Tags: G&T Coordinator | G&T policy | Gifted & Talented | Headteacher | School Business Manager | School Governor | School Leadership & Management | Standards

The new education white paper Higher Standards, Better Schools for All, More Choice for Parents and Pupils contains good news and bad news for G&T coordinators. There’s new money in place along with promises of more support, and meanwhile ministers are not afraid to talk about children with high ability, potential, and achievement. However, there are also proposals that could radically change the role of the G&T coordinator through the introduction of ‘expert’ teachers.

The government admits that ‘some schools and some staff still do not give the needs of [G&T] learners sufficient priority’ and undertakes to: – ensure that children who have a particular gift or talent receive extra challenge

– widen curriculum choice in secondary education, so that more young people are motivated by study that stretches and interests them.

Schools will be encouraged to group pupils by ability, and research into current best practice in this area will be published in the New Year (see also p4 of this issue). There are specific promises on support to improve G&T programmes, on funding and on the creation of a national G&T register.

Improving G&T programmes
In order to improve G&T programmes the government promises more training and guidance to schools through the National Academy of Gifted & Talented Youth (NAGTY) and other partners. Specific support is promised to help develop the talents of young athletes.

More money
The white paper says that £335m will be earmarked in the Dedicated Schools grant to help schools deliver effective small group provision. Schools are urged to give priority to literacy and numeracy, G&T work and personalised learning. No money has as yet been officially ring-fenced for G&T learning, although a figure of £50m was suggested by the Guardian, 8 November.

Up to £1m a year will be provided to match-fund business and philanthropic contributions to NAGTY’s ‘Go for Gold’ scheme for G&T students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

More summer schools for G&T students are also on the agenda, although the DfES will be seeking sponsorship from businesses to pay for these non-residential courses.

National G&T register
The government also plans to have a national register of G&T pupils aged 11-18 as part of its plans to ensure that all schools are identifying their G&T pupils. This will be based on schools’ own data, end of KS2 performance and other tests of ability. All students on the register who fall within the top 5% will be invited to join NAGTY.

Surprisingly, there will be no distinction made between ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ on the register. The move will also support ‘progression portfolios’ that will follow G&T students through their school careers.

Changes for G&T coordinators
The white paper introduces potentially radical changes to the role of the G&T coordinator. It announces the new role of the ‘expert’ or ‘leading’ teacher and says that in future all teachers will be expected to be teachers of the gifted. It is not yet clear whether the teaching and learning part of the G&T coordinator role will now revert to the ‘expert’ teacher.

More confusing still, in primary schools, the ‘leading teacher’ will be expected to be working in a cluster of primary schools – possibly as many as 15 – covering ‘catch-up’ in literacy and numeracy, as well as taking on responsibility for more able pupils. Secondary schools come out rather better with the intention being that three teachers take on this role, with ‘leading’ or ‘expert’ teachers in literacy, numeracy and G&T.

This comes at a time when the role of the G&T coordinator has been made shaky by the transmutation of management points into teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) points (see Tim Dracup’s article opposite). A delegate at the DfES Gifted and Talented Education Unit’s annual conference from a middle school said that his title and role of G&T coordinator had been lost in the TLR shuffle and that the responsibility for gifted pupils had been left with the Senco – a situation that was becoming far less common in schools over the last two years.

Speaking at the conference, the director of NAGTY, Deborah Eyre, said that G&T coordinators were ‘advocates and resident experts in schools’ for more able pupils but that ‘this traditional role will come under review – or disappear’. She went on to urge delegates to ‘be creative and think of possibilities’.

The white paper can be read or downloaded from www.dfes.gov.uk/publications/schoolswhitepaper

Editor’s comment
The white paper has many good and positive things to say about tailoring the curriculum to the needs of more able pupils, but it fails to support the substantial and impressive work done by G&T coordinators all over the country. By combining the T&L part of this role in with ‘catch-up’, it takes the work back to the days when Sencos were expected to deal with both less able and more able pupils, despite the fact that much of the Senco’s role is legislated, and this is not the case with G&T coordinators.

It will be a sad mistake if G&T coordinators become administrators rather than advocates and experts in the field of G&T education, as they are at present.

This article first appeared in Gifted & Talented Update – Dec 2005

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