Many SENCOs in primary schools also have a designated responsibility for G&T children. New guidance should ensure that effective provision for this group of children is in place. It may also help clarify whether or not SENCOs can be expected to take primary responsibility for this task

Effective Provision for Gifted and Talented Children in Primary Education (DfES-04072-2006) was published in November 2006, together with Identifying Gifted and Talented Pupils. The guidance is set out under the same five headings used for the National Quality Standards in Gifted and Talented Education. Section 4 is likely to be of particular interest to SENCOs and should inform discussions about roles and responsibilities, and all the more so at a time when the DfES and TDA are seeking to define the SENCO role more carefully.

Defining gifted and talented

The guidance defines gifted and talented pupils as ‘those children who are achieving, or have the potential to achieve, at a level substantially beyond the rest of their peer group’. Examples are those who tend to:

  • show a passion for particular subjects and seek to pursue them
  • master the rules of a domain easily and transfer their insights to new problems
  • analyse their own behaviour and hence use a greater range of learning strategies than others (self-regulation)
  • make connections between past and present learning
  • work at a level beyond that expected for their years
  • show intellectual maturity and enjoy engaging in depth with subject material
  • actively and enthusiastically engage in debate and discussion on a particular subject
  • produce original and creative responses to common problems.

The term ‘gifted’ is used in the guidance to refer to pupils capable of excelling in academic subjects; ‘talented’ is used for those who may excel in areas of the curriculum requiring ‘visuo-spatial skills or practical abilities, such as in games and PE, drama, music or art and design.’

Section 1: Effective teaching and learning strategies

This section describes:

  • how the identification of gifted and talented pupils should be an ongoing, fair and transparent process
  • how effective teaching develops from good primary practice
  • how self-evaluation, and the National Quality Standards for Gifted and Talented Education, are a means of improving standards.

It also sets out in some detail the principles that should inform:

  • the identification of gifted and talented pupils
  • excellent primary teaching
  • establishing a classroom climate in which challenge, support and expectations encourage achievement and endeavour
  • task planning involving breadth, depth and pace, and designed to nurture skills and aptitudes such as reflection, exploration of diverse viewpoints, consideration of difficult questions, problem solving and enquiry, making connections in learning, higher-order thinking skills and independent thinking
  • strategies such as moving from the concrete to the abstract, from the simple to the complex, from engagement with single issues to multi-faceted or divergent thinking, etc
  • questioning techniques to promote new thinking, discussion or debate
  • classroom grouping and resources.

This section also offers starting points for schools to engage in self-evaluation relating to their provision for G&T pupils in the context of the new Ofsted inspection arrangements and the national quality standards.

Section 2: Enabling curriculum entitlement and choice

This section describes:

  • the importance of a broad and balanced curriculum
  • the key role of literacy and numeracy
  • enrichment as a way to create breadth of opportunity.

Section 3: Assessment for learning

Included in this is the following:

  • Schools will have a register of gifted and talented pupils to inform planning, assessment, monitoring and evaluation processes and this will be a key document at point of transfer. When transfer is between schools, the members of staff with responsibility for gifted and talented should liaise to ensure that all relevant information related to pupils on the register is transferred and disseminated.

Section 4: Organising the school

This section describes:

  • how leadership at every level is critical in developing effective provision for gifted and talented pupils
  • the need for coverage of gifted and talented provision in all school policies
  • the importance of developing a positive school ethos that celebrates success and ensures that the social and emotional needs of pupils is given priority
  • a focus on staff development as being absolutely essential
  • how monitoring and evaluation helps a school to judge the success of its approach.

The guidance places a responsibility on the leading teacher for G&T education to play a key role in helping to design whole-school training opportunities, and emphasises that schools ‘will be expected to demonstrate the effectiveness of their approach to providing for gifted and talented pupils during school inspection and… provide evidence to illustrate how their approach has had a positive impact on children’s performance.’

Section 5: Strong partnerships beyond the school

This section describes:

  • how schools should engage with parents/carers and wider children’s services to ensure support for G&T pupils
  • the role of extended services and activities in the personalisation agenda
  • how opportunities available locally should be exploited by schools in providing for their gifted and talented pupils.