Young, Gifted and Talented Given the Chance to Shine; the Brightest Birmingham Pupils Finally Are Getting the Recognition They Deserve. Education Correspondent Jonathan Walker Reports

By Walker, Jonathan | The Birmingham Post (England), October 9, 2000 | Go to article overview

Young, Gifted and Talented Given the Chance to Shine; the Brightest Birmingham Pupils Finally Are Getting the Recognition They Deserve. Education Correspondent Jonathan Walker Reports


Walker, Jonathan, The Birmingham Post (England)


Rover workers leaving the Longbridge factory during the crisis in the spring soon became used to reporters flocking round and asking how they felt about the latest developments.

However, they may still have been surprised one evening - when the interviewers were school pupils putting together their own newspaper.

The youngsters, from five secondary schools in south west Birmingham, were part of a new city-wide scheme to provide challenging lessons for the 'gifted and talented' top ten per cent of pupils.

Youngsters who struggle to read a book or learn their times tables have been offered help in council-run schools for many years. Specially-trained teachers will teach them basic skills, mentors will be provided to offer encouragement and they may find themselves invited to exclusive extra classes in the holidays.

However, children at the other end of the scale have traditionally received no such assistance. They might find themselves bored in lessons, frustrated with the work they are given and clashing with teachers, but the very bright were simply left to their own devices.

Now this is changing. The new philosophy in education is that the most able have 'special needs' too, and every school in Birmingham has been asked to identify students who take part in lessons designed to stretch their abilities.

The scheme, called gifted and talented, is led by Lynn Beaumont, former head of sixth form at Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls and now an adviser with Birmingham education authority.

She said: 'It is accepted that pupils who find lessons difficult have special needs. But what we are only beginning to realise is that the ones who come top of the class also have special needs, which have been ignored for too long.'

Youngster are identified either for academic excellence, or for their talents in sport, music or art. Test results are only one of the methods used. Teachers also identify their most promising students and parents are asked to fill in a survey about their children. This will reveal, for example, if a student takes part in courses outside school such as dance or music.

Pupils are also asked to suggest classmates to take part in the programme. The idea is that children all tend to know who the best in the class is for any given subject, sometimes more so than teachers.

Some lessons in the gifted and talented programme may be designed to speed youngsters through the curriculum, while others will improve general skills such as gathering information. …

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