In this final part to the article I am going to look at the difficulties that are presented in firstly getting help for gifted and talented children and then actually incorporating any help into school life.
One of the problems with having a LEA advisor as a first point of reference is that nowadays they don’t tend to be experts – rather they may have responsibility for 2 or more subjects that they front for the LEA. (This may not be the case in your authority but it seems to have occurred more and more with LEA budget shortfalls). However having said that what we are looking for is someone who can point us in the right direction…
We need someone who knows someone or somewhere to go!
If the LEA cannot point us in this way then it falls back onto the school / teacher in conjunction with the parents (hopefully) to try to structure some form of support.
A good starting point:-
I would recommend the following independent charity as a great starting point. Formerly known as The National Association for Gifted Children it is now called “Potential Plus” and exists to support gifted and talented children and their families.
Interestingly they provide support packages for families and for schools. Whilst I cannot personally recommend this charity it would certainly seem that this would be a good starting point for any support investigations.
The web address is below:
Supporting Talented children:
Here we are looking especially at the creative subjects and also including P.E and Computers. How far can we support in schools in these practical skill based activities when staff may have only limited experience and skills themselves?
Again as a school / teacher we have to actively look at options, and to be honest most of these will involve out of school provision. The exception to this will possibly be music where it should be possible for peripatetic teachers to visit schools (that is assuming these departments still exist in your authority!).
For all sporting talents then I think this will be a case of arranging for outside club support. This will cover athletics, football, rugby, dance and gymnastics. Most clubs and organisations will happily arrange “trial” sessions for pupils to assess and hopefully confirm your own observations and things can progress from there.
However it is a different matter for Art and Computers – whilst there may exist clubs or societies for these areas I am of the opinion that they are not focused on developing the skills and techniques that would be required here. In these cases my recommendation would be firstly to contact your local Secondary school. Here there will be subject specialists who can observe and assess a pupils ability and there may exist some secondary after school clubs that can be attended.
Mathematics is a tricky one and the possibility of having an outstanding and gifted mathematician, although rare, is one that may occur.
Again I would recommend that if your contact through the Maths advisor comes to nothing (and to be quite honest I would anticipate that it will) then the Secondary school is your next port of call. As before there are specialist staff there who can assess and advise as to the best way forward for a particular child. It may eventually result, in some outstanding cases, the child is referred through to university level to obtain the level of progress and instruction necessary.
There are problems at every step!
The whole process is beset with problems and obstacles and a school has 3 choices
- To ignore the special talents exhibited altogether
- To attempt to cope with the child’s needs in school / class
- To try to source and arrange the sort of support and tuition that is appropriate for a child with these special gifts or talents
However we should be aware that if abilities are not recognised and encouraged, there is a risk that the child will become withdrawn, or will merge into the crowd, or will develop a disruptive pattern of behaviour. These may all result in their ability going undetected for many years.
Problems of provision can be minimised or even overcome with supportive and understanding parents. However there may be situations where parents are not supportive and this is when the situation becomes difficult.
- Parents may not recognise a child’s abilities or even refuse to recognise.
- They are not prepared to interact with outside clubs or organisations either through work commitments or simply disinterest.
- Parents are not financially able to cope with either additional fees, tuition or travel.
So how far can we, as a school and as a teacher take things if this is the situation?
It certainly becomes extremely difficult and relies on the goodwill of all concerned if things are to progress. Let me say again that we are talking about a small % of gifted and talented children and as such we would hope to work with others in overcoming any problems for the benefit of the child.
- It is possible to obtain financial help for such things as tuition fees and club subs
- Some clubs and tutors may waive fees in certain circumstances
- Travel and supervision is always a problem if activities are either out of school hours or a distance away.
Having said all this, in these situations, without parental support or acknowledgement it is almost impossible to carry out. I have known colleagues who have taken this on and given their own time to transport children to outside clubs and then take them back home (and this was 2/3 times a week)…but just how far can we, as staff, be expected to shoulder this responsibility?
Additional problems may also be in evidence:
These may be the problems facing the child themselves and the world around them – this applies more to gifted children than it does to talented children by the very nature of the subject areas.
- Gifted children are often misdiagnosed, bullied or disaffected.
- It’s possible to be gifted and have special needs; many have a learning difficulty (dyslexia, dysgraphia, auditory retention problems etc or a disorder such as Asperger’s) and the difficulties for a gifted child become compounded.
- They have an intellect that is more developmentally advanced than their social and emotional needs.
- Peer group mixing can be very difficult as the child thinks differently.
- They may find work in the classroom painstakingly slow but must keep their head down as they don’t want to seem arrogant and precocious.
- Fast workers are often told to ‘do more more of the same’, but repetition of the same concepts is anathema to a brain that picks up ideas quickly.
- Boredom may set in if teachers do not understand how a gifted child thinks and works. This may lead to the child resorting to bad behaviour with ensuing punishment.
The world can be very confusing at times for a gifted child and as teachers we need to both recognise and be sympathetic to their needs.
This has been quite a difficult article to write and I feel at times it may have rambled slightly! But my intentions have been to try to practically show a route or routes of approach when gifted or talented children are identified in your school / classroom.
As I said at the outset – schools are quite naturally geared to educate against a norm or average ability. There is provision within the schools education framework to cater for both under and over achievement – however this can only be within set limits. When children are identified as gifted or talented their needs may specifically be outside the capabilities or the school within one or more areas.
The articles here have aimed to set out a sort of thought / action process that may assist in your approach and guide your own thinking. There is no right and wrong approach – simply a need to do the best we can for the benefits of the child concerned…and at the end of the day isn’t that what we wish for all the children in our care?