The Gifted and Talented programme - Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 49-144)



  Q49  Chairman: I welcome the Minister, Diana Johnson, who is a little poorly and has a rather bad cold. We are sorry to keep you waiting—we had a Division that slowed us all up a bit. I also welcome Jon Coles, Dr Geraldine Hutchinson and Professor John Stannard. I will consistently refer to Diana Johnson as Minister, but I will refer to the rest of you in first-name terms to speed everything up, rather than using Professor and Dr. Is that all right? I think we all know why we are here. No Committee has looked at gifted and talented since our predecessor Committee looked at it under Malcolm Wicks' chairmanship 10 years ago. The programme has had quite a chequered history, so we thought it would be rather interesting to dip back into it and see just what has become of it. We have had one evidence session already. You have the option to start either with a statement or go straight into questions. We always offer that option.

  Ms Johnson: I think I'll make a brief statement. I apologise for my voice. Thank you for the invitation. Our gifted and talented programme aims to offer gifted pupils, including the exceptionally able, that extra stretch they need to engage them more in their learning, and in addition to provide extra support to help 14 to 19-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds to progress to competitive universities and professional careers. Since 1997, we have made significant progress in many areas of support for gifted and talented learners. That policy area has developed over the years. The first phase, from 1997[1] to 2002, saw gifted and talented pupils supported through Excellence in Cities. It was aimed at transforming the culture of low expectation and achievement by introducing more effective in-school and out-of-hours provision for gifted and talented learners, and was focused on able children in specific areas of deprivation. The second phase, from 2002-07, aimed to widen gifted and talented provision to the national level. The National Academy was introduced for the top 5% elite of 11 to 19-year-olds. The National Academy provided access to university-led summer schools and other outreach activities. The third phase, from 2007-10, aimed to widen provision yet further beyond the top 5%. The Learner Academy, supported by CfBT, is a virtual web-based academy to reach a wider gifted and talented community. This phase also saw the launch of City GATES. Those three phases have seen substantial achievements. We have introduced national quality standards for G&T education in all schools, established regional collaboration in support of G&T education in every government region, introduced a network of 170 high-performing specialist schools and introduced materials for teachers to help them tailor their planning and teaching. We now want to build on those achievements and move into the next phase of the programme. We believe that support for gifted and talented pupils should be school-led. We need to embed support for able pupils in school and personalise provision for those young people so that gifted and talented children can thrive. Most importantly, the new pupil and parent guarantees are at the heart of this approach. It is right that teachers, the people who know their pupils best, should be put in the driving seat in deciding what support will best meet the needs of their gifted and talented pupils. The pupil guarantee enshrines best practice and creates an entitlement to support so that every gifted and talented pupil and their parents will know what support is being offered to nurture their gifts or talent. We also want to support more disadvantaged pupils who may be more likely to need extra support to help them fulfil their potential. We are providing £250 per pupil aged 14 to 19 registered as gifted and talented and from a disadvantaged background. This is of course on top of the £1 billion that schools already receive for personalisation, which includes those who are gifted and talented, and the music and dance scheme, which provides bursaries for attendance at specialist institutions for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. We will also make available to schools a new online needs analysis tool to identify the type of additional stretch and support gifted and talented children need. We will also be releasing a series of materials to help teachers deliver additional challenge for their pupils within the school setting, and we are continuing to fund the regional partnerships to ensure that there is suitable provision to support gifted and talented pupils across England. Our changes to the gifted and talented programme will give better support to teachers delivering gifted and talented education, ensuring that gifted and talented is better integrated into schools and classroom practice, and will deliver to schools the funding they need to develop and support their gifted and talented pupils.

  Q50  Chairman: Minister, thank you. With your opening statement you made it sound as though everything had been a wonderful, natural progression from a starting point with a vision, growing partly organically but developing systematically, whereas a leading professor in the first session said the whole programme had been inconsistent and incoherent. That view was more or less shared by the five witnesses earlier. Inconsistent and incoherent. First, the phase out of Warwick, then the CfBT phase. What do you and Jon Coles say to the voice that says, "It has not been a natural progression; it has alienated a lot of people out there because it has been inconsistent"?

  Ms Johnson: When I started to look at gifted and talented, and the policies that had been put in place since 1997, I was struck by the approaches, which have differed over time, but when I thought about it and looked at it in depth, I thought that there was a sense of a journey, if you like, in this. It may be that some things have been tried and then we have decided that that is not the most appropriate thing to do. I suppose, at the end of the day, what we want to do is maximise the number of gifted and talented children and pupils who are getting access to the stretch and the support that they need to fulfil their full potential. Looking at the numbers of children and pupils who have been able to access help, over time that has increased considerably. If you look back to, say, the NAGTY at Warwick University, the numbers there were quite small. But if you look at the number of pupils now whom we have on the census in January, saying that there are 820,000 children who are gifted or talented, there is a bit of a discrepancy there. I think what I am attracted to in the new policy, "The Way Forward", is that it is going to be school-based, reach more children who are gifted and talented and provide the breadth of support to more children.

  Q51  Chairman: We spend a lot of time in this Committee trying to judge whether a policy is effective. One of the central ways you can do that is to measure and see what the effects are over time. The Committee has been told that the longitudinal study, as soon as it was passed on to CfBT, finished. So we don't know whether that £20 million or £25 million, quite a considerable amount of taxpayers' money, that we invested into those young people made any difference. What Department would stop a longitudinal study after five years? We don't know if those young people who were helped in the first five years had any benefit.

  Ms Johnson: Perhaps Jon can come on to answer in a moment. But I would say that I am very clear that I want to know that when we spend public money, it has a direct effect at the other end. I am with you 100% on that. Obviously, it is quite difficult, isn't it—to extract the particular bits that you might put forward for gifted and talented children from the general education they receive. There is the difficulty in pulling that apart.

  Q52  Chairman: The Department has some really good longitudinal studies that it continues to fund over time. Why stop this one? Is it because you're embarrassed, Jon, that you won't get the results that you thought you would get?

  Jon Coles: I am afraid that I wasn't in the room when someone mentioned that study, so I am afraid that I don't know about that particular longitudinal study, and I will have to write to you on that. I would say that we have—I know that the Committee was interested in this—a published research report on the national academy and its impact, which is available publicly. So it's not as if this has been an unevaluated piece of work.

  Q53  Chairman: No, but we want to know what happened to the students. Did it get them into what they wanted to do? Did it lead them on to great careers? Geraldine, you are part of CfBT. You took this over. Was it your decision to get rid of the longitudinal study, or was it the Department?

  Dr Hutchinson: No, the longitudinal study was never part of the activities that we were asked to carry out as part of our contract.

  Q54  Chairman: Minister, that looks incoherent and inconsistent.

  Ms Johnson: Certainly, we will have a look at that and see what happened.[2]

  Q55  Chairman: Yes. It's a lot of money—£25 million put into the first five years, and someone said, "Forget about it. Give it to CfBT, a different thing, and we won't even track the students that we spent the £25 million on."

  Jon Coles: I'm afraid I don't know about the longitudinal study, or what that is a reference to. All I can say is that there was a thorough evaluation of the spending of that money, and the conclusion of that was put on the DCSF website. If there is a longitudinal study that I don't know about, I will write to you.[3]

  Q56  Chairman: There must be because the professor in charge of it has just told this Committee that it was there, and you scrapped it. You've made yourself rather exposed, not briefing your Minister before you arrived here. I was bound to ask you a question about that. You looked at the evidence. You knew the professor who was in charge of your five-year programme at Warwick University.

  Jon Coles: This is our published report on that five years of work.

  Q57  Chairman: Jon, you know the difference between a longitudinal study and a nice little gloss that you come up with, saying, "Over five years". Any civil servant can write that, but a longitudinal study tells us what the value for the taxpayer is.

  Jon Coles: And that is analysed in this report, which is an independent evaluation report.

  Q58  Chairman: What did it say on the value to the taxpayer?

  Jon Coles: It is publicly available. As you've heard from your previous witnesses, there were a number of things that the academy did well and a number of areas where the objectives were not met in full, which is why we moved from that approach to a broadening of the national approach.

  Q59  Chairman: But you have now got rid of it. You started one academy for five years, then stopped the longitudinal study, did your evaluation and moved on to a new sort of academy. CfBT has had only three years, and you have closed down the academy.

  Jon Coles: Warwick had the opportunity to bid for—

  Q60  Chairman: Did it want to?

  Jon Coles: They chose not to.

  Q61  Chairman: Honestly, looking at you as a client, I don't think I would have bid.

  Jon Coles: They chose not to bid, which is obviously a matter for them. As the Minister has described—

  Q62  Chairman: You weren't a good client, Jon. It was obvious. You weren't a good client. Its reputation was at risk because it is a serious university and it didn't want its reputation tarnished with the sorts of things that you were doing.

  Jon Coles: Is that what they said to you?

  Chairman: Yes.

  Jon Coles: Okay. Well, as I say, I was not in the room at that point. Whether they did or not is obviously—

  Q63  Chairman: They didn't say "tarnished" to be honest, but they didn't want to be associated with it.

  Jon Coles: Okay. Well, that is a matter for them. We did have a—

  Q64  Chairman: No, it is a matter for this Committee, Jon. What we're trying to drag out of you is why this longitudinal study stopped, and why you have closed down two academies. Quite honestly, we are still floundering to find out what the policy for gifted and talented is now.

  Jon Coles: I can say again that I don't know about this longitudinal study. I don't know that there was one and I don't know that we closed it down, so I will have to write to you on that.[4] As for this, as the Minister has tried to describe, at the start of a policy it is really important to create a focus where there isn't one. That is what was done through the Excellence in Cities work back before 2000, and it is what the national academy was designed to do from 2002 onwards, but it was clear, and this research report makes it clear, that it is unaffordable to scale that up, and that is one of the things that the evaluation report says. Therefore, we needed to move to a different approach and we went out to tender for one. As I say, it was absolutely open to Warwick to apply for that had they wanted to—

  Chairman: And they didn't want to.

  Jon Coles: And they chose to—

  Q65  Chairman: Let's just ask Geraldine, you won the contract to do it in a rather different way, didn't you?

  Dr Hutchinson: That's correct. CfBT was awarded a contract from September 2007 to March 2010. It is a three-year contract. Our remit was quite different from that of the NAGTY programme in many ways, although we have sought to take the best practice from NAGTY and embed it in the learner academy. Our remit was to increase access, extending the age range from four to 19 years, and also to increase reach for more gifted and talented learners to be able to access independently information that they would need to progress. We also had a remit to tackle both excellence and equity, so another of the things that we had to build in to our programme was to target support towards disadvantaged learners as well. That was our total remit when we set out.

  Q66  Chairman: I saw you in the room earlier when Annette, I think, asked if any of our five witnesses mourned the closure of your academy. Were you surprised that not one of them did? They seemed to be quite pleased that your academy had been closed down. Why do you think that was?

  Dr Hutchinson: I obviously can't speak for the panel. Clearly, when the programme transitioned from NAGTY—bearing in mind that that was quite a different programme from the one that we were asked to create by the Department—we had a team of lead professionals, and we had a very highly-esteemed lead professional who did work closely with NAGTY to identify best practice so that we could take the best of what NAGTY had done and build it in to our programme. As fellow professionals, we fully acknowledged that they had done some really excellent work. For example, a lot of the materials that were in the library, and the research base materials on the learner academy, were sourced from NAGTY, and we did not want to lose that good practice. Our basis was to build on the best that NAGTY had developed, but obviously we had a much wider remit and we had to do much more in a very short space of time to reach very many more individuals. For example, we were set a target by the ministerial taskforce to reach 250,000 learners through the learner academy. The membership of the academy now stands at 337,000, and we have had 1.9 million visitors to the academy, 500,000 of whom have sourced materials for the secondary-age phase and 300,000 of whom have sourced materials for the primary-age phase. In terms of reach, those are the sorts of things we have tried to create, and certainly our starting point was to look at what NAGTY had done, to visit colleagues at NAGTY, and to inform our practice from their work.

  Q67  Chairman: But Geraldine, you're known to be one of the leading independent consultancies in the educational world, aren't you?

  Dr Hutchinson: CfBT is.

  Q68  Chairman: I know of your work, I know that you've done some good work as an organisation and Warwick is known to be a fine university with a leading research capacity. But they've closed them down and now they've closed you down. When were you told that you'd failed and they were getting rid of you?

  Dr Hutchinson: We were informed in June 2009 that the programme would be changing significantly, and at that time there were several key changes to the programme, which we responded to, naturally, because we were under contract. One change was that the professional activities of our professional team would not be required any longer, meaning that those posts would be effectively made redundant. So our professional team and our lead professional were unfortunately made redundant in July 2009. We had a number of online study groups, moderated forums and faculty cafés that were part of the learner academy. They were well received by learners because, clearly, that's where they could get together, share and chat and identify as a group. That part of the learning academy, which was effectively the interactive bit, closed in June 2009. At that point—mid-2009—we were aware that there would be significant changes to the programme and to the learner academy. From that point we worked with—[5]

  Q69  Chairman: Were you upset it was phased out?

  Dr Hutchinson: CfBT was disappointed that a lot of the work that we had started would come to quite an abrupt end at that point.

  Q70  Chairman: You can't be too disappointed, because you've got lots of other contracts.

  Dr Hutchinson: At CfBT we have a high commitment to the work that we take on. We are a charity. Independently, CfBT is sponsoring a number of pieces of independent research into gifted and talented because we're genuinely interested, much as Deborah Eyre was saying, in looking at the methodologies internationally.

  Q71  Chairman: John, just one question. Do you shed any tears, in your role as the champion of gifted and talented programmes, over two academies closing down? Does it not matter? Do we just keep on moving and changing?

  Professor Stannard: Yes and no is the answer. I don't shed any tears about the current form of the Young Gifted and Talented Learner Academy disappearing, because it hasn't been terrifically effective. On the other hand, I do shed tears over the fact that we appear to be discontinuing some form of co-ordinated provision of services to our most able children, which bring the expertise of the community at universities and all the other potential contributors to those students. When the academy goes, that effort goes too. That's really important and it is probably the fundamental function of the whole thing. I believe that's what NGATY was doing successfully within a limited sphere. There is an underlying difficulty, for me. I should declare an interest here because I was previously, before this role, a principal consultant for CfBT and I came into this role partly at CfBT's suggestion and was then moved—repositioned—as an independent voice. So I no longer work for CfBT and I am an independent voice. The underlying problem with the YGT academy was strategic. NAGTY had great value and was impressive in many ways, although there are questions about the value for money that it produced. The question was whether it was scalable in any form that resembled what it was doing. Was it scalable in terms of being taken out to the whole nation and doubling, or more than doubling, the number of students who would get access to it? Was it scalable in terms of how much that was likely to cost, of what the consequences would be of trying to run it, and of the management, bureaucracy and everything involved with it? The scaling up was genuinely well intentioned. I think CfBT went into it with commitment and the best of intentions, but it was not destined to be a raging success in the system.

  Chairman: Let's leave it there for the moment.

  Q72  Mr Stuart: Minister, how do you respond to that? One of our earlier witnesses said that, just as you start to get things right, the policy disappears. We hear from the champion appointed by you that the underlying problem has been strategic; that we are discontinuing co-ordinated services to gifted children. This is a disaster area, isn't it?

  Ms Johnson: I don't think it is. We have already learned from what happened in the past. The idea of moving gifted and talented provision into schools, so they can focus on it and mainstream it within what they are doing, is a better way of going forward. I talked about the pupil-parent guarantee. Parents and pupils will be very clear about what extra support they can access and what is best for them. It is not like in the past when perhaps there was a menu you could choose from as a pupil or parent: the child could go to this course or do that. This time round it is going to be about identifying what the child needs to stretch them. That is an exciting way forward. There is a clear guarantee that each school is going to be responsible for its gifted and talented pupils and make the right provision for them.

  Q73  Mr Stuart: That's back to '99, isn't it? It was all embedded in schools then. The whole reason why the Government changed the policy was because this Committee and others found that, if left to schools, insufficient attention was paid to it. It needed external leadership; it needed academic and other stimuli. We are just back to future. We are shredding all the good work that has gone on before. All the people we have heard today—seven experts outside the Department—have spoken with one voice, effectively. We are just going back and capping any benefits that could have been gained from this large public investment. Surely, you need to think and look again at making sure there is a stimulus outside schools; not just leave it to schools.

  Jon Coles: I was in for the final 20 minutes to half an hour of the last session. Mr Chaytor picked up that all the previous five witnesses were fundamentally arguing that this has to be mainstreamed properly in schools; it has to be about teaching and learning in the classroom and developing professional expertise. That is precisely the direction we are going in. The things that are different are, first, the underlying capacity of the system and its focus on this issue. What the past 10 or more years have done is create a much sharper focus on this as an issue. There is a much greater understanding in schools. There is an expectation that everybody has a lead teacher for gifted and talented. There is an expectation that local authorities have gifted and talented co-ordinators. It has a status and a focus in the system.

  Q74  Mr Stuart: May I interrupt? There were 4.6 million hits on the NAGTY/Warwick website in the past year—millions in the way of support there. What is going to happen to that material? It is not all going to be lost, is it, like the longitudinal study? We'll have somebody from the Department in a couple of years' time saying they have never heard of it.

  Jon Coles: No. This April there will be a transition. The Committee has probably not yet heard that over the next year a lot of this work will transition into the National Strategies—the final year of the National Strategies contract. One thing we will be doing is making sure that the good-quality materials that have been produced will continue to be available through the National Strategies. A lot of the focused work that the National Strategies will do in their final year will continue to be there in support of teachers and others.

  Q75  Mr Stuart: How will you ensure continuation after that? It doesn't give us a lot of confidence when we see domino after domino falling. You are adding this to National Strategies, which are themselves going out the window.

  Jon Coles: Part of the final year of the National Strategies is going to be focused on making sure that all of the materials produced by the National Strategies and others that are good-quality web resources are made available and continue to be available and updated beyond the end of that contract. That is one of the clear, focused pieces of work that will happen over the next year.

  Q76  Mr Stuart: That's a promise, is it?

  Jon Coles: That is one of the things we are doing in this period. Your previous speakers talked about accountability, and the potentially perverse effect. I am unapologetically in favour of accountability, which is a good thing and has positive effects on every system. Policy is now moving towards trying to get an accountability system that is focused on every child's progression—the lowest achieving and the highest achieving. That is one of the things that the report card is designed to do—to move away from the focus on thresholds and more towards progression as a measure of success. These things make the current state of development very different from that in 1999 when the first Excellence in Cities tranche was launched. We have a much sharper focus on that in the accountability system. The pupil and parent guarantees are designed to create some bottom-up pressure from parents on the system, and our expectation is that schools and local authorities will focus on that. That is why, as we heard from the first five witnesses, now is the moment to start to mainstream this and to make it much more a school-led activity.

  Q77  Mr Stuart: Thank you. Minister, parents out there with primary school-age children who are not from disadvantaged backgrounds are getting a clear message that the new policy on gifted and talented isn't for them. How will you reassure them that this is not the end of the affair for new Labour and aspiration?

  Ms Johnson: I completely dispute that. There is the universal offer from five to 19. It's about recognising in every school the children who are gifted and talented, and that includes primary schools. Schools should be working towards identifying those children and making sure that in the classroom they are stretched and given appropriate teaching. In primary schools, there are various ways of engaging with gifted and talented children. I have heard an example of a primary school where the most gifted and talented helped to run the school tuck shop[6] and the bank that comes into the school.

  Q78  Mr Stuart: Future bankers then?

  Ms Johnson: Possibly. You can engage with gifted and talented children, but the local authority as stakeholders will also provide support to primary schools. As the Minister, I was asking questions about what specifically we are doing in primary schools. I know that in secondary schools there is much more of a focus on the 14 to 19 age group because we want to make sure that those young people do as well as they can, and get into university and so on. But you are right that we need to keep our eye on primary schools and make sure that gifted and talented children are stretched.

  Q79  Mr Stuart: Even when there was a school census, some schools just did not submit the data. Now we are moving back to embedding this in schools to promote it without any external agent other than the Department, how do we know that they will follow up on it? How would we know that they would not have an ideological or other objection to identifying the gifted and talented and making sure they are stretched? Surely, that is what one thought was happening in 1999, but our predecessor found a somewhat depressing overall picture.

  Ms Johnson: There are various ways that schools will want to engage with the school census and make sure that they are identifying all their gifted and talented pupils. Obviously, additional money is available for those children through the targeted scheme, so schools will not want to miss out on money. If money is available, they will want to identify the gifted and talented children who might bring that money with them.

  Q80  Mr Stuart: Is the money just for those from a deprived background, or for any child?

  Ms Johnson: For children on free school meals or looked-after children.

  Q81  Mr Stuart: So middle-class taxpayers' children don't deserve extra help, no matter how gifted and talented they may be?

  Ms Johnson: A school would want to identify all their gifted and talented children.

  Q82  Mr Stuart: But they would not be given extra resources?

  Ms Johnson: Within that, there is a group that would draw down additional funds. That is also the role of the SIP, which will look carefully at what schools are doing. When Ofsted goes into a school, one question that it will want to ask is, how is the school stretching gifted and talented children? Schools will be in a difficult position if they haven't identified who their gifted and talented pupils are.

  Jon Coles: It is probably worth saying that one of the big differences in the school census now is that schools are expected to flag up gifted and talented children, and to identify those—

  Q83  Mr Stuart: But some are not doing that, are they?

  Jon Coles: Some 820,000 children are identified as gifted and talented. The overwhelming majority of schools do that. As the Minister says, there are some that don't and I think the implication of your question—that there are some schools that, ideologically, do not want to label some children as gifted and talented—is right. It is a minority of schools and there are now mechanisms through the National Strategies from this year, and through school improvement partners, to challenge those schools to do it properly.

  Q84  Mr Stuart: Minister, as you say, the additional funding is for children from a deprived background only. It would appear that the whole idea of the gifted and talented programme—picking and backing those who, one way or another, were the brightest and the best, regardless of where they came from; it was supposed to be an equitable, open policy—has now been entirely warped into one that is about deprivation only. Therefore, the equity versus excellence debate has been tipped entirely in the direction of equity, and excellence has now been lost. How would you respond to that?

  Ms Johnson: I don't accept that. There is the universal offer for all children who are gifted and talented, first of all. That is a universal offer. Then there are specific targeted programmes to give extra support to children who have come from a disadvantaged background. I think that that is absolutely right and proper. Alongside that—as I mentioned in my opening remarks—is the music and dance scheme, which is open to any child who has a particular aptitude for music or dance. The fees that are then paid to, for example, the Royal Ballet school, are based on parental income and there is a sliding scale of what parents pay. Therefore, you can get pupils from more disadvantaged backgrounds alongside children who come from a more middle-class background. I think the universal offer and targeted support is the right way to go.

  Jon Coles: The deep challenge in this is that £30 billion-odd of public money goes into the schools system. The challenge is how to make sure that in every single school every child gets a personalised education that stretches them and makes them achieve the best they can. For those who are the most gifted and talented, that should take them absolutely as far as they can go—and on into selected universities, into professional careers and so on. Any amount that we have ever spent on gifted and talented has been designed to create a focus and attention—to give additional support and focus—to the work of schools. Where we are trying to get to with our policy now, and where I think it is pushing us and pushing schools towards is, what I think one of your earlier witnesses talked about, to say: for every child a focused learning plan that enables them to progress, identifies precisely where they are, and pushes them to achieve the most they are able to. Now, in the end that has got to be about the £30 billion-odd of public investment in the schools system and not about the marginal resource only—though the marginal resource, as we know, has made an important contribution to that. That is the central challenge.

  Q85  Chairman: Our job on this Committee is scrutiny of public monies. The first phase cost £25 million. I think that's right, isn't it? Thereabout. The second phase, CfBT, cost £42 million. That was over the estimate. That is a lot of taxpayer's money. I do feel some sympathy towards the Minister and to yourself, because of the churn in the Department—the change in the Department's title and the Ministers who have come and gone. Goodness knows how many Ministers we have had in the past 10 years and, Jon, how many civil servants we have had. The instability of this programme does mark it out for us. It is a lot of cash. We looked at when £50 million disappeared in individual learning accounts, or the UK e-university from the Department—that was £100 million. This is £67 million and we are still asking, "Was this a good investment?" Who do we ask? You do not even remember the longitudinal study and I do not blame you for that. Where is the directorate of gifted and talented? There used to be a director of gifted and talented in the Department. Now he or she has disappeared. There isn't one.

  Jon Coles: There has never been a director solely responsible for gifted and talented and we still have a director who has responsibility for gifted and talented. Could I just say, I think—

  Q86  Chairman: There was never a director of gifted and talented?

  Jon Coles: There has never been a director whose sole job was gifted and talented, no. Never, in my memory. Certainly since 1999.

  Q87  Chairman: There is a note here from a leading expert who advises this Committee that there used to be a gifted and talented director. This person no longer exists?

  Jon Coles: There has never been a director responsible. So this is within the schools standards area—the director for schools standards was responsible for gifted and talented.

  Q88  Chairman: For the person in charge of gifted and talented, what percentage of his or her job is it?

  Jon Coles: At director level, it is not a huge proportion of her job—I am talking about the role of the director of school standards—but there are other staff who have gifted and talented as a full-time role in the department. It is worth remembering that it is in a very different place from where it was 10 years ago. I think you just need to look at your predecessor Committee's report to see how different it is. There is a leading teacher responsible for gifted and talented in every secondary school, and every primary school must be part of a cluster with a leading teacher.

  Q89  Chairman: This is exactly what we are trying to deal with. It used to be a flagship policy of the Government's, but it does not seem to be a flagship policy now from where I am sitting.

  Jon Coles: The point I am trying to make is that, in the system, in the schools, in reality and in the learning experience of every gifted and talented child, there is now much more substance to gifted and talented policy than there was then, because it is happening in every school, day in, day out. That means that, instead of always being focused on a central drive to get something established, the task has to be to allow the system to deliver effectively, and to support and challenge the system to improve quality all the time. That is the shift in policy.

  Q90  Chairman: Jon, I shall be fair to you and the Minister, as is my wont. The fact is that the woman from local government in Rotherham was the closest to supporting the view that you have just expressed. I am trying to be balanced in recording what happened earlier.

  Jon Coles: A range of schools and local authorities would absolutely take that view.

  Chairman: We heard one.

  Jon Coles: One out of one.

  Q91  Ms Buck: I have a question for the Minister following on from the question about targeting. The decision to target the available resources upon children from deprived backgrounds would have been made on the recommendation of a particular outcome measurement. Will the Minister clarify what that outcome measurement was?

  Ms Johnson: As I understand it, it was about making sure that children from disadvantaged backgrounds had the support and opportunities to go on and, on the whole, enter university. I think that was the thrust of it. It is around the academic side of gifted and talented, and it is about getting as many people as possible from those disadvantaged backgrounds into universities.

  Q92  Ms Buck: So was there any specified numerical target accompanying the refocused resources? Was there an expectation, for example, that, by refocusing resources on the 14 to 19-year-olds from deprived backgrounds, it would result in an extra 10,000 young people getting into university?

  Ms Johnson: I will ask Jon if he knows that. I am aware that the City GATES programme covers the three city challenge areas in London, the black country and Greater Manchester. For those specific areas, it is about raising aspiration and making sure that the young people have the support they need. Whether that is translated into any numerical target, I am not sure. Maybe Jon can help me.

  Jon Coles: I don't think we have a target specified in that way as such, but we would certainly measure our success in terms of the achievement of those children and young people who are involved in the programme and their progression into university and into selective universities in particular. I don't think there is a specified target, but those are the measures.

  Q93  Ms Buck: So how will you have any sense of whether it is money well spent if it just an aspiration?

  Jon Coles: Because we will still be able to measure it. We can still measure those things and see whether it makes a difference or not, and how big a difference. It is just that we do not have a set target for a particular number of young people going into university.

  Q94  Chairman: It sounds a bit wishy-washy, Minister. You gave up the longitudinal study, which is not in your or Jon's historic memory. Goodness knows who the Minister and the senior civil servant were at that time. [Interruption.] Are you still with us, Jon?

  Jon Coles: Sorry, I am trying to establish from colleagues whether there ever was a longitudinal study—

  Q95  Chairman: Sorry, Jon, but I think that's really pretty naughty. The senior professor who ran the department told us only a few minutes ago that there was a longitudinal study that covered the first five years and that it was abandoned when CfBT got the contract. You are not doubting the word of a senior professor at one of our leading universities?

  Jon Coles: I wouldn't dream of doubting the word of any of your witnesses in any way in front of this Committee, only to say that we in this room do not know of this longitudinal study, and we have quite a bit of history between us.

  Q96  Chairman: But that's Karen's whole point, is it not? It is a worry that it all looks a bit wishy-washy. You do not know what has worked in the past, and you are not sure how you will measure it in the future.

  Jon Coles: We have good-quality evaluation. It has been done by an independent evaluator.

  Q97  Chairman: I hope that it is not CfBT, because it will be pretty cross if you were relying on it.

  Jon Coles: No.

  Q98  Chairman: Or the National Strategies, because you got rid of them, and that's Capita. You won't have any friends left in the private sector.

  Jon Coles: I'm sure that we will always have friends in the private sector. We also have a huge amount of data. We have much better data than we have ever had before, because schools are required to flag up which children and young people—

  Q99  Chairman: As the input is in, you will be able to tell me how many more talented and gifted young people are being identified, what they go on to do in their lives, what universities they go to, what professional qualifications they got, and how much money they earn.

  Jon Coles: From our data set, we will be able to establish what progression was like for those who were identified as gifted and talented at various stages of their education, what was their progression like into further education and their achievements at the end of that. That is certainly something that we will be able to do for the first time because of this data.

  Ms Johnson: Can I respond quickly to Karen Buck's question. I do now have something that I can share with you, which is the higher education access programme for schools. It works through Teach First advocates in the City Challenge areas. From the 2009 figures, 68% of cohort one, which is the first year of this happening, are attending university this October, and 27 are taking a gap year. Therefore, there are some statistics that we can let you have.

  Ms Buck: It would be very helpful to have those, but they need to be contextualised, because they mean nothing without seeing it alongside some data on peer groups from other categories.

  Q100  Mr Chaytor: Can I just clarify something. The young, gifted and talented learner academies are closing in the next month. The funding for the excellence hubs is being withdrawn. Is the City GATES programme continuing, or is that winding down as well?

  Ms Johnson: That is carrying on as part of the City Challenge, which is time limited, so it is carrying on to the end of that.

  Q101  Mr Chaytor: The City Challenge programme will finish—

  Ms Johnson: In 2011.

  Q102  Mr Chaytor: Of the previous infrastructure, the other part was the register, and the National Register is being wound down. Is that right?

  Jon Coles: The key thing about the register is that we expect schools to continue to identify gifted and talented children and young people. We will continue to collect that data, and to report on them annually.

  Q103  Mr Chaytor: So there will be a register?

  Jon Coles: The data will continue to be collected, yes.

  Q104  Mr Chaytor: In terms of the numbers on the register, my recollection is that when the Warwick Academy was functioning, the professor in charge said that there were 150,000 young people. Geraldine said that your target when you took on the contract was 250,000, but you achieved 337,000 members of your academy. Minister, you referred to 820,000, which is 10% of the age range. What I am curious about is how those young people are defined. Is it now agreed that 10% of the cohort are gifted and talented? Is that clear in guidance to schools? If you are saying on the one hand that the onus is on schools to identify them, and you have a figure that equates to 10% of the school population, are schools being told that explicitly?

  Jon Coles: Schools are being asked to identify 5 to 10% of their cohort as gifted and talented.

  Q105  Mr Chaytor: What happens if you only identify 5%?

  Jon Coles: That is a legitimate choice for schools to make.

  Q106  Mr Chaytor: Earlier, you said that there may be ideological reasons why some schools or authorities would not wish to identify children. Is that right?

  Jon Coles: Yes, and there is a handful of schools—a small proportion of schools—that have not identified on the returns children who are gifted and talented. Those schools will certainly be challenged on that.

  Q107  Ms Buck: I am still struggling to understand how this applies across the board. If you take a highly selective, highly specialist school that draws most of its intake from children who are already treated as higher achieving, what does it mean? To take 10% of a high achieving school and designate them as gifted and talented and then set them alongside and in the came cohort as the 10% of pupils who are achieving against all the odds and then putting them into the same cohort to be judged on their ability to get into university demeans the whole comparative process.

  Jon Coles: The purpose is not comparative. The purpose is to make sure that all schools are properly identifying and stretching their most able pupils; in other words it is to try to make sure that every school is serving well the full ability range of children at that school.

  Q108  Ms Buck: But then you use that data for a totally different purpose. That is what I'm getting at. I understand why it is done, even though I am not sure that it makes sense. But if we look at whether the programme is successful and having an impact and what proportion of those pupils, for example, would go on to university, you do not have a very good basis on which to make that judgment. Most of those pupils could be being drawn from the top 10% of the already high achieving pupils in high achieving schools.

  Jon Coles: This was in relation to the 14 to 19 group of most disadvantaged pupils who are eligible for that additional sum of money. Among this group we know that there are issues about their progression to university. Some of those children and young people who we believe are capable of progressing, not just to university, but to selective universities, are not doing so. It is a completely separate debate as to whether that is about the school, the university, the wider community and the connections between those things. But the fact is that we want more of those able young people from deprived backgrounds to progress into our best universities, to put it in those terms. That is why that particular strand of work exists to tackle that specific problem. That is why we evaluate it in that way. For this wider work, we have a longitudinal dataset that we will be able to analyse over time. It is only building up over the first four years at the moment, but we will be able to analyse the data over time and compare those children with their peers in those particular schools and in other schools. We can look at whether they have progressed faster or less fast than their peers in those schools and in other schools. We can look at them as a cohort, but also considering like for like, school for school. We will be able to provide pretty rich data for schools to enable them to compare themselves not just against the national average, but against other schools that are similar to them and have performed very differently with their gifted and talented pupils. There are different things at work, but these data give us a much stronger basis to enable schools to look at like for like. Precisely as you say, a non-selective school in a selective area would be in a very different place from a grammar school in the same area. But the other non-selective schools in that area will be able to compare themselves, look at how well they have done for their most able children and so on. So that is the benefit of the national data.

  Q109  Mr Chaytor: Can I get this right? We have the special programme for 14 to 19s, which is firmly set in the context of improving social mobility and improving access to the most selective universities. But we have a uniform programme as well from which all schools will benefit. Isn't the flaw that those schools that are already doing extremely well for their most able pupils will receive the same benefit as those schools that are not doing extremely well? I can see the point of comparing schools in similar circumstances and trying to remedy the differential performance, but surely it would be far better to target the funding on the schools that are not achieving as well as they might be?

  Jon Coles: There is always a debate in policy between the universal and the targeted. It is rather like a means-testing debate. There are costs and benefits to targeting failure, if I can put it like that. Often, you put the resource into places that are doing less well. That has the benefit of helping them to improve if it is tied in the right way to effective practice, good support, the right challenge and so on. On the other hand, the universal programme has the benefits of equity, lower overheads in terms of targeting, and of rewarding success as well as rewarding failure—if I can put it like that. In other words, to put it at its crudest, the most deprived children deserve the additional benefits that this resource will give them, whether they happen to be in a school that is doing well for them or not. The point of it is to say that children from very deprived backgrounds, who don't get many of the benefits that middle-class children of similar ability get because of their personal home circumstances, should have access to those opportunities. That is the point of the additional £250 for those children. It is to give them benefits that they would not otherwise get.

  Q110  Chairman: It's pretty slim pickings though, isn't it? It's £250 over how many years?

  Jon Coles: It's £250 per child per year.

  Q111  Chairman: That's not a lot of money if you're really taking gifted and talented seriously, is it? Let's ask the professor who is the champion of gifted and talented. It sounds like quite thin gruel to me.

  Professor Stannard: The purpose of the policy is that the money goes into the mainstream, through the standards fund into the school. That is a very substantial pot. £250 per pupil per year is a very small amount. At best, it probably draws the school's attention to the need to target those children and do something for them. While the amount of provision is quite small, it does not mean that those children would not get attention and would not benefit from the school paying more attention to them.

  Q112  Chairman: What do they spend the money on?

  Professor Stannard: If a school has numbers of these children, it can pool the money and import expertise into the school or enable children with additional funding from the school to go out and benefit from additional teaching or courses. If there is particular talent in the school, it might be enough to enable them to access activities and events that they might not otherwise get to. There are a variety of ways in which the £250 could be spent very productively. I don't think it is a waste of money, but, as you say, it is a small amount.

  Jon Coles: It is worth saying that the funding is scaling up by a factor of three. The picture that you are suggesting is that there is less emphasis on this. Actually, in 2009-10, we are spending about £1.2 million on this. Next year, we will spend £3.7 million on it. That is a major scaling up of this individually focused additional support.

  Q113  Chairman: Will that mean more getting £250 or all of them getting £750?

  Jon Coles: It is more getting £250.

  Q114  Mr Chaytor: Under the new arrangements, what will be the main means of providing external support? As the funding is going to the school, will it be entirely the school's responsibility to decide what external support or experience is available for its young people?

  Ms Johnson: I think it will. I just want to say that I think the parents are quite important in all of this. I keep mentioning the parent-pupil guarantee. Engagement with the parent and discussing with them what would be best to stretch their child will be quite important.

  Q115  Mr Chaytor: Yes, but what if the parent is useless, as happens from time to time?

  Jon Coles: Not in your constituency though, of course.

  Ms Johnson: I'm not saying that all parents will be engaged in the same way, but on the whole, parents are interested in seeing their son or daughter do well if they are talented in a particular area.

  Q116  Chairman: But Minister, what about John? Would he not be a more authentic voice in asking how many parents know that there is a gifted and talented option?

  Professor Stannard: I think all parents whose children were identified for the YG&T Academy would know because they had a letter and were informed.

  Q117  Chairman: Yes, but if other people knew about it, they might have felt aggrieved that their child was not seen as gifted and talented. I believed all my children were gifted and talented. Weren't yours?

  Professor Stannard: Absolutely, and so was I! The interests of parents are paramount. The onus is as much on the school as it is on the parents, and the new pupil guarantee underlines the need for schools to involve parents. One of the things that often comes out of my work is that even if schools are identifying able children, many are still quite reluctant to engage with parents about it. Sometimes, the children are on the register and the parents do not even know about it. Local authorities have to work very hard with schools to persuade them that they need to do that. There is a good deal of uncertainty in schools about going down that road. Some schools use expressions like, "It's opening a can of worms", "It's taking the lid off the pot" or "We'll have lots of pushy parents". There is that in the system. There are worries in schools about it, and they have to be assuaged. With the new guarantee, they will probably be persuaded that they have to do it, and that will be a strength.

  Q118  Chairman: I know a lot of parents who think their children are gifted and talented at playing soccer. They turn up on Saturday mornings in freezing weather with little kids to give them that opportunity. Minister, you talked about dance and that sort of stuff. Do we look at gifted and talented young athletes?

  Ms Johnson: Yes, we do.

  Q119  Chairman: So what did we do when they closed the Beckham academy overnight? Most of the kids who commuted there from the age of four upwards suddenly found that it had closed. What did you do about that, Minister?

  Ms Johnson: That is a very good question. It is not my policy, however, to deal with sport. It is the policy of my colleague, so I am sorry if I am not quite up to speed on this one. Do you know, John?

  Chairman: You were big on dance.

  Ms Johnson: Dancing and music are mine, so I know a little bit about them.

  Professor Stannard: We have the Youth Sports Trust, which is run out of the DCMS. That is a major structural network of secondary specialist sports colleges that work with associated partner secondary schools. Each of the secondary schools has associated primary schools. The network covers the whole country, and it is really quite organised. Some outstanding work goes on. In fact, I am going to its celebration conference shortly.

  Q120  Chairman: When I go into my schools in my constituency and ask about gifted and talented, they all think that it is about the brilliant mathematician at the back of the class, who has the natural ability in a tough science-type subject or languages. They feel a bit alienated by that. If it was a broader gifted and talented offering, covering dance, sport and cricket—I would add—they might view it differently rather than it being an exclusive little coven of kids who are good at maths.

  Professor Stannard: I understand that the policy intention, and the messages that go out from the Department for Children, Schools and Families are that it is very broad based. It is gifted and talented. That is what the definition actually states on the website.

  Jon Coles: This is hugely important. As a former mathematician and, like everyone else in the room, absolutely convinced that I am terribly gifted, I think it is very important to identify mathematicians who are seriously able. As one of your previous witnesses said, thinking like a mathematician is hugely important in that we must not pretend that it is not. But the talented end is about talents other than academic talents. It may be music, it may be dance or it may be sport. We actually invest £2.3 million in the gifted and talented strand of our youth sports strategy so there is serious investment in the elite of talented sportspeople in the country. That is a serious focus, too.

  Chairman: That was a byway. David.

  Q121  Mr Chaytor: That has pre-empted my next question, which was about the difference between gifted and talented. Jon, you are the first person in the room this afternoon to give a definition. The concept of gifted means exceptionally conceptually able, but the concept of talented could apply to any activity.

  Jon Coles: Yes, that is correct. So gifted is about essentially academically able. You could argue about the semantics of that.

  Q122  Mr Chaytor: My constituency primary schools have the lowest proportion of children defined as gifted and talented anywhere in the country at 2.2% . The highest is 15%. So what does that say about the understanding that schools have of the concept of gifted and talented, or the way in which the Department has advised schools as to how they should designate gifted and talented? Would you accept, Minister, that there is some confusion here that needs to be resolved?

  Ms Johnson: I am very happy to go back to the Department and ask it to look at that. Like yours, my constituency is not a terribly—how can I put this? It has disadvantage, and it strikes me that if disadvantaged communities are not having their gifted and talented pupils recognised, we need particularly to look at that. I am struck by what you say.

  Q123  Chairman: Isn't it a problem with Jon? All my hackles were raised by his comment about maths. Some years ago, we looked at admissions policy. The dead easiest thing—the one easiest thing in the world to do—is to tell if a kid is good at maths. The Cambridge and Oxford colleges and Imperial College all tell us, "You give a mathematician a child with a pencil and a piece of paper, and they can tell you that." That is why more gifted kids from working-class backgrounds get into the leading maths departments in our country. All the smarm and gloss and everything else that you can give to a child cannot mask the fact that they are or are not good at maths. I am worried about the more difficult areas that we are looking at, rather than the easy one.

  Jon Coles: This is really important. It is one of the reasons why it is so important that we say to every school, "Identify 5 to 10% of gifted and talented." That is an issue that we have wanted to tackle. Some schools that are reluctant to identify gifted and talented have tended to be either the non-selective in the selective areas or those serving particularly deprived communities. That is one important thing. Within that, we have produced guidance and advice to schools about how they make sure that they do not disproportionately select the middle class and those with, as you said, gloss and so on.

  Q124  Chairman: You got rid of the longitudinal study. If you had kept that, Wayne Rooney might have been discovered on it.

  Jon Coles: I need to find out about the longitudinal study, Mr Chairman. I think that we are all clear that, whatever it was—I am reliably informed that it was not in the contract that we had with national academy. We need to find out more.[7]

  Q125  Mr Chaytor: Let's go back to the definition, then. If the definition is now much wider than I think anybody in the Committee or even the room assumed until your answer to the question, this must have implications for what you described earlier as the central strand of the policy, which was widening access to the most selective universities. If a significant proportion of the funds is now available for enhancing sporting talent, musical talent or talent in the visual or performing arts, there is proportionately less available for getting youngsters from poorer families who are good at physics, maths, chemistry and languages into the most selective universities.

  Jon Coles: The aim of that particular strand is focused on the gifted; in other words, on the academically able. That is what the money is for, and it is focused on gifted children from deprived backgrounds.

  Q126  Mr Chaytor: Why are we so confused about this? Why was none of this in the briefing material? Is it all written down somewhere? Do schools know about it, or are your Ministers just making it up as they go along?

  Chairman: No, the man at DCSF who was in charge of this has moved to "Closing the gap", apparently.

  Jon Coles: I don't recognise that.

  Q127  Chairman: It really is hard to identify who is in charge in the Department, Jon. Do you want to give us a name?

  Jon Coles: The work of gifted and talented is part of a division within the Department called "Narrowing the gap". The divisional managers or deputy directors in the Department responsible for that division are Nick Baxter and Katie Farrington—it is a job share between them. They are the senior civil service job share responsible for that work.

  Q128  Mr Chaytor: Is there somewhere a clear description of the definitions that you have given us, and a clear description of the allocation of the budget and the weighting for the different kinds of gifted and talented?

  Jon Coles: There is, and we will make sure that you have it.

  Q129  Chairman: Is it the same as it was 10 years ago, or does it change all the time?

  Jon Coles: I believe I am right in saying that the definitions of gifted and talented are unchanged over that period.

  Q130  Chairman: Geraldine, you would know about that because you got the successor contract. You would have looked at what it meant, wouldn't you? You bid for the contract?

  Dr Hutchinson: We did.

  Q131  Chairman: Was it the same as the Warwick lot had?

  Dr Hutchinson: We did take the NAGTY definition of gifted and talented, but obviously the focus of our contract was to extend the vision for talented within the learner academy.

  Q132  Chairman: Was it to extend it or broaden it?

  Dr Hutchinson: Well, extend it in terms of the age range that we were focusing our activities on.

  Q133  Chairman: What about the concept? Does it extend to dance or sport?

  Dr Hutchinson: It does.

  Chairman: It has the whole bunch in it. John, do you agree with that?

  Professor Stannard: Yes. The definition's on the website—

  Q134  Chairman: But John, why is it—you're the Tsar and the top man—when we go to our schools, they say, "It's exclusive; it's about science and maths." They never say, "It's about finding the next sports person, dancer or whatever." Why is there this total misconception about what the definition of the Department is?

  Professor Stannard: I think there are implementation problems with this. The direction of travel has taken time, but has become clear now. It's got to be mainstreamed in schools. There is a bit of déja" vu about that, as you said. I agree with that. There is evidence in the system that the majority—increasing numbers—of schools are aware of what these requirements are. And the Ofsted report underlined this. The schools were saying to Ofsted that they wanted clearer messages from the Department about matters of definition, proportions of students to be identified and what was expected of schools and so on. All of that is to be found in the Department, but I don't think it is getting its way through the system. The reasons for that have to do with a much more pervasive emphasis on the whole "Narrowing the gap" agenda.

  Q135  Chairman: Sounds like they're falling down the gap, let alone narrowing the gap.

  Professor Stannard: It is perceived, I think, in schools and at local authority level—I spend a lot of my time talking to local authorities and schools—to be a low priority. Gifted and talented is not seen as something that is a high priority for schools. I was talking to a director of children's services last week. I said, "I want to come and talk to you about gifted and talented, by the way," and she said, "Oh well, that's not really on my agenda at the moment. I've got so many other things to deal with." What has happened over the past decade or so is that very large proportions of local authority and school budgets have gone to sustaining children at threshold targets, and moving children across threshold targets. We are now moving to a position where we want to say that this must be mainstreamed in schools. If it's going to be mainstreamed in schools, we've got to see it much more in the centre of schools' attention. That means it needs more accountability around it; it needs Ofsted to be stronger; it needs a clearer framework of requirements from the Department to come straight down to schools, so they are not in any doubt about it; and it needs some more guidance on the funding and how that should be allocated in schools. At the moment, that remains to be done.

  Q136  Mr Chaytor: A question to John about the point at which it is best to identify children.

  Professor Stannard: Seven. In the early years, it is tricky because children develop—

  Q137  Chairman: Jon, you look highly amused by that. What's wrong?

  Jon Coles: I just enjoyed the definiteness.

  Professor Stannard: Between seven and 11, primary schools should be identifying children. They should keep a clear register that should be accountable and open to the public, in terms of parental engagement with it and so on. But it might be quite fluid. As children begin the transition towards secondary school, probably about 10 years old, primary schools should form a clear view about whether these children really have potential. They should make sure that is properly transacted with and transmitted to the secondary school. There should be some exchange about the progress of those children across that transition phase, which we all know is critical.

  Q138  Mr Chaytor: Will the SATs result not achieve that objective by themselves?

  Professor Stannard: No, not necessarily. If you look at the data, there's no cause for complacency here. We know well that many children—thousands, in fact—will get a Level 3 at Key Stage 1 and still only get a Level 4 at Key Stage 2. Other progression data will give us a similar story. It is a question, of making sure that primary schools are properly on the case with this. Primary schools are weaker than secondary schools, in relation to G&T, if you look at the national picture. Fewer primary schools identify fewer children than in secondaries. We have to get on the case with primary schools. Primary schools have some different problems, including capacity challenges in dealing with very able children, which secondary schools sometimes have, but not to the same extent. How primary schools develop and incorporate support and bring more expertise into the curriculum, is all part of this picture.

  Chairman: We're winding up. Last one.

  Q139  Mr Chaytor: Just a last question to Geraldine. Why did a former Minister—not our colleague the present Minister—feel it necessary to write to schools telling them to distribute the packs that you were sending out under the academy? Why weren't head teachers distributing the packs that you were sending out?

  Dr Hutchinson: We mailed hard copies of packs. We also e-mailed every school with a link to the documents that were in the packs. There was a postal strike at the time that the packs were sent out, but also there's a lot of flux and change in every school, so when the link is e-mailed to a school to a named e-mail contact many of those bounce back because either the teachers have moved onto a new role or they have moved schools. We would then have to go back to that school and say, "Can you identify and make sure that the right person gets this information?" So at times there seems to be a blockage in the system in respect of the right person getting hold of the information.

  Q140  Mr Chaytor: This is the postal strike and turnover among teachers, not recalcitrance of head teachers being unwilling to distribute the packs?

  Dr Hutchinson: I'm not aware of any head teachers being unwilling to distribute packs. It's not something in any of the feedback that came back to us. We know what we sent out. We know that we sent the e-mail links. If links bounced back, we could investigate those and chase them and have them sent again.

  Q141  Chairman: Jon Coles is being polite. He's all ideological. Does that mean the NUT, Jon?

  Jon Coles: I wouldn't like to give a view about their union affiliation. I wouldn't know.

  Q142  Chairman: But seriously, Minister, has winning over the unions been one of the problems?

  Ms Johnson: Individual teachers might have strong views about gifted and talented, but it has certainly not been raised as an issue with me.

  Q143  Chairman: If it's now going to be mainly focused on children from more deprived backgrounds, will that just encourage people with more means to look to the private sector if they've got a gifted and talented youngster?

  Jon Coles: I want to clarify this point. This is really important, because the main thrust of gifted and talented policy is not merely on the most deprived, but across the board. There is £1 billion of money that has gone in—

  Chairman: It's only the extra bit of money—

  Jon Coles: It's just a small extra piece of money that is focused on making sure that children who couldn't otherwise afford it get a range of opportunities that those who can afford it take for granted.

  Q144  Chairman: So the new model army for gifted and talented includes all the talents.

  Jon Coles: It does.

  Chairman: We look forward to communicating with you further. Minister, you've been stoic, given your cold. Thank you to all of you for the evidence you've given today. Those of you who would like to continue communicating with the Committee, which I think means these two over on the right—you have to—please be in touch with us to ensure that this short look at gifted and talented is as good as it can be. Thank you, team.

1   Note by Witness: The first phase actually commenced in 1999. Back

2   See Ev 36 Back

3   See Ev 36 Back

4   See Ev 36 Back

5   Note by Witness: From that point we worked with the Department to start the transition for close down. Back

6   Note by Witness: Healthy School Tuck Shop Back

7   See Ev 36 Back

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