The Pupil and Parent Guarantees, that are currently the subject of a DCSF consultation, make specific reference to the provision for G&T learners. Here we consider what this might mean for your school

In the previous issue, we highlighted that the new Pupil and Parent Guarantees will place schools under some pressure to state an entitlement for G&T learners, to define precisely the extra challenge and support that an identified gifted and talented learner will receive as a direct consequence of being identified.

Guarantee 3.10: That every pupil identified as gifted and talented receives written confirmation by their school of the extra challenge and support they will receive.

Guarantee 8.8: Parents receive written confirmation of the extra challenge and support their child will receive if they are identified as gifted and talented and a clear understanding of what they should do to help them.

Many teachers have told us of their nervousness of the guarantees and how it may reinforce a number of misconceptions about G&T in their schools. Most have asked how the guarantees should be communicated to parents and pupils. In this issue we explore some of the implications of the guarantees.

Much of the unease is to do with how G&T fits within the overall policy and practices of a school. This raises the basic but recurrent question as to whether G&T is seen as embedded in the routine of the classroom, or whether it sits largely as a bolt-on programme. Of course, you don’t need to be gifted and talented to need to learn beyond the classroom. But there is a clear worry that the emphasis on extra challenge may somehow reinforce negative stereotypes by suggesting that what goes on in the classroom is not sufficient and that schools, by necessity, should be doing more.

Concerns have also been raised about elitism, given that the starting point is seen to be the termly school census. However, there is no express or implied reason why a school should limit the process to those who are identified as G&T within the census. Why not use this as an opportunity to communicate with a wider group? Or to re-think how G&T fits?

There is a clear imperative to avoid the gatekeeper problem. Why should there be a quota on identified pupils? What are the implications for those not identified in terms of equality of opportunity and access? This resonates for many with the song, ‘If your name’s not down, you’re not coming in…’ Despite 13 years of funding for the national programme for gifted and talented education, do we really believe that the gifted and talented register should be the arbiter for access to opportunity?

G&T aims to stimulate an explicit focus on more able pupils, so it is not practical to identify all learners within a school as gifted and/or talented. In spite of this we believe that there are far more compelling arguments which show that the school should not ‘reduce itself’ through the census to saying that only a certain proportion of their pupils have identified potential. Because if it does, it is telling a (usually much) wider group that they do not.

Some schools have asked us about relatively high numbers of learners identified. The simplest argument here is common sense. The more diverse the school population the greater the variety of learners whose individual gifts and talents need to be acknowledged, understood and responded to by the school. Good school and classroom provision is about increasing the range of available choices and improving the ability of learners and their parents to make positive choices, with clear aims in mind. In both cases, the greater the breadth that the school offers and the depth to which pupils can successfully go, the higher the proportion that will be discovered who have a specific talent. The fact that the traditional G&T register will struggle to cope with all of this information should be seen as reason to move towards integrating this data within the school’s tracking systems. This is perhaps what should have been happening all along.

Accountability brings change. The parental guarantee requires that the school is able to justify the impact of identification on pupil participation, progress and achievement. This requirement coincides in timely fashion with the emphasis in the new Ofsted framework on identified groups within the school population. Together with the need to inform, and sometimes educate parents as to how they can support and challenge G&T learners, the new guarantee may offer an important opportunity.

The aim behind the guarantees is to strengthen existing home-school agreements, which assumes that these are already in place. Even if this is the case, the entitlement dimension will mean that for most schools this will require a conversation about what gifted and talented actually means. In many schools this understanding is implied, not explicit.

The guarantee also provides the opportunity to clarify the aims of involving parents in supporting learning and achievement. Without wishing to replace what schools already have in place these are likely to include:

a. encouraging high expectations and aspirations b. improving understanding of the learning needs of the childc. ensuring that identification has a positive impactd. addressing the needs of both the parent/carer and the child

e. strengthening the link between parental involvement and achievement

In the next bulletin we will provide practical suggestions on how the guarantees can be communicated and how these might fit within the learning relationships the school has with both the pupil and parents.

Further information
The Pupil and Parent Guarantees are part of the Your Child, Your Schools, Our Future: Building a 21st-century schools system White Paper and are the subject of consultation which closes on 6 April 2010. To take part in the consultation, visit http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/consultations/index.cfm?action=consultationDetails&consultationId=1692&external=no&menu=1

The guarantee can be found at: http://publications.dcsf.gov.uk/eOrderingDownload/DCSF-00067-2010.pdf or searched for using the reference, DCSF-00067-2010.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 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).

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