How are ‘leading schools’ or ‘gifted and talented centres’ selected, and how will they fulfil their role? The Yorkshire and Humber partnership is in the early stages of the G&T project

Yorkshire and Humber was the first region to select schools as ‘gifted and talented centres’ last term. This is the latest initiative designed to strengthen and enhance the work of regional partnerships, acknowledge outstanding practice and facilitate the sharing of expertise.

The selection process in Yorkshire and Humber consisted of two stages:

  1. the completion by schools of a detailed application form, followed by
  2. a presentation to a selection panel.

In order to be considered for G&T centre status, schools were asked to demonstrate:

  • outstanding leadership and management
  • teaching and learning that meets the full range of learners’ needs
  • an improvement plan or equivalent that explicitly refers to G&T
  • how they intervene to avoid underachievement of learners identified as G&T
  • evidence of exemplary practice in at least five elements of IQS
  • external support from one of: LA, SIP, Challenge Award
  • capacity to be a regional centre in the areas of expert coaching, research and dissemination.

The resulting presentations were characterised by high levels of commitment and enthusiasm. Four schools were finally selected, each with different strengths, so that they can pool expertise and offer a wide range of support and guidance to other schools in the region. The schools selected are:

  • Brinsworth Comprehensive School
  • Crigglestone St James CofE J&I School
  • Lindley CofE Infant School
  • Minsthorpe Community College.

Additional funding (£5,000) will be made available to selected schools to enable staff to be released from their timetable in order to plan support, visit other schools and liaise with the regional partnership team. During this school year (Sept 2008 to July 2009), each centre will:

  • lead activity related to the national G&T agenda and work as expert coaches with at least six schools in developing their IQS from ‘entry’ to ‘developing’  
  • contribute to a regional G&T conference, provisionally scheduled for June 2009
  • contribute to regional partnership work by attending at least two workshops with other centres
  • publish a report on involving learners in addressing underachievement and raising aspiration within their school community.

Minsthorpe Community College

Minsthorpe Community College is situated in the regenerating SESKU (South Elmsall, South Kirkby, Upton) area of south-east Wakefield and is centred around a popular and over-subscribed secondary school for more than 1,800 full time students aged 11 to 19. Around the core activity there is a range of facilities and opportunities for local people of all ages, offering education, training and activities for 50 weeks of the year, throughout the week, weekends and holidays. Facilities include:

  • adult education
  • Happy Days children’s centre
  • sports and fitness centre
  • training and conference centre.

The management structure is a key strength. Rachael Merritt is assistant principal (support for achievement) and her role involves ensuring that G&T students are identified, provided with appropriate opportunities and supported along the way. This means that there is a strong G&T presence at strategic level. Teachers Erika Deakin and Jenny Read, as designated G&T coordinators/ leading teachers, work with Rachael to implement the college’s programme on a day-to-day basis. The three are confident in the college’s capacity to be a regional centre through a proposed model of expert coaching, research and dissemination.

The college staff are committed to tackling underachievement. In Year 9, Year 11 and post-16, intelligent accountability allows staff to identify students who may need particular focus. G&T coordinators use a contextual value added (CVA) tracker to monitor student progress in all subject areas and in relation to FFT (Fisher Family Trust) predictions, and to pick out any students who may need other intervention/support. For all year groups, a G&T tracker using SIMs data shows:

  • whether students are particularly ‘talented’ in a specific area
  • any extra-curricular activities they undertake
  • targets set by subject teachers
  • whether students are involved in any other college initiatives.

Intervention strategies are employed to good effect: a referral system allows G&T coordinators to identify underachievement quickly, leading to positive dialogue with classroom teachers and intervention strategies being put in place. These strategies include teacher focus in lessons, and mentoring sessions with a teacher chosen by the student.

Summary of Minsthorpe’s strengths

Minsthorpe’s support-for-achievement programme includes:

  • well-established G&T strategy delivered by an experienced G&T team
  • whole-college drive for improvement, in which the G&T strategy is a highly-regarded integral element
  • effective use of data
  • intervention in cases of underachievement
  • implementation of IQS and CQS across the college
  • strong position to lead future developments of G&T on a regional level
  • clear vision of Minsthorpe as an effective regional G&T centre in Yorkshire and Humber.