Tags: G&T Coordinator | Gifted and Talented | Gifted and talented pupils | Headteacher | Learning Partnerships | Networks and Networking | School Leadership & Management

Gifted and talented support in the regions is being consolidated in a new partnership model. In 2004 NAGTY began to set up ‘regional gateways’ as part of its delivery of programmes and activities particularly for primary and CPD

Their work is organised through steering groups of representatives of bodies with an interest in G&T education. In 2005 the DfES Gifted and Talented Education Unit (GTEU) set up regional networks to create opportunities to spread good practice and foster contact between education professionals in the regions. These were based on the government office regions: the North East, North West, South West, East Anglia, East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humberside. The capital already had London G&T. The DfES also set up the National Rural Network to reach small and isolated schools across the whole of England.

The definition of a rural school is ‘Those schools, often small, as identified by local factors where geographical location and sparse population can make networking and the delivery of effective provision problematic.’ Head of the Rural Network is Jo Steele, based in Cumbria. Its role is to develop a network across national agencies to ensure activities and strategies are extended to rural areas, and as a support group for self-initiated local work.

Those regional gateways and networks not already linked are to be brought together in a partnership model. Each partnership will combine all the region’s local authorities, NAGTY, HE partners, Aimhigher and others interested in improving G&T provision. Each regional partnership has a remit to:

  • demonstrate best practice
  • achieve economies of scale
  • lead regional development
  • plan G&T activities for pupils.

The DfES has also asked partnerships to consider:

  • the implementation of the Institutional Quality Standards (published in October 2005) and the draft Classroom Quality Standards (published spring 2006)
  • the development of models of best practice and its dissemination
  • support for transformation from Excellence in Cities to education improvement partnerships (EIPs)
  • the appointment of a coordinator.

In some cases partnerships are already in operation – indeed, in some regions such as the South West, the gateway and network have been combined from the start. Sandra Howard of the GTEU believes that their main achievement has been in the collaboration of LAs, ‘sharing best practice, gaining good common understanding and taking strategies forward. Some of it has been about awareness raising. For example, the East Midlands partnership has a two-day conference in March; the first day will be attended by senior LA staff and other key partners.’

Sandra is also pleased that NAGTY’s work now also includes providing local activities, through the partnerships for primary-age pupils.

‘The most difficult aspect of partnership work is that people are doing it on top of their day job. Many are also LA advisers with very wide remits.’

Sandra and her colleagues share a vision for the partnerships that includes becoming self-sustainable and gaining recognition for their impact on provision. They recognise that organisation may be different in local contexts, but all the partnerships will be working to the same expectations.

Focus on the South West

G&T regional support has got off to a running start in the South West. Jane West talked to Phil Creek about his work as chair of the South West Gate

The South West Gate (Gifted and Talented Education) is responsible for G&T regional support in the area covered by the South West Government Office, which extends over 350km from the south-west tip of Cornwall to the northern border of Gloucestershire. It has the largest land area of the nine English regions and the highest percentage of land classified as rural; in other words, a huge area in which to try and get schools and local authorities to work together.

Phil Creek is the man responsible as chair of the SW Gate. As the arts and G&T adviser for Devon, Curriculum Services (DCS) he is allotted 40 days out of his year in which to do G&T work, although he freely admits that it takes up over 50% of his time. Phil’s work as chair of the SW Gate doesn’t carry any salary at all, and he does it as part of his work for DCS.

Because Phil combines the roles of both NAGTY gateway and GTEU organiser, the partnership model has effectively been working in the South West right from the start. At present the region receives £30,000 network finance from the GTEU for coordination. Phil has two support colleagues, who between them provide five days a week G&T support. There will be additional funding from the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY) for outreach work and from the DfES for work connected with the Quality Standards and disseminating good practice.

Rapid progress

Regional work has got off to a quicker start in the South West than in some other parts of the country.

‘We hit the ground running,’ says Phil, ‘because by the initial talks of summer 2003, we had a committee in place and, later, held a showcase for students and we already had our own self-evaluation framework. We met with other local authorities to coordinate activity and share provision.
‘In the first year we had just £10,000 from the DfES and additional funding from NAGTY – that barely covered everyone’s travel expenses. But it was sufficient to get us going and we’ve had subsequent increases, now £30,000 a year for coordination, and we have guaranteed income for the foreseeable future.’

Although money (or lack of it) is an ongoing concern, Phil’s work for Devon G&T can bring in extra revenue through selling courses and consultancy which, in turn, funds further G&T activities. Strictly speaking, this work is for DCS.

Phil first got involved in G&T work in 1999. ‘I was the art adviser for Devon since 1990 and then the person doing G&T left. In those days it was a smaller job supporting pupils and parents – not unlike the work the NAGC do.’

‘There are some things we can’t do. Even in Devon, let alone the SW region, countywide twilight sessions are unworkable because of the distances involved.’

One of Phil’s greatest allies in the early days was his right-hand man Derek Battersby.

‘Derek was a G&T coordinator in a Devon school. He knew what schools needed to do. He’s now moved to Shropshire but still has an advisory role and coordinates much of the research work for SW G&T. Christine Mitchell is a G&T researcher in early years and primary and she has recently taken on some of Derek’s work.’

I’m proudest of our success in bringing enrichment, extension and outreach activities together with CPD and research for staff

Achievement and limitations

Phil admits that it’s not all been easy going: ‘There have been different levels of involvement from the South West’s 16 LAs – it’s been a case of keeping all the balls in the air. But we do now have PLASC data being registered with the DfES.

‘I think our biggest achievement is bringing together the G&T “family” of schools, students, parents, governors, the partnership, DfES and NAGTY – collaboration is vital. We’ve built on the existing work of Devon LEA’s G&T support group, although we’ve now moved on significantly (NAGTY membership from schools in the SW Gate is now increasing in all schools). As a partnership, we’re sharing data across LAs – this is new to the South West, and probably new to other regions, too. Debbie Sainsbury from Bristol LA recently posted an email on the GTEU’s mailbase saying that sharing data should be “a matter of form”, and, of course, she’s right. It should be done annually.

 Phil agrees that one-off experiences are also valuable for young people – ‘we all know that one person can change your life,’ – but hopes that the enrichment-CPD model the SW are developing will be used more widely.

The focus on maths outreach work is a direct result of G&T work in Devon. ‘For the last six years, Devon ran a number of courses for pupils on poetry, humanities, literacy and so on. There was always a huge take-up in Years 5 and 6 for any maths courses. I suppose it presents a greater challenge for teachers in meeting the needs of their most able mathematicians.

‘We focus on primary age pupils because NAGTY focuses on secondary age pupils. But we have arranged for the sculptor Peter Randall-Page to talk to secondary age pupils from the South West Gate at Exeter University.
‘He’s a member of the design team at the Eden Project’s new education resource centre and is working on a giant granite sculpture, cut from local stone. It’s fantastic for pupils to meet people who are passionate about their work, like Peter. We will be developing some outreach work for our more able scientists, too.’

Quality Standards

The SW Gate has developed a training programme to help teachers use the new GTEU materials. The training consists of a half-day course for senior management team staff on how to use the SEF materials, including the subject-specific materials now available.

‘This is a familiar model because a lot was based on the work Devon had already done. Schools need a suitable tool for evaluation of G&T provision. This is what the new materials do and you can type your information straight into the website version. Brilliant!’

All the regional partnerships are setting up test-bed schools to use the newly developed and published Quality Standards. A cross-selection of 10 schools from each region (and five from the Rural Partnership) were chosen by the regions from entry, developing, exemplary and even pre-entry schools – primary, secondary, special schools and FE colleges are included.

The effect of the recent white paper

‘I think that being the G&T coordinator or the SENCO is a job in itself,’ says Phil. ‘Both require a specific focus and, generally, you can do one or the other well. Who will have the lead role? Each secondary school and family of primary schools will have a lead teacher responsible for G&T.’

In the South West, Learning Communities have been successful. ‘They’ve given us a huge freedom. We can use funding to share planning and policies and SEFs.

‘The key to successful G&T provision is secure funding for schools over five years to plan provision properly. We’re moving towards that and we need to build on what’s already in place – planning where we want to be in a few year’s time.’

Contacts and further information

Phil Creek, chair

Sandra Howard, policy adviser to the Gifted and Talented Education Unit

SW Gate website: www.southwestgate.org.uk

The NAGTY regional pages include information and contact details:
www.nagty.ac.uk/professional_academy/regions/index.aspx

Information about regional partnerships including contact details will be posted on the G&T Wise website soon: www.teachernet.gov.uk/gtwise

‘Personally, I’m proudest of our success in bringing enrichment, extension and outreach activities together with CPD and research for staff. What’s the point in activities for pupils if the teachers don’t even know the content – which is what happened before. Now teachers and students are involved together and the learning is shared.’

This article first appeared in Gifted & Talented Update – Apr 2006

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