to achieve.

One cannot reasonably extend to all vouchers the benefits and disbenefits identified in the evaluations of specific schemes. Nor can one assume that the theoretical pros and cons will apply to each and every real-life scheme.

That said, a brief resume of the standard arguments for and against vouchers will provide helpful context for the remainder of this post, allowing us to take a more rounded view of the IPWG’s proposals.

Some of the arguments in favour have already been touched on in the previous section and I will not repeat them here. But the proponents of vouchers will also assert that:

  •  Parents from disadvantaged backgrounds should not have their choice of school limited to lower-performing public sector institutions in which their children are already concentrated (because more advantaged families typically secure the available places in higher-achieving schools or else pay for private education). Since these parents normally have limited opportunity to exercise meaningful choice, they are empowered by voucher schemes. The consequent redistribution of learners strengthens inclusion and cohesion and promotes social mobility.
  • When voucher-bearing learners move from a low-performing school to a higher-performing school, they achieve more highly because they are exposed to higher-quality teaching and benefit from learning alongside higher-achieving peers. This narrows achievement gaps between rich and poor and so improves educational standards overall.
  •  The market generates efficiency and drives up performance across the system as good schools strive to keep their market share and poorer schools strive to improve or face closure. In the case of transfer to the private sector, private schools can often provide a personalised education at lower cost because they do not have to meet expensive centrally-imposed requirements (various of the ‘checks and balances’) that apply across the public sector.

Auckland courtesy of Sids 1

Those opposed to vouchers will respond that:

  • Take-up is typically dominated by motivated learners from families with strong educational aspirations. Because they do not tackle the underlying issue of low educational aspiration, vouchers tend to increase the segregation of poor students with relatively less motivation and less parental support. They are left behind in the low-performing public sector schools and no longer benefit from the proximity of their higher-aspiring peers. Choice is further limited because the families who most need the support are least able to afford to move house or meet the cost of transport to another school. They are also least likely to access information about such schemes in the first place. As a result, vouchers may actually increase achievement gaps between rich and poor, so pulling down standards overall.
  •  Parents may not choose schools on the basis of educational standards, particularly if they do not access or give relatively little weight to school performance data. They may be more influenced by geographical proximity, local reputation, the attendance of friends and family. They may be disinclined to select schools with low proportions of learners from similar backgrounds or from their own minority ethnic group. In any case, it is not always possible to judge reliably in which school a particular pupil will achieve the best outcomes.
  • Vouchers weaken the public sector as a whole because, other than in quasi-voucher schemes (see ‘types of voucher schemes’ below) they divert resources away from it and into the private sector. Because accountability is less strong in the private sector, taxpayers’ money can be misused, or it can be applied in educational settings to which taxpayers might reasonably object. Overall costs will increase as private sector recipients become over-reliant on voucher funding. Administrative costs of the voucher scheme must also be factored in, as well as the cost of maintaining an over-supply of school places to enable the market to operate.
  •  Schools that lose students as a consequence of vouchers may find it hard to turn round their performance. Whereas a commercial operation might ditch non-core business, relocate to a cheaper building or change its suppliers, none of these options is available to a school. In practice, the closure of schools is not straightforward. If families and staff offer resistance, this creates additional political and economic costs.

The pragmatic and rather simplistic conclusion I draw from this argument is that an effective voucher scheme must get as close as possible to securing the advantages whilst making every effort to avoid the disadvantages. There may not be such a thing as a perfect voucher scheme, but a really good scheme will have the minimum of unintended, negative consequences.

This creates significant implications for key aspects of any scheme’s design, such as:

  • The rules governing eligibility;
  • How information about the scheme is disseminated, especially to those least likely to access it;
  • Whether parents must opt in or opt of a scheme;
  • How vouchers are allocated if demand exceeds supply;
  • The monetary value of the voucher and whether means-testing is applied;
  •  Whether receiving schools have any control over the voucher holders they take in;
  • Whether there are costs not covered by the voucher and, if so, how those are met;
  •  How lower-performing schools are managed (to improve or to close)
  • The overall costs of the voucher scheme – including the full administrative cost – and, of course,
  •  The SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timebound) objectives the particular scheme is designed to achieve.

Different kinds of voucher

The design of a voucher scheme is, in itself, part of the system of ‘checks and balances’. For example, the centre can regulate the market by providing vouchers to those learners who meet specific criteria, or by imposing restrictions on where vouchers can be spent, so insuring against market effects deemed undesirable.

Different kinds of voucher scheme have been developed for different contexts:

  • Universal schemes (sometimes called full schemes) are introduced across all schools in an education system, regardless of whether they are in the public or private sectors;
  •  Scholarship schemes support learners currently educated in the public sector to attend private sector schools (and are often designed specifically for learners from disadvantaged backgrounds);
  • Quasi-voucher schemes operate only in public sector schools, acting as a redistributive mechanism by increasing pupil numbers in popular schools at the expense of those that are relatively less popular;
  •  Targeted schemes are for a defined subset of learners, such as those from disadvantaged backgrounds, or those with special educational needs or, indeed, those identified as gifted and talented.

This post is not directly concerned with universal schemes which, by definition, are designed to cater for all students in all schools. Nor is it concerned with scholarship models, although they account for a relatively large proportion of the voucher schemes currently under way in different parts of the world.

I want to concentrate on targeted schemes that select eligible pupils at least partly on the basis of academic ability or academic achievement but which operate across the public and private sectors, or (as quasi-vouchers) in the public sector only.

Heather Roy courtesy of cleOpatra

The Inter-Party Working Group (IPWG) for School Choice

As Kiwi readers will know, a minority National Government was elected in New Zealand in November 2008. The National Party did not establish a formal coalition but instead formed ‘Confidence and Supply Agreements’ with three smaller parties: ACT, the Maori Party and United Future.

The agreement between ACT and the National Party included provision for a report on

‘policy options relating to the funding and regulation of schools that will increase parental choice and school autonomy.’

So a Working Group was convened in April 2009, comprising representatives of the National Party, ACT and the Maori Party under the Chairmanship of Heather Roy.

The terms of reference were to:

  • ‘Review school funding and examine options that will reduce central control and treat all schools on a more equal basis according to enrolments;
  • Consider whether funding mechanisms should include alternative arrangements for special factors(eg transport, special needs) and decile funding, and for additional fees;
  • Review enrolment scheme policy and other regulations which may limit parental choice and the ability of schools to respond to parental demand;
  • Examine the concept of trust schools and other models which might facilitate greater self management and innovation, and the registration and accountability mechanisms for such schools that might accompany the relaxation of detailed controls;
  •  Consider the interface elements of the education system such as Maori education, school property, school transport, special education and the Correspondence School with a more choice-oriented system; and
  • Review policies in other countries, in particular Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands and Ireland, for lessons that may be relevant to the Working Group’s task.’

In the event, the Group could not agree how to address all of the items on this agenda and so produced two separate reports. The main report is called ‘ Step Change: Success the Only Option’ but there is also a much longer minority report called ‘Free to Learn’ which carries the signatures of the two ACT members: Roy herself and Sir Roger Douglas.

The preface to the minority report describes the relationship between the two in the following terms:

Free to Learn shares the chief concerns of Step Change: Success the Only Option, the final report of the IPWG. It commends Step Change: Success the Only Option for its emphasis on New Zealand’s poorest performing (20 percent) students and its gifted and talented (5 percent) students.

 Beyond this, however, Free to Learn holds that the recommendations in Step Change: Success the Only Option will have much greater impact if the remaining 75 percent of New Zealand students are allowed to benefit from them. Freedom of choice for parents, school innovation, better results and cost savings as a result of competition should be available to every New Zealander.’

So ‘Free to Learn’ is advocating a universal voucher scheme, whereas ‘Step Change’ is recommending a targeted scheme. Whereas ‘Free to Learn’ draws significantly (and rather one-sidedly) on the international evidence base, the main report barely references it. Indeed the main report is markedly narrow in scope – it does not properly address any of the terms of reference given above.

Nor does ‘Step Change’ propose its targeted scheme as a formal pilot for the universal scheme recommended in ‘Free to Learn’ (and it is arguable whether it could properly operate as a pilot given that its target groups are likely to have somewhat different needs to the bulk of the school-age population) but simply declares, with some naivety:

‘If the initiative is successful it can be extended to the remaining 75 percent of New Zealand students’.

I have no insight into the internal discussion and disagreement that prevented the working group from producing a single report. Perhaps some Kiwi readers may be able to shed more light on this.

It would be particularly interesting to understand the rationale that led the non-ACT members to support vouchers for gifted and low-attaining learners, but to oppose their universal application. Presumably they must have been convinced that vouchers were relatively better suited to meeting the needs of the two minority groups. But neither report addresses this issue. Perhaps it was simply a political compromise and the educational arguments were irrelevant.

The target groups for the proposed ‘Step Change’ vouchers?

‘Step Change’ begins with a brief review of the performance of the New Zealand education system, focusing particularly on either end of the achievement spectrum. It concentrates on the 20% lowest-achieving and ‘the top 5% who are gifted and talented’ (without defining the latter apart from specifying a 6-16 age range).

There is no justification whatsoever for the choice of either of these two percentages. The 5% figure for the gifted and talented may be more correctly interpreted as an achievement measure rather than an ability measure, but there is no clue beyond the choice of a fixed percentage.

These two groups are of course very different, with markedly different needs. The report identifies them as equally deserving of support, but its very different approach to the diagnosis of their predicaments is revealing.

The lowest-achieving 20% are defined exclusively by low student performance, against NCEA levels 1 and 2 (those not achieving Level 2 are dismissed by the Report as ‘this failing 33%’). There is specific reference to the significant proportions of Maori and Pasifika students who did not achieve NCEA level 1.

Conversely, the focus on gifted students is not justified by evidence of their underachievement, as one might expect, but by poor school-based provision and support:

‘The Education Review Office (ERO) has found that provision is highly responsive and appropriate in only one in five schools, with 58 percent of schools, programmes and provisions being either somewhat or not appropriate and responsive.’

This is in fact an incorrect reference to the 2008 Report from ERO ‘Schools’ Provision for Gifted and Talented Students’. The table on page 25 of this report shows that provision is ‘highly appropriate and responsive’ in only 5% (one in 20) schools, not 20% as suggested by ‘Step Change’.

It is responsive and appropriate in a further 37%, ‘somewhat responsive and appropriate in 41% and ‘not responsive and appropriate’ in 17% (the two latter giving the 58% figure).

It is not clear why this indicator is singled out from the other four that ERO considered, and why the Report did not rely instead on the overall findings:

Wellington courtesy of

  • 17% percent of schools had good provision across all five areas;
  • 48% had good provision in some areas but not others; and
  • 35% did not have good provision in any of the five areas.

But the bigger issue is the decision to ignore pupil performance evidence in the case of gifted learners. It could potentially be explained by the lack of national achievement statistics for a properly identified gifted and talented population, but the (admittedly imperfect) proxy offered by the results of high achievers would surely have been better than nothing.

Then again, it would be problematic to use those results to support a claim that vouchers would help to secure a much-needed improvement in the achievement of gifted learners.

For the inconvenient truth is that New Zealand’s high achievers are performing very well indeed, especially when compared with their peers in other countries.

This was acknowledged by Education Minister Anne Tolley following the publication of PISA 2009:

‘”We have a lot to be proud of, as this study confirms our top students are among the best in the world,” says Mrs Tolley…

Our challenge is to work together to address the issues raised in the report.

New Zealand continues to have a disproportionate number of lower achievers, and this hasn’t changed in the past nine years”’.

My own analysis of PISA data on the performance of high achievers confirms that New Zealand’s high achievers are outperforming most other countries, including England’s, particularly in maths and science.

So, on the basis of this evidence, one can only conclude that those gifted students in New Zealand who are also high achievers produce very high levels of performance in spite of the limited support offered to gifted and talented learners by one-third of New Zealand schools.

This is a serious issue for ‘Step Change’ because it begs the question whether a single voucher scheme can be designed to meet the markedly different circumstances impacting on the two different ends of the target population.

If the primary objective for the low-achieving 20% is to improve their personal achievement, while the primary objective for the gifted 5% is to improve the quality of support provided to them by their schools, then – arguably at least – a single scheme would be too crude an instrument to address both these issues simultaneously.

If we accept that voucher schemes are not a panacea and need to be designed carefully to address specific policy problems, then it would be far better to create a separate customised scheme for the gifted 5%.

But ‘Step Change’ is far from consistent on the critical question of what exactly the gifted element of the scheme is supposed to achieve, as we shall see next time.

In Part Two…

The arguments advanced in ‘Step Change’ have already begun to unravel under this initial scrutiny, but it may still be possible to salvage a reasonable case in principle for introducing vouchers for New Zealand’s gifted learners.

In Part Two of this post we will explore whether the central voucher proposal in ‘Step Change’ is likely to address the identified problem. Then we can position this analysis in a wider international and historical context. Finally we can consider whether the accumulated evidence provides a basis for some guiding principles for a workable gifted education voucher scheme.


June 2011

Building a Federation of UK G&T interests – Learning from New Zealand

The History

In Autumn 2009 I invited England’s Gifted and Talented Stakeholder Group to consider a short paper I had prepared about the potential benefits of closer collaboration between the interests they represented.

I argued that this would be necessary to ensure the survival of a national programme for G&T education given the:

  • imminent end of the contract with CfBT to run the Young Gifted and Talented (YG&T) programme;
  • limited transfer of responsibility from CfBT to the National Strategies;
  • limited scope of National Strategies activity in their final year, culminating in their termination in March 2011 and
  • impending cuts to public expenditure

The ensuing discussion was predictably disappointing. Many of the stakeholders had become accustomed to – perhaps even dependent on – a ‘top-down’ programme and couldn’t easily visualise the picture of the future that I was painting.

I suppose I had anticipated that it would be too soon for the Group to engage seriously with the issues, but it seemed to me important to plant the seeds of subsequent discussion.

Unknown to me, that discussion began very shortly afterwards during the last few months of 2009.

Recent developments

I first became aware that talks were under way when invited to get involved in April 2010, following my retirement.

I argued for rapid action to establish a national federation or network. This was slightly before a General Election that the Conservatives were expected to win.

Their policy agenda was built around a ‘big society’ concept which involves delegating responsibilities away from Government to the voluntary and third sectors. At least part of the purpose – if undeclared – was to help them to manage the swingeing public expenditure cuts that they were also committed to securing.

I produced a first draft plan for the network – designed to secure initial consensus about its aims and purposes.

I offered to undertake the related development and secretariat work necessary to secure its establishment on a firm footing…only to be asked to stop because some factions were reportedly suspicious of my proximity to the Government. This on the verge of an Election that was about to introduce an entirely new one!

It was cowardly of those factions not to discuss their concerns with me face to face.  But the situation was also intensely frustrating as I was convinced that having a network in place as soon as the new Government assumed power could pay major dividends.

It would have allowed us to ‘get in on the ground floor’ in terms of the new Government’s policy agenda for education and ‘the big society’ and to make vital policy connections with other interests while their plans were at the earliest stage of development. It might even have secured a fleeting reference in the forthcoming Schools White Paper.

In May I wrote an article for G&T Update (subscription required) setting out the case for an inclusive ‘G&T coalition’ and outlining some important links to the Coalition Government’s policy agenda.

I ended the article by urging that an entity must be in place by September at the latest, with an agreed 5-year strategy and an outline business plan. That timetable will not now be met and the potential benefits I identified are much less likely to be realised.

The draft proposal

The article was published in July. Meanwhile, an initial open meeting had taken place in June 2010 to discuss the prospects for a network. Progress felt painfully slow. There was lots of talking around the issue but the only practical outcomes have been a draft outline proposal and a commitment to meet again in September.

The draft proposal says:

‘There was broad agreement at the meeting that the establishment of a national group to enhance and promote the profile of GT education is imperative.

GT education is unlikely to be a Government priority in the foreseeable future and impending funding cuts will impact significantly on this policy area. It is only as a unified group of GT education supporters that we will be able to provide a degree of clarity to those seeking support and serve as a pressure group for change at local, national and international levels, by:

  • advocating for equitable educational opportunities for those with high learning potential, including GT students;
  • working pro-actively to raise the profile of the needs of GT learners with a range of stakeholders;
  • working collaboratively to develop policy and delivery models that take account of wider educational change, and helping to secure funding where appropriate;
  • developing a professional community to network, support and learn from each other;
  • encouraging the pursuit and sharing of best practice in GT education;
  • helping ensure that GT education can make a significant contribution to social mobility;
  • engaging in practical research that sets out to demonstrate the value of focusing on GT provision.

As far as possible, the group will undertake these activities without compromising the autonomy, influence and income-generating capacity of its members.’

The international dimension

I was responsible for the introduction of the word ‘international’, not least because such a network could have an important role in supporting Hungary’s plans for an EU initiative – a welcome development that I have covered in a previous post.

I also suggested the final sentence.

Incidentally, I should mention in passing that discussion at the meeting was confined largely to England. An important future consideration is whether we can and should create a UK-wide network taking full account of the interests of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Maybe Eire would also like to be affiliated.

We can learn much from giftEDnz a similar coalition of interests established in New Zealand.

GiftedEDnz is impressive in many ways. It successfully attracted start-up and development funding from the Todd Foundation ($NZ 15,900 and $NZ 47,130 respectively). It has an established constitution, a website and newsletter.

It is piloting special interest groups (using the second tranche of Todd Foundation funding). It has already hosted a mini-conferences and is working towards its first majorevent in 2011.

But the New Zealand organisation has one major weakness – it is not fully inclusive. By confining itself to professional interests and not including the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children (NZAGC) it is potentially missing a trick.

I am clear from discussion with the chair of giftEDnz that this is all perfectly amicable and that her organisation enjoys a close relationship with NZAGC.

But I can see no reason for the UK to follow the same path.

A professional network or an inclusive network?

As I write, the draft proposal is circulating with the following proposed title and strapline:

G&T – One Voice

the national professional community
for the support and nurture
of gifted and talented young people,
and their families and educators

One doesn’t need a Nobel Prize to spot the contradiction in this statement, emphasised as it is by italicising the word ‘professional’

I for one shall be arguing strongly against such an exclusive approach when we meet again in September.

One fundamental purpose of the network is to bring all parties to the table in an inclusive fashion. No-one’s interests are served by excluding parents, carers and learners from proceedings.

It means that key topics such as parental engagement and student voice will be addressed from a narrow professional perspective. It runs directly counter to the Government’s direction of travel in encouraging groups of parents to establish their own free schools.

Were I a betting man, I would lay a wager that this emphasis originates with…

…Well perhaps I won’t name them, for the time being at least. Discretion is the better part of valour – and I want to give them an opportunity to prove me wrong.

For now  I will confine myself to making three cautious observations of a general nature:

  • Firstly, there are players in UK  G&T education that have considerable pride in their professional credentials. In some cases there are widely divergent views as to whether such pride is justified by the quality of output and the capacity to improve provision. When some of the most positive statements emanate from the entity itself, that tends to indicate a degree of insecurity rather than full and complete confidence in one’s own performance;
  • Secondly, anyone bringing a ‘not invented here’ mentality to future discussions will sabotage our best efforts to secure a full and effective partnership between G&T interests in this country. That would not be in the best interests of our gifted and talented learners, even if some believe that it would better serve the needs of their educators;
  • Thirdly, by the same token, anyone susceptible to that mentality will need to be thoroughly confident of their capacity to ‘go it alone’, potentially in head-to-head competition with a coalition of all the other interests in the field. They may be wise to adopt a ‘wait and see’ stance, reserving their position until they can judge more accurately whether or not the network is likely to be successful.

Let’s wait and see what happens.

For the avoidance of doubt, these are my personal views and not those of any organisation with which I am associated.


July 2010

Short posts on various international organisations

I have added pages on:

It’s not easy for a non-member to find reliable information on the recent activities of any of these. If you have access to more detailed information, please add it in the comments below.