Tags: Gifted and Talented | Gifted and talented pupils | Leading teacher for gifted and talented
How did a Birmingham primary school manage to complete the NACE Challenge Award in less than a year? Sarah Batstone describes the work undertaken
Moseley C of E Primary School is a high-achieving school, but its gifted and talented provision was highlighted by Ofsted as an area for development. The NACE Challenge Award was identified as a practical solution for delivering on the school development plan (regardless of whether or not the school actually submitted for the award) and work began in the summer term of 2006, alongside development of AfL. By January 2007, however, a review of progress suggested that Moseley could be the first school in Birmingham to gain the Award and this provided all the motivation needed!
The first step was to identify those pupils who would be classed as gifted and talented. We decided to look at the performance data from over the school year and analyse each pupil’s rate of progression, rather than just consider the end-of-year test scores. Teacher input and observations were also vital, including reference to characteristics checklists, thus incorporating a range of information for identification, as is generally recommended. One of the key aspects of G&T provision is to make sure that every child is reaching and fulfilling his or her potential. We looked at the school’s NFER verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests scores and saw that some pupils were achieving very high scores but had not been selected by teachers as G&T. This showed us very clearly the students who had gaps between their potential and what they were actually achieving in class. Meanwhile, the talented pupils were nominated by anyone in the school or wider community. The whole list of nominated pupils, including those skilled at dance, music and gymnastics, was displayed in school, thus celebrating a whole range of talents that are not always given appropriate recognition.
Individual Education Plans
All G&T pupils were given Individual Education Plans (IEPs) which they helped to write and review. We used the same child-friendly format as is used for SEN, with clipart images at the top and easy-to-follow columns. Pupils participated in deciding their own personal challenges and targets, related to their specific area of ability: this ensured that each child’s IEP was matched to their capabilities. We also added in a social area, such as helping friends in school, or family at home. Talented pupils had targets with outcomes which could be showcased in school. Using questions such as:
- ‘What do I want to improve?’
- ‘How will I know I’ve achieved it?’
- ‘Who will help me?’
Pupils gained a real understanding of what exactly they had to do to complete each challenge. We had also done some work on learning styles and recognising how they learn best, helped children and teachers to plan for optimum progress. The IEPs were set during the autumn term of 2006, at the start of additional G&T teaching and were reviewed, and new targets set, at the end of spring term the following year, before the NACE Challenge Award assessment. Although other teachers, parents and I provided reminders, the pupils were largely responsible for referring back to their IEPs themselves, storing them in their classroom trays and having copies at home.
Structuring TAG provision
Some teachers feel slightly ‘allergic’ to the term G&T: so I created a different acronym for our groups: TAG – talented, able and gifted. One literacy and one numeracy TAG group of six to eight pupils, was created in each year group. I ran most of these but other teachers were also involved in teaching, including the deputy head who took Year 2 and also Year 6 groups as part of the SATs booster initiatives. Pupils from TAG groups were taken out of class once a week for approximately 20 or 30 minutes at a time. The infants were taken out at the start of the class and were briefly supported in returning to whole-class work, while the juniors left their lesson part way through so that they knew exactly what their peers were learning. However, all TAG pupils were capable of rejoining their class without problems and generally their lessons would be linked to those of their peers: if their classmates were learning literacy, as far as possible they too would focus on literacy in their TAG groups to ensure that they were in sync.
The school agreed that we wanted pupils to have ‘real-life’ tasks as part of their literacy learning, to see the relevance of reading and writing and gain real enjoyment from their tasks. During their sessions, the TAG infants created a guide for the new reception students; the Year 3 and 4 pupils wrote a guide about moving into the junior school for their younger peers, and the pupils in Year 5 and 6 TAG groups made a children’s prospectus for Moseley. The children could really get their teeth into these projects and the infants in particular enjoyed taking photos of their environment to include in their work. These were great projects for the children as we were having relevant work created from a child’s eye view: something that a teacher could probably not have done better.
In a separate TAG group which contained about 20 pupils from across the year groups, I ran ‘thought-shower’ sessions and we tackled subjects including philosophy, where children got to grips with questions like ‘Is life real?’ In one of these sessions, the group worked together to write the school’s mission statement: I simply facilitated this project and the children did the work. After scrutiny by the head and other teachers (no one could better the TAG group’s efforts) the children’s version is now officially in use. These sessions formed the backbone of a wide-ranging programme that included music lessons (run by peripatetic teachers); various clubs; termly ‘specialist weeks’ that focused on creative arts, science, sports and health; and a variety of school trips.
I had used Literacy Challenges for the More Able in previous schools and I continued to use it at Moseley in the literacy TAG groups, in addition to doing the ‘real life’ activities. In numeracy TAG groups, I worked through the Rising Stars Brain Academy Maths books with my groups: another teacher allowed two of his Year 5 pupils who were exceptionally good at maths, to work through the tasks independently. The books were perfect for this as they are very carefully structured and manageable. The resource had been recommended at the NACE annual conference and offered real-life situations for mathematical problems so, like in the literacy classes, our pupils could see the relevance of what they were learning.
NACE Challenge Award report
The NACE Challenge Award gives a good indication of achievable and necessary standards for G&T provision without inflicting a rigid structure and is normally expected to be completed in one to two years. The very positive report included comments such as ‘There is very effective co-ordination for Able, Gifted and Talented pupils which is strongly supported by the headteacher and all of the staff team’; and ‘There is a strong whole school ethos of success and pupils experience a broad, balanced and enriched curriculum which promotes challenge.’
This article first appeared in Gifted & Talented Update – Nov 2007
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