Josephine Smith and Paul Ainsworth, both senior teachers with responsibilities for G&T, look at the evolution of the role of the G&T coordinator at Casterton Community College and the effect that TLR reforms are having on it now
The job description looks great doesn’t it? ‘Teacher needed to work with bright, motivated, able pupils to celebrate learning and to oversee opportunities for extra curricular excellence’. Who, in the daily grind of detentions, homework chases and teenage mood swings, wouldn’t want to be a part of that? When schools began to consider implementing a G&T program in the late 1990s the first action was to appoint a coordinator. Schools took many different stances over who to put in post; it could be a completely new appointment, from a main scale teacher given a management responsibility, to a new whole-school leadership role with membership of the senior management team. Or it could be added to an existing role, SENCO, head of department, assistant or deputy head. Just as every G&T student is very different in outlook, this was seemingly mirrored by their coordinator.
At Casterton Community College, the figure of the G&T coordinator went through several Dr Who style transformations, with the post being occupied by three people in only four years. Whether this was because the role gave vital experience for promotion or because it was the poisoned chalice to escape from has still not been decided. The implementation of the teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) pay structure now makes a difference. The job description needs to be more carefully aligned with leadership for it to become a salaried post, or it could become comparable with the status of form tutor in the eyes of the person from the DfES – that is, not a staff management role.
In this article we, as two of the ‘time lords’, present our views of the strengths and weaknesses of the position through descriptions of our times as G&T coordinator. We begin, however, by describing the experience of our predecessor in the role.
There was a feeling that the coordinator should implement the strategic direction determined by the SMT. As a result the coordinator concentrated on the day-to-day issues that he could affect
The first G&T coordinator: the teacher with three years’ experience Casterton Community College is a rural 11-16 community college, located within in a Rutland village, with 850 pupils on roll. Half of the pupils are from a county with a selective system, whereas the other half of the intake is truly comprehensive , so the school does have some very able pupils. Indeed, for the last two years at least one pupil has achieved an A* in all of their nine GCSE subjects. The college had always placed teaching and learning at the heart of its improvement. An important part of this process consisted of regular teacher workshops, twilight Inset sessions presented by colleagues. One of these had a G&T focus delivered by two members of staff who had been on G&T one-day courses. In the late 1990s the senior management team (SMT) decided to implement a more formal G&T program, which aimed to complement the provision for G&T students delivered through lessons and broad extra-curricular opportunities. The college had for many years run compulsory extra-curricular sessions, where all pupils had to choose one additional activity and free transport was provided for all pupils – an impressive precursor of the extended schools program which is now offered in an increasing number of schools.
A G&T coordinator post was advertised internally with one management point attached to it. It was never formally stated, but colleagues perceived this as a role for a teacher who did not have any existing additional responsibilities. A teacher in his third year of teaching with an excellent rapport with pupils was appointed and began his new role at the start of the academic year. This coordinator was given considerable support by the SMT and presented a number of whole-school twilight Inset sessions. At the beginning of each, the principal stated his conviction that G&T provision was important to the college. There was a feeling that the coordinator should implement the strategic direction determined by the SMT. As a result the coordinator concentrated on the day-to-day issues that he could affect. He organized a very successful series of masterclasses in his own subject of art with artists in residence. These greatly motivated able children who may not otherwise have achieved success in a practical subject. Individual pupils were met and individual action plans were written for them.
It is a shame that these plans were not more widely used across the school, reflecting the time and effort that had been spent upon their preparation. Perhaps this was due to lack of seniority of the coordinator in the college hierarchy.
The second G&T coordinator: head of faculty When the first G&T coordinator left, the role was assumed by Paul, who was then a head of faculty in his second year of a secondment as the senior teacher in the SMT. The coordinator’s role was not the focus of the secondment but was taken as a short-term solution. Paul saw his role as a strategic one. He immediately recognized that it would be impossible to be an effective day-to-day coordinator, as he was already leading a faculty and had senior management responsibility. Instead he saw it as an opportunity to champion the needs of G&T children at a senior management level. He analyzed G&T provision as part of his NPQH school improvement project. A number of problems were identified in the selection procedure after careful data analysis. Many stakeholders’ views were carefully researched through a series of different questionnaires completed by teachers, heads of year, heads of department, G&T pupils and their parents.
From the data it was concluded that the provision needed refocusing. Inset sessions for staff and governors were held and it was decided that an outside-in approach should be taken where all HoDs would hold masterclasses and, as a result, they would receive small amounts of additional capitation.
It seemed at this point as if the G&T provision would really take off for the second time. Unfortunately, however, the focus of the senior management secondment changed due to staff absence. The strategic direction was in place but without the day-to-day management of one person taking responsibility, the planned breakthrough did not occur.
The strategic direction was in place but without the day-to-day management of one person taking responsibility, the planned break-through did not occur
The third G&T coordinator: doing the job but without the title On Paul’s departure, again the college did not appoint a new coordinator: the advent of the TLR reform and a new principal meant savings were sought in the staffing structure. Josephine, who was also a head of faculty and who had a personal belief in the importance of good opportunities for G&T children, offered to manage the provision temporarily. Josephine already led a most popular and successful journalism masterclass. Children applied for the opportunity to work with an editor of a local magazine and some articles were then published.
She also introduced applications to the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY). Consequently more than 20 KS3 and KS4 pupils became members of NAGTY and currently have access to a whole host of specialist extra-curricular events. However, without additional non-contact time and a budget it was impossible to move the provision forward greatly.
Conclusions Each G&T coordinator brought something to the role both through their own interests and beliefs, and through their place in the hierarchy.
- The main-scale classroom teacher was popular with the pupils because they had direct contact with him, but in the long term it was difficult to integrate the provision within the college and more importantly in classrooms without regular support from senior management.
- Paul, the seconded senior teacher, brought a regular strategic dimension and the analysis conducted could have been a springboard to move the provision forwards, but as the role was not the major focus of the secondment and the coordinator role was also subservient to faculty leadership responsibilities, the pupils could not receive the individual attention they deserved.
- Josephine, the current head of faculty, leads other middle managers by example but without additional non-contact time or payment it can never be more than a short-term solution.
- The new TLR reform requires roles to be linked to leadership of staff and as a result the G&T coordinator role can be difficult to place in the staffing structure. One method of providing this leadership direction is by ensuring the G&T coordinator is involved in senior management monitoring and evaluation of teaching and learning. This would suggest that the most successful solution would be giving a head of faculty a senior management responsibility purely for G&T and relinquishing their tutor group. This would attract additional salary and non-contact time and the coordinator would not be overwhelmed by additional responsibilities. The lack of a tutor group would allow the coordinator the regular occasion to work with individual G&T pupils without disrupting their classroom experiences.
So the reality of the work of the G&T coordinator at Casterton has been far more complex and challenging than the job description we gave in the first paragraph. We hope, nonetheless, that the role of G&T coordinator is still tempting for senior teachers. Gifted and Talented pupils value the G&T coordinator’s input. Now that is being a time lord!
Josephine Smith is an experienced head of faculty who currently has a strategic whole-school role at Casterton Community College.
Paul Ainsworth was the senior teacher at Casterton Community College and is currently the director of studies at Fulneck School, an established 3-18 school, in West Yorkshire.
Selection system for the G&T register The initial system did not differentiate between gifted and talented students. Teachers in each subject nominated the top 10% of pupils in all year groups. When a pupil was nominated by five subjects they were placed on the gifted and talented register. The result was the register was heavily dominated by female students and students described by staff as hard workers.
A new system was implemented where there were two registers: a gifted one and a talented one. Subjects nominated their top two or three pupils and if they had two nominations they went on the register. In addition, the top five pupils on CAT non-verbal reasoning tests for each year were included on the gifted register.