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Supporting Highly Able Children

According to The Sutton Trust, highly able students are those with high attainment, but also those with the potential for high attainment.

What government programmes exist for supporting highly able students?

In 2002, the UK government established a “Young, Gifted and Talented Programme” which aimed to provide extra support for those children identified as ‘gifted or talented’.

With ‘gifted’ children, it referred to those with abilities in one or more academic subjects, for example, maths or English. ‘Talented’ learners were defined as those who had practical skills in areas such as PE, music, drama or art.

The Department of Education ended this programme in 2010 and no longer use these definitions or terminology. However, they suggest that around 10-15% of the school population might be identified as academically more able.

In 2017, the government announced the “Future Talent Fund”, a programme to support the academically more able students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Whilst many schools and organisations welcomed this new funding, the programme was cancelled within the year.

Therefore, currently, there is no national programme for supporting academically more able students, however many schools do continue to offer extra provision to extend these students, through mentoring and tutoring programmes, extra-curricular activities and accelerated learning. The Department for Education state that “Pupil Premium Funds” should be used for supporting highly able students, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Schools now use different terminology including ‘highly able’, ‘more able’ and, ‘academically more able’, as well as some schools still using the phrase ‘gifted and talented’.

Is my child highly able?

As a parent, I think we would all label our child as being highly able in many areas! Some of the traits you might notice could include:

  • Your child has a broad vocabulary for their age.
  • Your child has an ability to solve difficult and unusual problems.
  • Your child shows extreme curiosity in many areas; they notice, observe and examine things closely.
  • You child can stay intensely focused on a subject they are interested in for an extended period of time.
  • Your child may get bored, fidgety and distracted when they are not academically challenged enough and when they find something too easy.
  • Your child has an ability to process and learn information quickly.
  • Your child asks lots of questions on a variety of subjects.
  • Your child has an intense love of reading.
  • Your child has an extensive and detailed memory.
  • Your child has an unusually creative and vivid imagination with inventive and original ideas.
  • Your child may excel in practical activities, such as music, drama, art and sport.

How can I support my highly able or potentially highly able child?

  1. Talk to your child’s class teacher and school to see how your child can be extended. Are there any specialist teachers within the school who could help inspire your child further?
  2. Look into whether your child can be given more advanced content within class. This can help to enrich their learning and foster that passion for the subject. This can be done in mixed ability classes as well as classes which have been streamed.
  3. See whether your child’s school offers any mentoring or tutoring programmes which your child could benefit from. Bright Light Education has a range of 1:1 tutors who can support and extend your child.
  4. Explore extra-curricular activities. There is so much to offer these days – robotics, life-skills, debating clubs, chess clubs, cookery classes and creative writing classes are just a few! Online classes have grown enormously since COVID-19, allowing children to participate in a wide range of activities, not necessarily on offer near their home. Bright Light Education offers a range of courses to support and extend children.
  5. Read! Read! Read! Here is our list of recommended reading for Years 4-6 children and here is our list of recommended reading for all primary school children. Children’s Magazines are also a super way to inspire learning. Here are a list of children’s magazine subscriptions.

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