Casterton Business and Enterprise College (CEBC) is one of three truly comprehensive Rutland secondary schools with 800 pupils on role in Years 7-11. Here they outline their approach to communicating and working with parents

It is in the unusual position of being on several county boundaries and influenced by all: Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and not far away from Cambridgeshire – all with their differing selection procedures, school structures and admissions policies.

For parents, the decision about where to send their Year 7 son or daughter is especially complicated. Within a five-mile radius are: a co-educational selective state grammar school, two local secondary schools, a private school offering 50 assisted places, as well as CBEC – a well regarded, successful specialist comprehensive school. All are viable options for parents of able children.

The choice for parents of G&T pupils is perhaps especially hard, presented with such variety. Attracting parents to CBEC, forging opportunities to communicate the ways in which their able offspring will be well catered for, is something we have worked hard on in recent months. We have looked for practical ways to assure parents that they can feel confident their son or daughter will have all the advantages of curricular and extra-curricular learning that they would have at any other school in the area, and that the high expectations they have of their child are echoed by the school.

Visiting our school
This process begins for us at our annual open evening in early October when prospective parents bring their Year 5 and 6 children to see the school at work.

As well as pupil demonstrations, displays and activities in every curriculum area and the principal’s address, we set up a G&T display in the foyer area, staffed by the G&T coordinator. This display features up-to-date photographs and details of some of our G&T pupils, photos of the G&T masterclasses and events that have taken place during the preceding academic year including details of our annual ‘Rising Stars of Rutland’ pupil conference.

We provide clear definitions of what it means to be labelled gifted or talented and be listed on the school’s G&T register and provide details of the school’s G&T policy. The display informs parents of our involvement with the National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY) and provides details on the academy’s registration procedure and opportunities.

In 2006 we worked towards an application for the NACE Challenge Award and details of this were also available to parents.

Accompanying the display and the opportunity to discuss their child’s ability with the G&T coordinator was an inhouse designed, and professionally published leaflet, detailing G&T provision throughout the school and the chance for parents to make the school aware of their child’s talents or giftedness before they joined the school by means of our parent referral form.

Starting at our school
Once pupils are at the school we use a variety of ways to keep parents informed about how pupils’ giftedness, talents or abilities are catered for and developed. The home-school agreement issued in the first half-term includes a calendar of key dates and events. These are publicised and reported on in the termly school newsletter. Again this is a professionally published document sent to all parents as well as governors and school business partners, and details G&T successes amongst other notable events.

The newsletter also provides a forum for inviting parents to celebrate the varied talents of their children at school events, be it sports day, speech day, lower or upper school drama productions and so on.

Pupil tracking
While it is not unusual for all schools to find ways of celebrating individual and whole-school successes, Casterton Business and Enterprise College is also keen to develop practical and sustainable methods of communication with parents about individual G&T pupils, not just in order to celebrate but to challenge, signpost opportunities both within and outside of school to develop bright pupils’ positive experience of learning and to identify underachievement as and when it presents itself.

Linked to our pupil tracking system is the identification of able pupils who might not be demonstrating their talents and ability as they could. Learning managers have time in school allocated for contacting parents to discuss with them their child’s progress. This is complemented by regular discussions that pupils on our school G&T register have with the G&T coordinator who is freed up from tutor group responsibilities for two 20-minute sessions per week to mentor G&T pupils and complete with them, their own individual learning plan. This IEP is made available to parents as well as being jointly written with the individual pupil and pupils are able to comment on it in their self-assessment section of their annual school profile. 

Extra-curricular family event
Autumn 2006 saw our first KS3 G&T family visit when the G&T coordinator, the deputy head and parents and siblings of G&T pupils in Years 7 to 9 visited the National Science Museum to see the Game On exhibition, a hands-on exhibition on the history of the games console. The event was as much a chance for parents to join with the school in celebrating and encouraging their child’s natural inquisitiveness for learning and new experiences, but also aimed to forge a relationship between school and home that sees parents acting as G&T mentors of a kind, to their own children.

The valuable collaboration of school, pupil and parent can, we are sure, only serve to provide pupils with the best support and involvement in their development as successful young people. One parent stopped very hesitantly at our recent open evening and worried that other parents would judge her unfavourably because she was publicly suggesting that her daughter was gifted. Another wanted to stop and chat about our G&T provision even though it transpired that her son was most likely to need the additional intervention of our learning support department.

Raising awareness of the nature of G&T provision in schools in general amongst parents seems to be a priority. We hope that at CBEC we are providing parents with information, support and ambition as well as practical and regular ways to assist the development of their children as successful, happy, high-achieving lifelong learners.

Further information