Select Committee on Education and Employment Fourth Special Report





1. The Government is committed to developing and implementing a national strategy for the education of gifted and talented children. It plans to:

      (a)  ensure that all national education policies and initiatives include, where appropriate, a focus on the needs of gifted and talented children;

      (b)  identify, encapsulate and disseminate effective practice on the identification, education and support of gifted and talented children; and

      (c)  produce and implement an action plan for embedding good practice in every school and LEA.

2. The Department has established an expert advisory group to support this work, which has met four times to date. The Group has made recommendations on key policy areas such as literacy and numeracy, the school curriculum and its assessment, and the Teachers Green Paper, as well as advising on Excellence in Cities (EiC).

3. The Department plans a consultation document later this year on the best approach to a national strategy, and the action plan it develops will draw on the outcomes of that consultation, as well as the emerging lessons from EiC. The EiC programme is essentially the first stage of the implementation of the national strategy. We will want to look in due course at how to spread the lessons from the programme into other areas.

4. It is already clear that some of the outcomes of EiC—particularly the written guidance—will be useful to all schools and LEAs. The Government hopes that the higher profile given to this issue within EiC will encourage many more schools to give it higher priority, and to devote resources to it from their Standards Fund School Improvement Grant allocations. In addition there will be further funding available nationally—via the Standards Fund and the lottery-supported New Opportunities Fund—to provide masterclasses and summer schools for gifted and talented children, building on the pilot schemes that are running this year.


5. The EiC launch document sets out a three-year action programme targeted mainly, but not exclusively, at gifted and talented children of secondary age in Inner London (the 13 former ILEA authorities plus Newham, Haringey and Waltham Forest); Manchester/Salford; Liverpool/Knowsley; Birmingham; Leeds/Bradford; and Sheffield/Rotherham.

6. The broad objectives of the action programme are to:

      (a)  help improve the attainment and motivation of the most able children in each inner city secondary school—particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds—by ensuring that they benefit from a coherent and co-ordinated programme combining the right mix of challenge and support; and

      (b)  improve the ability of inner city secondary schools—of all types and regardless of intake—to make effective provision for their most able children, partly by developing local support networks based on a cluster of neighbouring schools including a 'centre of excellence'.

7. The elements targeted exclusively at secondary age pupils in secondary schools in the relevant cities are:

      (a)  a distinct in-school teaching and learning programme for the most able 5-10% of pupils in each secondary school;

      (b)  an extensive programme of out of school hours learning opportunities for the same cohort, provided through local networks (see below)—which will combine with the teaching and learning programme to provide a coherent learning experience. This will include university summer schools for 16-17 year-olds in schools and colleges;

      (c)  a strategy designed to strengthen the quality of provision in each school involving:

        (i)  the appointment of a senior co-ordinator in each school responsible for improving the education of gifted and talented children, and for the design and implementation of an effective whole school policy on the issue;

        (ii)  a nationally designed training programme for all co-ordinators, backed up by further staff development activity focused on classroom teachers;

        (iii)  first line support provided through extensive local networks based on groups of 4-5 schools, with each group including a nominated 'centre of excellence' for the education of gifted and talented children; and

        (iv)  additional support provided through local partnerships, based on the relevant local education authorities, and through central Government.

8. The elements that will have an impact nationally are:

      (a)  new guidance and materials to help all primary schools cater effectively for gifted and talented children within the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies;

      (b)  new 'world class' tests, initially in maths and problem-solving, to enable our most able children to measure their performance against the performance of the most able 9 and 13 year-olds in the countries that are highest rated in these areas in studies of international comparisons; and

      (c)  new 'world class' tests for 18 year-olds, in a wider range of subjects, that will replace S levels and form part of the reformed post-16 curriculum to be introduced from September 2000.


9. The target group for the national elements are the most able pupils in national terms. Perhaps 10% of pupils nationally might benefit from such initiatives. The target group for the initiatives focused on EiC areas comprises the most able 5-10% of pupils in each of the 450 secondary schools. (This is a broad indicator, and schools will have some flexibility at the margins. It is, however, important that the programme is firmly directed towards an identified group of children, rather than being dissipated throughout the school.) The ability level of each school's cohort will vary significantly in national terms. In some schools, some of the identified pupils may be of above average but not high ability in national terms.

10. This means that the national elements of the action programme will impact on only a proportion of the overall Excellence in Cities cohort. It also means that, when local school networks develop out of school hours programmes for the cohorts from each of their schools, the bigger cohort so formed may also include a relatively wide range of ability. And children of relatively high ability in some schools will not benefit from the programme, whereas others who are relatively less able will do so, because they are amongst the most able in their school.

11. These are consequences of the Government's decision to include every secondary school in the action programme. That is the only way to ensure that every school improves the education of its most able pupils, so that all inner city parents can have confidence in the capacity of their local secondary school to meet the needs of able pupils.

12. Within the Excellence in Cities schools, pupils aged 11-18 will be eligible, but the main emphasis will be on those at Key Stages 3 and 4. The programme is deliberately focused mainly on the secondary sector. Although the Government acknowledges the importance of extending good practice in the primary sector, it believes that primary schools must concentrate initially on implementing successfully the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategies. However, there will be some scope to involve primary schools through the local networks, particularly to ensure an effective transition for able pupils.

13. Although the programme is mainly to cater for pupils with academic ability, and that will form the core of the provision made within schools and through local networks, some provision for children with particular talents in sports and the arts will also be encouraged.

14. Schools will need to take a robust and consistent approach to the identification of their gifted and talented cohorts, making use of available test and assessment data alongside a range of other evidence, such as teacher nominations, comparison against subject-specific checklists of high ability indicators and analysis of pupils' work. They will need to take care to identify and include able children who are currently underachieving, as well as those who are already relatively high attainers. Identification is not an exact science, but the Department hopes that schools will develop a clearer understanding of good practice as a result of their experience during the pilot year.


The teaching and learning programme

15. The teaching and learning programme is the in-school component of the overall learning experience of the gifted and talented cohort. It should include all teaching and learning provided for these children in school hours. The Government anticipates that the bulk of this provision will continue to take place in the pupils' own schools. It will encourage schools in a local network to consider collaboration to extend the range of learning opportunities available, but the objective is certainly not to persuade schools to export their most able children to another provider: all schools must fulfil their responsibility to their most able pupils.

16. The Department will issue guidance and disseminate materials, drawing on best practice here and abroad. Initial guidance on designing a programme will concentrate on organisational approaches to meeting learning needs and increasing curriculum flexibility. The Government does not intend to develop a detailed, standard curriculum for these children, whose needs are very different. The emphasis will be very much on schools developing a target-based programme to match individual children's needs, building on their strengths and developing areas in which they are not so strong.

17. A distinct programme is not necessarily a separate programme: schools will not be expected to establish a separate stream, and it should be possible to deliver much of the programme through effective differentiation in existing classes, including mixed ability settings. But those schools that currently follow an exclusively mixed ability approach will be expected to give very serious consideration to a mixed economy, drawing on a much wider range of models including setting and fast-tracking, in response to the varying needs of their able pupil cohort. The guidance will specifically encourage setting in maths, science and modern foreign languages. Schools that remain wedded to a mixed ability approach will be expected to demonstrate high performance by their able pupils relative to those in other, similar schools.

Out of hours learning opportunities

18. Excellence in Cities will improve significantly the range of out of hours learning opportunities available to able children from the inner cities. Local education authorities are currently auditing existing provision— including out of hours learning—for gifted and talented children in their areas, and schools will be expected to plan a coherent programme, building on what is already available.

19. Most activities are likely to be provided through the local networks (see below) and made available to pupils from each of the 4-5 schools forming the network 'hub'. In some cases two or more networks may wish to collaborate to provide for a larger group, which may be drawn from all the schools in the local partnership. The members of the networks—such as businesses, higher education institutions, libraries and museums—will be involved in developing and running these opportunities. For example, an engineering faculty in a local university might work alongside network schools to offer a project-based summer school in design and technology, or a theatre might help with an English and drama masterclass.

20. The range of opportunities will include:

      (a)  masterclass programmes in a range of subject areas, building on the good practice emerging from the Department's pilot of masterclasses linked to specialist schools which started in September 1998;

      (b)  from summer 2000, summer schools in a range of subject areas, building on the good practice that will emerge from a pilot that running this summer;

      (c)  the University summer schools announced in the launch document. About twelve universities will be asked to establish residential summer schools aimed at 16-17 year-olds at the end of Year 12. These will available in science, arts/humanities and social sciences, include work experience and be a means of developing problem-solving, leadership and teamwork skills. They will benefit some 5,000 students a year;

      (d)  mentoring for able pupils, drawing on the services of students from similar backgrounds, academics and business people;

      (e)  other study support provision, such as homework clubs and work experience.

21. It will be essential for school co-ordinators and other school staff to plan carefully to ensure that these out of hours opportunities are not simply 'bolt on', but properly integrated into the pupils' overall learning programmes. The Department will issue guidance to networks on developing a programme of opportunities, including advice on combining different funding streams, in addition to those attached to Excellence in Cities, particularly the New Opportunities Fund and specialist schools' community funding.

Strengthening the quality of provision in schools

Co-ordinators, the whole school policy and co-ordinator training

22. Every secondary school will appoint a co-ordinator for gifted and talented children who will have lead responsibility for the gifted and talented programme within his or her school. The co-ordinator will need to have the necessary competencies and adequate time to manage change effectively, ensuring that the whole school—including pupils and staff of all kinds—are committed to the programme and equipped to meet the objectives set out above. Some schools will already have a suitable co-ordinator in place; others will wish to appoint an existing member of staff currently engaged on other duties. Existing special educational needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) are unlikely to have the time for this significant additional responsibility.

23. The whole school policy for gifted and talented children will be the school's statement of its own objectives for improving the identification, education and support of gifted and talented children, and will set out clearly how it intends to achieve those objectives. It will need to cover the in-school teaching and learning programme, the out of hours programme and issues such as staff development, promoting positive pupil attitudes and relationships with parents and the wider community. The co-ordinator will be responsible for developing and agreeing an effective whole school policy, and then for overseeing its implementation, monitoring and evaluation. This process should be designed to secure the all-round commitment referred to above.

24. The role of the co-ordinator is to co-ordinate, not to undertake all activities relating to gifted and talented children on behalf of the school. Key responsibilities are likely to include:

      (a)  overseeing the teaching and learning programme;

      (b)  helping to train and develop other members of staff;

      (c)  working alongside learning mentors in addressing the needs of gifted and talented children who need extra support;

      (d)  working with co-ordinators in other schools in the network to provide a support service to all those schools;

      (e)  working with other co-ordinators in the network to arrange a programme of out of school hours activities; and

      (f)  working with other co-ordinators in the partnership on partnership-wide initiatives.

25. The role of the co-ordinator in schools which are designated as centres of excellence within local networks will be pivotal, since he or she will have a significant role in developing good practice in several schools. That said, it is likely that the co-ordinators' group in most local networks will wish to work collaboratively to establish and deliver a support programme across the schools concerned.

26. The pilot year as a whole is a staff development project for all co-ordinators and their schools. Local partnerships, local networks and schools will be receiving initial help and advice, and then extensive support and guidance throughout the year as they put their programmes in place. There will also be formal training for co-ordinators, in the form of a nationally designed programme, which will be piloted in the second half of the pilot year, once schools have their basic infrastructure in place. Training will then be provided for all co-ordinators during years 2 and 3 of the initiative.

27. Decisions on the training model have not yet been taken, but it is likely to be based on a 5-day training course or equivalent, with school-based follow-up activities. We shall be considering to what extent training can be undertaken though distance learning. One option is to develop national standards for co-ordinators and to design the training to contribute to the achievement of those standards. Potential trainers have not yet been identified, but will of course need to demonstrate appropriate experience and expertise to undertake this work.

Local networks

28. Effective local school networks are crucial to the success of the action programme and, in order to be effective, schools must be prepared to support each other for mutual benefit. The standard model for the hub of a network is four to five neighbouring secondary schools, one of which is a nominated lead school, or centre of excellence for gifted and talented children. The lead school might be (or might eventually become) a specialist school, a beacon school, or a base for a new inner city learning centre (ILC).

29. There could be some variations on this model to suit local circumstances but, in each case, there will need to be a group of schools including a nominated lead school which will hold the budget for network-wide activities. The co-ordinator in that lead school, working with his co-ordinator colleagues, will be responsible for identifying the sources of good practice within his and the other schools in the cluster, and ensuring that it spreads into all of them.

30. As networks develop their wider community links, they are likely to embrace a large number of other bodies, at both national and local level. Each will be expected to work with a wide range of educational institutions, including: local primary schools, particularly those which most regularly send pupils to the 'hub' schools; local specialist schools; local beacon schools and, potentially, beacon schools outside the inner cities as well; independent schools and state boarding schools, which might also be local or situated some distance away; and institutions of further and higher education, including providers of initial and in-service teacher education. The Government is particularly keen to promote links with higher education and partnership activities with independent schools.

31. Networks will also include a similarly wide range of other organisations. At a local level, these might include: businesses; libraries, museums and art galleries; theatres and cinemas; sports clubs; local media; voluntary and community groups; diocesan boards; TECs and, of course, local authorities. At a national level, networks might form particularly fruitful partnerships with businesses, subject associations and professional associations in a wide range of fields.

32. As noted above, the two main functions of the networks will be to plan, organise and deliver out-of-hours learning opportunities for pupils and a network support service for member schools. Some of the members of the wider network will be able to provide assistance with the second of these functions as well as the first. The Department will be working with national bodies representing the range of network participants to extend the range of opportunities available.

Local partnerships

33. Local partnerships are currently working on outline plans, which must be agreed with the Department by the end of July, covering the actions they need to undertake in relation to the whole of the Excellence in Cities programme by the Autumn. (Final plans, covering the later stages of the initiative, are to be agreed by November 1999.) Each partnership has been asked to:

      (a)  identify a partnership co-ordinator for the gifted and talented strand;

      (b)  undertake an immediate audit of existing provision for gifted and talented children within the area covered by the partnership;

      (c)  set out their objectives and targets, which must be consistent with national objectives and reflect the outcomes of their audit;

      (d)  consult and agree on the formation of schools into local networks;

      (e)  plan an initial support programme for schools and local networks based on the principle of intervention in inverse proportion to success; outline their plans for partnership-wide activity in support of their objectives; and set out the connections they are making between this and other strands of Excellence in Cities.

Literacy and numeracy guidance and materials

34. The Department will develop with QCA and the directors of the national literacy and numeracy strategies guidance and materials to help primary teachers stretch the most able children in literacy and numeracy. There will be guidance about classroom strategies, whole-school and LEA-wide issues. The nature of the materials has not yet been agreed but might be in the form of activity sheets or exemplification which would be placed on the Department's literacy and numeracy website. Schools will also be encouraged to set targets for level 5 performance at Key Stage 2.

World class tests

35. The Department will be developing, through the appropriate agencies, new tests with a world-wide currency for highly able children. The tests will be based on the performance of the most able children aged 9, 13 and 18 in the countries that do best in these areas within studies of international comparisons. Pupils will be able to enter these tests at any age, so that exceptionally able children might take the tests calibrated against the performance of 9 and 13 year-olds some years before they reach those ages.

36. The tests tied to performance at 9 and 13 will be developed initially in two areas: maths and problem-solving. The tests linked to performance at 18 will cover a wider range of subjects and will be developed as part of the A level framework in place of S level. The range of subjects has not yet been decided, and we do not know how many will be available to younger pupils. It is likely, but not certain, that the tests at all three levels will be piloted in 2000 and introduced in 2001.

37. QCA is preparing further advice on the tests linked to performance at 18 and an outline specification for developing the tests linked to performance at 9 and 13.


38. Total funding for the gifted and talented strand of Excellence in Cities is provisionally £45m, with £7m available in 1999-2000 and about £19m in each of the two following financial years. Assuming a total eligible pupil population of 40,000— that is equivalent to around £475 per pupil per year in 2000-01 and 2001-02. (There is a further £5.4 million available to begin to put in place a national strategy.)

39. A small proportion of this funding will be retained centrally to pay for national guidance and support, and the development costs associated with world class tests in particular. Local education authorities are also likely to retain an element to meet the cost of partnership-wide initiatives and the support they will provide for local networks and schools. However, most of the resource will be devolved through the Standards Fund directly to schools.

40. In addition to this core funding, schools will also be able to use money from other, largely unhypothecated sources to improve the education of their most able children. These include:

      (a)  Standards Fund School Improvement Grant, which can be used to support professional development and other activity in a school development plan, post-inspection action plan or Education Development Plan designed to improve standards of pupil performance in order to meet school, LEA and national targets;

      (b)  Standards Fund Grant for Out of School Hours Learning (available from 2000-01) and funding for summer schools for gifted and talented children from the New Opportunities Fund (also available from April 2000);

      (c)  Standards Fund Grant for specialist schools, which might be the nominated 'centre of excellence' at the heart of a local school network, or be part of one or more wider networks developed by network 'hubs' of 4-5 schools, particularly the element payable from 1 September 1999 for community focus activities, which can be used to support masterclasses, summer schools and other activities targeted at gifted and talented pupils;

        (d)  Standards Fund Grant for beacon schools, which might also be a nominated 'centre of excellence', or else part of a wider local network;

        (e)  Funding for City Learning Centres, which will be expected to develop provision for gifted and talented pupils in local schools, and might also be the nominated 'centre of excellence' at the heart of a local school network; and

        (f)  funding for Education Action Zones encompassing schools and local networks, including funding for the new small Education Action Zones announced as part of the Excellence in Cities package.


    41. The current action programme will last for three years. The first academic year of the programme, beginning in September 1999, is a pilot year. The programme developed and introduced during 1999/2000 will be refined and improved for the two succeeding years, beginning in September 2000.

    42. The table below outlines the phases and key events within the programme as currently planned. The timetable for some elements is still being finalised.



    May 1999

    Local partnerships receive guidance on developing outline plans covering actions that need to be underway by Autumn 1999.


    Local partnerships conduct audit of provision for gifted and talented children in their areas and prepare outline plans taking the audit outcomes into account

    July 1999

    First tranche of DfEE guidance on the gifted and talented strand of Excellence in Cities released to schools

    31 July 1999

    Local partnerships' outline plans approved by DfEE


    Local partnerships develop full plans covering all stages of the initiative

    September 1999

    Pilot year of gifted and talented programme begins

    October 1999

    Second tranche of DfEE guidance on the gifted and talented strand

    November 1999

    Local partnerships full plans approved by DfEE

    by Autumn 1999

    All school co-ordinators in place

    All network 'hubs' established and centres of excellence identified

    All cohorts of gifted and talented children identified

    All schools to have agreed and begun to implement a distinct teaching and learning programme

    by Spring 2000

    A sample of co-ordinators will pilot the nationally designed training programme

    All schools to have agreed and begun to implement an effective whole school policy

    All local networks fully established

    All networks to have agreed and begun to implement a support strategy and a programme of out of hours learning opportunities

    Summer 2000

    Pilot of world class tests

    July 2000

    Pilot year for gifted and talented strand ends

    September 2000

    University summer schools run

    from September 2000

    Gifted and talented strand fully implemented

    Summer 2001

    World class tests introduced

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