The next two issues of this e-bulletin will analyse the critical assumptions and issues in Ofsted’s Gifted and Talented Pupils in Schools report, published in December 2009 (ref 090132); specifically its findings and how schools can usefully respond

During July 2009 Ofsted visited 17 secondary schools and nine primary schools to evaluate their capacity to provide for gifted and talented pupils, to identify good and less effective practice and to determine how best schools might be supported. They published their report, Gifted and Talented Pupils in Schools, in December 2009 (ref 090132); we report on their findings in the next two issues of this e-bulletin, analyse the critical assumptions and issues in the report and look at how schools can usefully respond.

This report came about after the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) reviewed its national programme for gifted and talented pupils and concluded that it was not having sufficient impact on schools. As a result, central provision is being scaled back and whilst this may not shock colleagues, it does have a clear knock-on for all schools because as a result of this, they will be expected to do more themselves for these pupils. The Ofsted survey was therefore designed to focus on schools where G&T had been identified as an improvement priority and evaluate the capacity of these schools to respond to the new, more localised policy and to identify any difficulties schools might encounter now that they are to be required to do more for themselves.

Key findings

All the schools visited:

  • had a policy for gifted and talented provision, but many of these policies were generic versions from other schools or the local authority.
  • felt they needed more support and guidance about how to judge what gifted and talented pupils at different ages should be achieving.
  • indicated that they had not fully engaged with the parents of gifted and talented pupils to help them understand their children’s needs or how to provide effective support.
  • felt the best way to improve challenge in lessons was for practical, subject-specific training for teachers to support them in refining planning and teaching for individuals and groups.
  • had developed out-of-hours provision and programmes. However, the link between these and school-based provision was not always clear and evaluation was sporadic.
  • felt that there was little analysis of whether different groups of pupils on the gifted and talented register were progressing as well as they could.

In most of the schools visited:

  • pupils said their views were either not sought or not taken sufficiently into account in planning tasks and curriculum provision to meet their interests. The pupils indicated that the level of challenge was inconsistent across their lessons, and some had requested more challenging work.
  • teachers had only just started to consider using the Institutional or Classroom Quality Standards for auditing and evaluating their developments.
  • good links and collaborations with other local schools for enhancing provision had been established.

In the best schools surveyed:

  • the needs of gifted and talented pupils were being met alongside those of all pupils. The schools which focused on progress for all pupils were more likely to plan lessons that challenged their gifted and talented pupils.
  • effective leadership had involved everyone in developing a vision of what could be provided for gifted and talented pupils. The status of lead teachers and coordinators was sufficient to enable them to influence and implement policy.

In the schools where the capacity to improve was just adequate:

  • senior staff gave subject leaders too much flexibility to interpret school policy. The result was often inconsistency and a lack of coherence when subjects and curriculum areas were at different stages of readiness for establishing further provision.

Where next?

The White Paper published in 2009 proposed pupil and parent guarantees to ensure that there are high aspirations for all pupils and that they are given the opportunity to do the best they can. The ‘pupil guarantee’ and the ‘parent guarantee’ mean that pupils identified as gifted and talented (and their parents) can expect to receive written confirmation from their school by September 2010 of the extra challenge and support to be received. If these elements become statutory, this will heighten expectations of schools and local authorities to undertake more work themselves to improve their provision for these pupils and raise a number of issues that may not have been priorities to date.

Building capacity

The schools that were committed to being inclusive demonstrated that their focus on improving provision for gifted and talented pupils was also having a positive impact on the outcomes for all pupils. Expectations and aspirations were raised at all levels through a commitment to let no pupil fall behind.

The schools that had focused on progress for all pupils and had embraced initiatives such as assessment for learning and Assessing Pupils’ Progress2 were more likely to plan lessons that challenged able pupils. Invariably, these developments built on good monitoring of progress that identified any possible underachievement and led to changes in teachers’ planning and activities in lessons.

In the schools judged as secure, designated teachers liaised with other schools, or with teachers in the same school, to ensure a good range of quantitative and qualitative information about individual pupils, including information about the reasons why they were placed on the register for gifted and talented pupils. This was particularly important when pupils transferred to other schools. These records were monitored and reviewed regularly. Individual targets were set, which aimed to extend these pupils appropriately. All the schools visited rightly indicated that making the expected two levels of progress in the National Curriculum during a key stage was not challenging enough for their gifted and talented pupils.

  1. Your Child, Your Schools, our Future: Building a 21st Century Schools System, DCSF, 2009
  2. Getting to Grips with Assessing Pupils’ Progress (DCSF-00129-2009), DCSF, 2009

This e-bulletin issue was first published in January 2010

About the author: Ian Warwick is Senior Director of London Gifted & Talented, a branch of London Challenge. Matt Dickenson is Equalities and Achievement Director with London Gifted & Talented, leading the REAL Project (Realising Equality and Achievement for Learners).