G&T education has been a precursor of personalised learning, says Tim Dracup, head of the DfES’s Gifted and Talented Education Unit.

‘Personalisation’, ‘personalised education’, ‘personalised learning’. These three terms are used interchangeably, often with little clarity. So what exactly is personalisation and why is it so important for G&T education?

For me, ‘personalisation’ can be applied to any service sector, whereas ‘personalised education’ applies specifically to the education service or, more typically, a whole school context. ‘Personalised learning’ is that part of ‘personalised education’ which relates directly to the business of teaching and learning.

There have been many attempts to define these terms and it will help considerably if the Gilbert Review can give us a single consensus-based starting point for all future work.

My suggested starting point is David Miliband’s 2004 statement that personalised education is: ‘about tailoring education to ensure that every pupil achieves and reaches the highest standards possible. It is also about personalising the school experience to enable pupils to focus on their learning and involve the community.’

Different models have been produced to explain what this means in practice. The DfES approach has five components and is outlined at www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/personalisedlearning

The 2004 DfES pamphlet A National Conversation about Personalised Learning says that these five components ‘offer a framework for implementation: a set of tools for schools and teachers to employ contextually so as to respond to the challenges they face. We believe that these are shared principles. But we understand that practices will look different in different schools.’

Meanwhile, over at the SSAT, David Hargreaves has a model based on nine interconnected gateways. There is also material published through NCSL, BECTA and others.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Chapter 4 of the 2005 schools white paper argued that the right place to start is with existing best practice in our schools – and proceeded to set out an agenda for extending that practice to all schools, using the National Primary and Secondary Strategies as the main driver.

There has been a series of funding commitments for personalised education and related priorities totalling well over £1,000m for this financial year and next. But schools’ budgets for personalisation depend on decisions about distribution taken at local authority level, and on schools’ own decisions about how they will use the allocations they receive.

G&T education: leading the way

G&T education has been a precursor of personalised education, focused on tailoring education to meet the needs of one end of the ability spectrum. It fits comfortably within the broad approach – and even as a priority within that approach – because:

  • there is significant underachievement within the G&T population
  • there are significant achievement gaps for some subsets within that population, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • the G&T population is a diverse and disparate group, with widely differing needs
  • it is harder for schools to tailor education to meet the needs of G&T learners and others who are furthest away from the norm.

The role of the leading teacher

Regular readers of G&T Update will know about the reforms we are introducing to secure a coherent national approach to G&T education.

  • During 2007, all secondary and primary schools – the latter in groups – will be asked to identify a leading teacher for G&T education.
  • All leading teachers will be trained in autumn 2007. The National Strategies will train LA leads and they, in turn, will train leading teachers across their LA. Venues will be decided by the LA leads.
  • The SLT of each school will decide how leading teacher responsibility should be reflected in their management structures.
  • As part of their training, leading teachers will be expected to produce an improvement plan for G&T education that can be slotted into the improvement plans of the schools they serve.
  • Training will be free to schools, but they will need to budget for supply costs and allocate resources to deliver the improvement plan, drawing on the personalisation funding referred to above.
  • Training will include: two half-days face-to-face (although LAs can offer more if they wish), plus a set of core e-learning modules. There will also be access to a range of optional e-learning modules.

The new managing contractor for G&T

CfBT Education Trust, as the new managing contractor for G&T education, will work under contract to the DfES. The role of the managing contractor is to:

  • manage all existing contracts currently held by the GTEU at DfES with partners delivering services for G&T learners, families and educators, including NAGTY and LGT
  • reprocure those services when existing contracts expire and procure new services to fill gaps in the market
  • manage a small range of central services
  • provide evidence-based policy advice to DfES.

Where service providers are not under contract to the GTEU at DfES, for example, NACE in respect of the Challenge Award, those providers are unaffected, but the managing contractor will wish to engage with them as potential future providers of contracted services.

G&T services provided through the National Strategies lie outside this arrangement because they are delivered through the separate National Strategies contract that Capita has with the DfES. However, the managing contractor will work closely with Capita to coordinate their respective contributions.

Schools are also identifying their top 5% of G&T pupils for membership of the NAGTY student academy and all their G&T pupils in response to a new question on the Schools Census.

This will enable us to draw together schools’ G&T registers into a national register, so we can track the progress of different groups and how that changes over time. Schools will receive reports from the register to inform their identification and help them to target their support at those who need it most.

Leading teachers’ improvement plans will be based on the national quality standards, which are designed to embody nationally consensus on effective practice in G&T education. The whole school standard, known as the Institutional Quality Standard (IQS), provides the core of this approach.

The IQS synthesises current best practice and a range of existing models including the NACE Challenge Award. We are planning guidance that will help schools decide whether and how to use the Challenge Award to support their improvement plans. The IQS includes all the dimensions of personalised education, so schools achieving the entry level can justifiably claim that they are personalising education for their G&T learners.

We are working on a second standard, the Classroom Quality Standard (CQS) which will focus explicitly on learning contexts. This will include all the dimensions of personalised learning.

Progress has been slower than expected because the project has revealed that we do not yet have national consensus on the pedagogy of G&T education. We have therefore designed the CQS project as a national experiment, designed progressively to establish the consensus position.

We are also working with school improvement partners and Ofsted to ensure that the IQS, and in due course the CQS, is recognised by them and provide the basis for accountability and challenge in G&T education across the system.

Local authority G&T leads will also be monitoring and supporting progress against the improvement plans in their schools. And we anticipate that our new managing contractor and relevant delivery partners will have a performance indicator tied specifically to increasing the number of schools achieving each level of the IQS and CQS.

CfBT and the National Programme for Gifted and Talented Education

Neil McIntosh, chief executive of CfBT Education Trust, said, ‘We are delighted to have been awarded the National Programme for Gifted and Talented Education (NPGATE) and welcome the opportunity to work closely with the DfES to deliver an exciting and innovative programme.

‘NPGATE is a large-scale project with the potential to enhance the lives of some 800,000 young people in England and provide them with support and stimulation to enable them to realise their potential. We are pleased to be drawing on our considerable experience in this area to encourage a culture which will embed and sustain the importance of gifted and talented education for whole communities.’

Established 40 years ago, CfBT Education Trust is a leading education consultancy and service organisation that exists to provide education for public benefit. As the new managing contractor for the national programme, CfBT’s vision is focused on achieving significant, measurable improvement in the attainment, aspiration, motivation and self-esteem of G&T learners, especially those at risk of underachieving, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

CfBT’s delivery of the programme is designed to consolidate what is working well in the delivery of services to support G&T pupils and also to further develop an innovative marketplace of products, services and choices for young people.

A spokesperson for CfBT when on to say, ‘There are gifted and talented young people in every school and in every community. We will develop NPGATE into a programme that can identify every one of those young people, including, but not only, the top 10%, and help provide them with support and stimulation which encourage them to aspire as high as possible.

‘We believe that the focus of this initiative must be in the everyday classroom and on the relationship between learners and teachers.

‘Initially we will be working on a “transition phase” for the programme that will last until September 2007. During this time we will be working with the existing suppliers and seeking new suppliers. A national G&T champion will be appointed early in 2007, whose role will be to raise awareness of G&T education and maximise the support of key agencies for the programme. We will also be exploring, over the coming year, the possibility of an e-credit system for schools to purchase such services, and will shortly be announcing a number of other activities. 

‘Our vision is inclusive and focused on learning and teaching. Evidence suggests that schools which focus sharply on what gifted and talented pupils might achieve are likely to be more successful in improving the quality of work and improving standards of achievement of all pupils generally. As “a rising tide lifts all ships”, G&T education can raise the aspirations, achievements, motivation and self-esteem of all pupils.’

Looking to the future, our approach to personalised G&T education will be informed by the report of the Gilbert review, influenced by the outcomes of the comprehensive spending review and enriched by the exciting and innovative proposals put forward by the CfBT Education Trust as our new managing contractor for G&T education.

I hope that this personalised education edition of G&T Update will inform and update you – and stimulate you to add to our collective understanding of a personalised approach to G&T education.

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