The National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth was established at Warwick University in 2002. Director Professor Deborah Eyre explains her vision for its future.
This is a year of considerable opportunity for G&T education; priorities in the current general education agenda have the potential to embed provision securely, so that every child who can benefit from greater intellectual challenge will receive it.
The G&T environment
G&T is now firmly located within the personalisation agenda and will benefit from this overall focus on placing the needs of the individual at the heart of the education system. Personalisation, in essence, builds on the good work at institutional level and delves deeper to consider the needs of each and every child.
Of course, while personalisation may be the home for G&T, the wider context also provides opportunities. For example, the New Relationship With Schools (NRwS) is giving schools the freedom to develop individually in ways that best suit their particular pupils and their community, thereby making the most of their strengths. In addition, Every Child Matters is ensuring the welfare of the whole child is given high priority and this is just as important for the G&T as for other children. Finally, the greater emphasis on out-of-hours learning, through extended schools and wider schooling, is creating a legitimate home for those non-core-curriculum opportunities that have always been so crucial to the development of individual excellence.
NAGTY is working on behalf of government to support the development of G&T education. The strategic priorities in our corporate plan are to:
- help secure the role of G&T education within national education policy
- map the quality of G&T education and continually track improvement
- become the focus for national and international expertise in G&T education
- secure high-quality schooling for all G&T children and young people
- identify and track the G&T population that makes up the national top 5%
- secure access to high-quality wider schooling opportunities for all G&T young people in the national top 5%.
Achievements and commitments
The white paper Higher Standards: Better Schools for All has the most extensive profile for pupils with particular gifts and talents ever and outlines plenty of work for NAGTY in the future. Some of these commitments are building on existing work and some are new ideas for the future:
- A commitment to gifted children from every background.
- A recognition that work has only started and there is still a way to go.
- A commitment to a focus on KS3, working through us at NAGTY, the National Strategies, Specialist Schools and Academies Trust and Youth Sports Trust.
- Commitment to placing every pupil aged 11-18 years in the top 5% on a national register so that they can benefit from the NAGTY student academy.
- Expansion of the commitment to summer schools.
- Financial help for NAGTY members who fall into the vulnerable groups (disadvantaged) who will take part in the NAGTY Goal Programme.
- Re-affirmation of commitment to ‘stage not age’ and changes at GCSE and A-level laid out in the 14-19 white paper in February 2005.
NAGTY is working on behalf of government to support the development of G&T education
The Student Academy is the area of NAGTY’s work that is best known. Currently about 75,000 members from 60% of secondary schools are registered with the NAGTY Student Academy and benefit from the opportunities it offers.
These opportunities have grown very rapidly in the last three years and NAGTY works with an ever-expanding range of partners to create interesting and challenging opportunities for the top 5%, most of which are free (see the box below for an example). NAGTY is the broker rather than the provider, shaping the quality of provider programmes and linking them to students. We expect to mobilise a very significant increase in opportunities in the future so that all of the top 5% can learn both online and face-to-face, through membership of the NAGTY Student Academy, as part of overall wider schooling. The Student Academy has been a real success story with many bodies mobilised to work with school-aged students for the first time.
It feels as if the Student Academy has come a long way but is still only at the start of what is possible.
If you are responsible for G&T education in your school then you owe it to your students to enter them for NAGTY if they meet the criteria. Not to do so is potentially to disadvantage them. For those of you who already have some members, the challenge is to find all of the top 5% in your school and not just those with the standard attainment scores. Are you finding the hard-to-reach students and putting them forward? If you would like advice from NAGTY about this, just pick up the phone.
A second challenge relates to what happens after the students are accepted. Is that the end of school involvement or just the start?
In the best schools, NAGTY activity is part of the individual student’s personal achievement plans, enabling students to achieve at the highest levels. These schools are in an ongoing dialogue with NAGTY on behalf of the student.
The white paper sets us three new tasks for the Student Academy:
- to recruit the full 200,000 in the top 5%
- to help government to expand summer school provision
- to provide additional support for those NAGTY students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
NAGTY’s professional work
This is often quieter and less public than the student activity. Once again the main focus is on galvanising, mobilising, shaping and validating activity to ensure that high-quality support is available to help schools do their job successfully. Two key areas of work in this area over the last year have been quality standards and subject-specific activity.
The DfES and NAGTY have been working together to develop the quality standard that will help schools to develop their provision for G&T. This institutional level standard was launched in October 2005 and will be followed by classroom standards in due course.
At the same time, work has begun with partners in the subject communities to look at the subject-specific dimensions of G&T. Science, English and history are already beginning to provide more guidance and greater clarity regarding the routes to academic excellence in their subject.
The most visible aspect of NAGTY’s professional work is the activity at regional level through the regional gateways and ambassador schools. The range of support through CPD and pupil-level activity is growing quickly. The South West Regional Gateway is making particularly rapid progress and the Cambridge Consortium, which includes two NAGTY partners, Comberton Village College and Villiers Park Trust, is providing an uplift in levels of provision in their region.
In the ‘quiet zone’ NAGTY is in regular discussion with the Training and Development Agency (TDA), the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT), the National College for School Leadership (NCSL) and others with a national remit. We have been much encouraged by the growing enthusiasm for this agenda. For example, the new National Science Learning Centre has already begun to advertise courses on the teaching of G&T in science.
If you are responsible for G&T education in your school then you owe it to your students to enter them for NAGTY if they meet the criteria. Not to do so is potentially to disadvantage them
Shaping the national agenda
The white paper sets out a challenging agenda in relation to school curriculum in which NAGTY will play a significant role:
- a commitment to a focus on KS3 working through NAGTY, the National Strategies, SSAT and the Youth Sports Trust.
- re-affirmation of commitment to ‘stage not age’ and changes at GCSE and A-level laid out in 14-19 white paper in February 2005.
Here NAGTY draws heavily on those of you in the profession who wish to play a role beyond your school in shaping the national agenda. Our expert advisory groups are at the centre of a pool of expertise which we are able to mobilise to help the National Strategies, QCA and others in shaping the futures agenda. We are always expanding the pool of professionals who like to contribute to national level work on G&T so do contact us by email if you would like to play a part.
The concept of having a national body leading work on G&T education has already begun to demonstrate real value. Through data gathering in both the professional and student arenas we are, as a country, starting to have a more informed grasp of both the current ‘state of play’ and the barriers to progress.
The NAGTY research programme, (through its Occasional Paper series) continues to produce detailed information on matters such as the workload of G&T coordinators nationally; the significance of identification on pupil self-esteem and achievement; and what research tells us about effective pedagogy for G&T. The students also provide a rich source of information that is used not only to inform professionals but to contribute to QCA curriculum consultations and to the media.
As the white paper suggests, there is still much to do. Not least is to continue to act as champions for G&T students with business, the media and professionals.
In my view, the greatest challenge in improving G&T education remains the skepticism in the minds of some teachers and headteachers regarding the value and importance of a focus on this area of work. The English model of G&T provision is dependent on every teacher seeing themselves as a teacher of the gifted, and whilst this skepticism remains, progress will be slow and significant numbers of children will not receive the education they deserve.
Working with partners ‘Chatham House is keen to attract younger people and engage them in discussing and debating key issues in international affairs. The audience at the Experts in Action events were totally absorbed by the lecture and the following panel discussion, but their interventions were well informed, thought out and appropriate. Working with NAGTY exposed us to broader issues than normally emerge from Chatham House and indicated new future directions for our activities.’
Paola Subacchi, director of the International Economics Programme at Chatham House, a leading organisation for the analysis of international issues
Further information: NAGTY:
General enquiries 024 7657 4213
National Science Learning Centre: www.sciencelearningcentres.org.uk