From education to employment

Increasing opportunities for gifted and talented learners

Helping less able students reach average standards while enabling the more able to reach their full potential is a challenge for any classroom teacher. The word ‘personalisation’ has become synonymous with education, with emphasis often being placed on increasing learner attainment and reaching the target standards. While both are necessary and understandable, this can however, prevent resources from being directed at more able students who are not maximising their progress or potential.

In September 2007, the Young Gifted and Talented (YG&T) Programme, was launched by CfBT Education Trust on behalf of the DCSF. YG&T is dedicated to providing exciting opportunities and resources for gifted and talented learners aged 4 to 19 in England, both in and out of the classroom. Gifted describes learners who have the ability to excel academically in one or more subjects such as English, maths or technology. Talented learners have the ability to excel in practical skills such as sport, leadership, artistic performance, or in an area of vocational skill. The programme aims to encourage young people to raise their aspirations as well as realise their potential, regardless of background.

An integral part of YG&T is City GATES, a £15 million gifted and talented strand of the government’s City Challenge Programme which was launched in April 2008 to drive greater achievement in three urban regions: London, The Black Country and Greater Manchester. Through City GATES, gifted & talented learners aged 14-19 from these regions are being offered tools and opportunities to raise their aspirations, helping them progress to the most competitive universities and degree courses.

At the heart of City GATES is an innovative Needs Analysis Tool, devised in partnership with learners and the National Association for Able Children in Education (NACE). The tool provides an invaluable starting point for learners on their higher education journey. Not only does it help learners independently assess some of their needs in relation to going to university, it also helps them to plan a coherent and personalised programme that will support them in achieving both their education and career goals.

The tool consists of a diagnostic questionnaire which produces a personalised highlight profile which can be printed and shared with staff and parents/carers. The questions are designed to assess how students feel about their abilities and skills, to understand how they view their higher education and career options and to identify their needs for further support and advice. The profile identifies 10 areas of potential development, looking at learners’ existing strengths and greatest needs in relation to their chosen subjects, study and communication skills, independence and confidence as learners and their aspirations and goals. Having identified these areas and analysed access to opportunities, the tool then provides each learner with a wealth of tailored recommendations and resources. This includes information on appropriate courses and opportunities, a list of recommended questions to ask teachers and mentors and details of where to go for extra support.

Josh Skidmore, a year 10 G&T student at St Peter’s Collegiate School, Wolverhampton commented: "The online survey made me think more about what we do in lessons. For example, the question about relating subjects to the workplace made me realise we didn’t do this and I hadn’t thought about that before. I am going to suggest this to my teachers as I think it will enhance lessons."

For teachers, the profile highlights the areas in which each student most needs help and support, whether that be careers advice, subject specific tutoring or in researching activities and opportunities outside school. Using the tool, teachers can hold informed discussions with learners, planning what their next steps should be and how they can be best supported. Teachers can also encourage learners to be independent in assessing their own needs.

Josh’s teacher, Mark Cooper, commented: "The survey [Needs Analysis Tool] is an excellent tool for giving G&T students a personalised outcome that sets them future goals and ideas to consider."

The Needs Analysis Tool has been released for use by G&T learners in the three Challenge areas. It is available through the YG&T portal from January 2009, with further developments including teacher versions of the students’ profiles, offering targeted resources, information and support to help them meet individual learners’ needs. Resources will range from web links to case studies on how other schools have created and implemented opportunities for their pupils. Although these developments will be specific to G&T learners in the City GATES areas, all students across England, regardless of age or location, can access the current tool through, helping them plan their own higher education journeys and enabling them to share their profile with their teachers.

Also key to the City GATES programme and launching across the three City Challenge areas are Progression Academies. Schools are being invited to register gifted and talented learners from year 10 and year 12 for the Academies. Places permitting, these students will then attend a two-day workshop every term. Each workshop will cater for up to 30 learners and will be delivered by teams of six trained staff. They will encourage and motivate students, helping them gain a better understanding of themselves as learners. Through the workshops, students will develop a greater appreciation of their specific learning needs, giving them a clearer vision for the journey towards university and a successful future. Those who attend the Academies will become more confident that they have the ability and skills to enter higher education. The programme will provide professional development and action research opportunities for school staff, with the prospect of applying the programme’s principles locally in future years.

With content commissioned from a leading business consultancy specialising in motivation and personal development, the Progression Academies have been specifically designed for G&T learners. Taking students out of the classroom, they enable them to develop key life skills and break down many of the perceived barriers to higher education. A challenging but rewarding opportunity, Progression Academies will not only help learners build up their self esteem and knowledge but also develop their communications skills in preparation for life after school.

Significantly subsidised, each two-day workshop costs only £75 per student, with schools able to use funds set aside for personalised learning. Approximately 1,500 gifted year 10 learners on the City GATES programme who are eligible for free school meals will receive a £400 yearly scholarship for up to four years. Schools can use this funding to pay for places on the Progression Academies.

Opportunities for gifted and talented learners across England are increasing rapidly, both through City GATES and the wider YG&T Programme. The more learners registered with the YG&T portal – , the more potential that can be untapped and the more gifts and talents that can be nurtured. After all, personalisation isn’t confined to the classroom – it can be achieved through offering learners a whole range of challenging and stimulating opportunities that meet their individual needs.

If you are located in the City Challenge Areas of London, the Black Country and Greater Manchester and would like to obtain a registration pack for the Progression Academies, please contact the YG&T accredited provider; Science and Humanities Education on tel: 01603 755 404, email [email protected].

For further information on the range of resources and opportunities offered through the YG&T Programme, please visit the website – or call the helpline on 0845 602 1732.

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