The able, gifted and talented continue to make strides at the first school to receive NACE’s Challenge Award, as deputy headteacher and G&T coordinator David Futerman explains
About Chesham Park Chesham Park Community College in Buckinghamshire is a mixed-sex secondary school for 700 11-18 year olds, serving a socially mixed catchment from which 30% of pupils are allocated places in grammar schools. Despite being perceived to be an affluent, leafy suburb there are pockets of poverty in the area and some of the children come from homes where lack of material wealth is an issue. Nevertheless, the school also has a fair proportion of more able pupils and the aim of its G&T initiative, which has been running for two years, is to identify and stimulate these children and counterbalance the potentially demoralising effect of failure in the 11+ examinations.
Being the first school to be awarded the NACE Challenge Award for excellent provision for the gifted has provided the impetus for the continual development of that provision at Chesham Park.
What we’re doing now Since receiving the award in June 2004, we have run a ‘Newspaper in a Day’ scheme where the G&T students produced a newspaper using news stories from the internet but writing their own copy and putting together a whole paper using new software, Frontpage.
Students also participated in a film project where a director from MTV took a group of students through the process of filmmaking and produced a five-minute publicity trailer about the school, current news and the weather! Students were assigned roles such as key grip (construction coordinator and back-up for the camera crew), best boy (assistant chief lighting technician) and assistant to the assistant director – just like in Hollywood! The finished publicity film has been very well received by parents and visitors.
It is such a privilege being the school’s G&T coordinator, having the authority to experiment with different approaches to challenge and excite our gifted and more able students
A group of year 10 and year 11 students have been engaged in an outreach programme in local primary schools. Students visited five primary schools and taught subjects such as evaporation, the origin of the Second World War and long multiplication to groups of year 5 and year 6 pupils, first as a whole class and then offering to help groups and individuals of all abilities. This has been very successful and has resulted in reciprocal visits by the primary schools, who came and taught our students a thing or two about chess and introduced us to the Japanese strategy game of Go.
Along with mentoring younger students, entering design competitions and taking part in a summer school, our G&T students have their needs catered for, as long as they are willing and ready to apply themselves. Students in this school tend not to be proactive – they need to be motivated and have things laid out for them before they actually get going. Underachievers are motivated by our learning mentor and all pupils on the G&T register have monthly meetings with a member of the teaching staff. In these groups, G&T students, one each from year 8, year 9, year 10 and year 11 are mentored together to see how well they feel they are being challenged.
For our teaching staff, acquiring our newly won award status was an impetus to take training to another level. A group of six teachers have received training in teaching creative thinking and have delivered lessons in this topic to groups of year 7 while being observed by others in the team. These teachers taught lessons (so far in reading images and living graphics) and were observed by other members of the teaching group. The teaching was then evaluated together with a consultant from the LEA. We will now do further work on these two themes which are from the Secondary Strategy and then roll it out to all staff in the summer.
Although philosophy has been taught in many primary schools for some time now, these same teachers wish to learn the techniques involved and try to improve our year 7 students with similar moral and ethical skills through teaching them philosophy.
We have now laid plans to enable our G&T students to twin virtually with schools in Eastern Europe to discuss issues of common interest, which might lead to teacher and student exchanges. We found our partner schools via www.etwinning.net.
So far we have received positive responses from schools in Slovenia and Latvia. We hope to have teacher exchanges, email discussions, e-work on a newspaper and video-conferencing.
It is such a privilege being the school’s G&T coordinator, having the authority to experiment with different approaches to challenge and excite our gifted and more able students, and, in some cases, (as happened with our plan to introduce debating to our gifted sixth formers) to fail completely! Why? We think the students had no schooling in the art of debating; we’re trying to overcome this by having small group discussions – but we feel we have a long way to go!
The NACE Challenge Award
NACE’s Challenge Award/Self-Evaluation Framework is for both primary and secondary schools. It is designed to support schools in the development of their whole-school G&T strategy and provides:
- a structure, shape and direction for longer-term planning
- a whole-school audit
- external recognition of the quality of the school’s G&T provision.
It also demonstrates commitment to continuous improvement. Schools use it to help them meet the quality standards because, with the supporting documents, it shows how to improve provision and what to look for as evidence of effectiveness.