Tags: G&T Coordinator | G&T provision | Gifted & Talented

Tim Dracup, director of the Gifted and Talented Education Unit (GTEU) at the DfES, has described the work to be done in G&T education over the next two years as an ‘ambitious’ programme. Speaking at the GTEU’s termly standing conference in March, he gave a progress report on the achievements of the programme set out in the schools white paper and the work that lay ahead.

Despite the challenges, he said he believed that G&T education was on the verge of a breakthrough. The subsequent announcement of more cash for personalised learning may bear out his view. However, the prospect is not uniformly rosy for G&T coordinators, who will have to fight for funds and perhaps their jobs.

The white paper
Tim Dracup underlined the fact that the white paper placed G&T firmly within the field of personalised learning and listed the other important commitments it contained:

  • funding for personalised learning via the Dedicated Schools Grant
  • guidance and training for primary and secondary school teachers
  • creation of the role of ‘expert teacher’
  • the holding of schools to account through school improvement partners (SIPs) and Ofsted
  • the creation of a national register of G&T pupils
  • a programme of non-residential summer schools for G&T students (in 2006 there will be 10 schools, each catering for 1,000 pupils)
  • support for disadvantaged students including looked-after children – a commitment that he praised as striking a ‘balance between excellence and equity’.

He confirmed that delivery of these commitments would involve close partnership with the National Primary and Secondary Strategies, the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY), the 10 regional partnerships for G&T and other organisations.

Funding Tim Dracup described how money for personalised learning is available through the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG) to support three government priorities: catch-up in English and maths; access to study support for disadvantaged learners; and G&T education. Since the GTEU conference more money has been made available in the budget. The DSG funding amounts to £220m in 2006-07 and £565m in 2007-08. The budget adds cash that will be paid direct to schools through the School Standards Grant (SSG) amounting to £220m in the first year and £365m in the second. This means that there will be nearly £1bn of additional funding for personalisation in 2006-07.

Local authorities are consulting their schools funding forums to agree how best to distribute the DSG funding to schools. In doing so they must take account of the government’s priorities and the needs of schools in the area, with a strong emphasis on helping pupils with low prior attainment and from deprived backgrounds. They are encouraged to use the Quality Standards (see box) to inform distribution of G&T funding to schools. The new SSG money should be paid to schools in September. An average primary school will receive an extra £8,500 and an average secondary school an extra £52,000 this year. A ready reckoner that will allow schools to calculate their exact allocation is available on Teachernet.

None of the personalisation money is ring-fenced for G&T, which means that G&T coordinators will need to ensure that they receive an appropriate amount of the budget to spend on supporting their school’s most able pupils. Tim Dracup encouraged schools to use the Quality Standards to identify needs for improvement planning. There is a commitment to develop a wide range of support materials for underachieving G&T pupils, including support for black and minority ethnic pupils, those with English as an additional language and looked-after children. The GTEU would like to extend this support further, although Tim Dracup admitted that the DfES isn’t yet sure if they’ll be able to afford this from the budget available. News on this will be published in June.

The financial years 2006-08 are a transitional period preceding the shift to a three-year funding from 2008-09. Several existing Standards Fund grants, including EiC and national summer school funding, have been combined into a single School Development Grant. EiC beneficiaries will continue to receive the same amount of funding.

Cooperation with NAGTY NAGTY remains the DfES’s core partner for expertise in G&T and acts as a consultant to the GTEU as well as provider for G&T pupils, what Tim Dracup describes as a ‘brokering and capacity-building role’. A summer schools pilot with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust is already being developed but NAGTY is also expected to be involved in trialling CQS (see box), have a role in expert teacher training and a greater role through regional partnerships.

NAGTY has also launched ‘GOAL’, formerly called ‘Going for Gold’, which is designed to sponsor membership of NAGTY for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds including BME pupils, and an entitlement to enhanced programmes specially tailored to their needs. NAGTY are currently seeking matched funding from business to sponsor the work, the government having committed £1m per year over the next two years.

The national register
Data from the schools census on G&T populations from both primary and secondary schools, and institutional data (including progress against IQS) will be matched against all other data in the National Pupil Database (ie pupils’ attainment data and cognitive ability tests). This information will help to improve identification of G&T students, inform G&T provision, enable tracking of progress and feed into information for SIPs. It may also be used to provide data to higher education institutions to inform widening participation strategies. It is likely that the register will lie ‘partly within and partly outside the National Pupil Database’, although how this will work is not yet clear. Identification guidance to use alongside the register is being updated and will be published by the end of 2006.

Guidance
The National Primary and Secondary strategies are working on writing generic guidance on personalisation that will include government guidelines on engaging parents and the use of ICT, but, importantly for G&T coordinators, advice on setting and grouping. The last point is a hot topic in the press and in staffrooms across the UK. The government favours it and it suits some G&T pupils, but as with all educational decrees, one size does not fit all.

Expert teachers The newly designated role of the ‘expert teacher’ seems set to replace G&T coordinators in some schools, particularly in the primary sector. G&T coordinator roles have proven to be vulnerable to the new TLR points and as reported in issue 30, December 2005, many former G&T coordinators have lost both their titles and the additional income from their management points.

There will be one expert teacher per secondary school (some 3,500 posts) and one per group of primary schools (some 3,000 posts covering approximately six schools each). It is not yet clear how the primary expert teachers will be deployed, but Tim Dracup suggested that this could be through the primary learning networks or using existing clusters. He admitted that his unit still needed to work out the potential links to AST and Excellent Teacher schemes.

The government has made a commitment to train all expert teachers, which in many schools will be paid for by DSG allocations. Training will be ‘differentiated with a common core’ so that experienced G&T coordinators ‘don’t have to start from scratch’. Tim Dracup stressed the importance of ensuring that there is broad parity between the training offered for expert teachers working on ‘catch-up’ and those working on G&T.

Jobs at risk
Tim Dracup’s rosy vision could be tempered for G&T coordinators by fears for their jobs. The advent of TLR payments has put some posts in danger (see G&T Update issue 30, December) and moves for cluster collaboration on G&T, particularly in primary schools, could affect more roles. At local authority level, G&T strand coordinators are seeing some jobs devolved to include Aim Higher, whilst strand coordinator roles have been lost in Hull, St Helen’s, Knowsley, Stoke, Leicester and Liverpool.

Quality Standards: at the heart of G&T education A set of Quality Standards have been developed by the DfES and NAGTY as a self-evaluation instrument to enable schools to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses in their support for G&T students and identify what constitutes best practice. There are two types of Quality Standards: institutional or whole-school (IQS) and classroom or subject standards (CQS).

IQS The IQS have been trialled in every region with 200 ‘early adopter’ schools using the materials. They can be viewed online by going to www2.teachernet.gov.uk/gat and clicking on ‘Quality Standards’. The GTEU considers the IQS as the ‘foundation of the white paper programme’, a ‘measure of national progress’, the ‘starting point for all CPD’, ‘expert teachers’, and ‘how we want to schools to spend DSG funding’. In other words, the IQS have been placed at the heart of G&T education across England. The intention is to secure the IQS as the standard used by SIPs to judge school performance, and the GTEU ‘wants Ofsted inspectors’ judgements to be strongly informed by the IQS’.

CQS Draft CQS have been released for consultation, with a working version to be available by the end of 2006. The belief is that the CQS will bridge Teacher Development Agency (TDA) and IQS standards and aim to:

  • identify subject differences
  • improve planning at department and subject level in schools
  • be used to develop subject-based CPD and resources.

The draft CQS can be viewed at: www2.teachernet.gov.uk/gat/media/CQSdraft.doc. If you have a question about using the IQS, please use the forum on G&T Wise at: www2.teachernet.gov.uk/gat/website/QSForum.

See also the ‘Introducing the Quality Standards’ on p8 of this issue and ‘Quality standards in G&T’ in G&T Update.

This article first appeared in Gifted & Talented Update – May 2006

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