Comprehensive schools and academies must do more to stretch their highly able pupils, the Sutton Trust said today in the wake of a new Ofsted report on provision for able students which shows that 65,000 able students are failing to reach their potential each year.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation said:

“Today’s Ofsted report on able students should act as a wake-up call to ministers. Sutton Trust research has shown that provision for the highly able in most schools is inadequate and has been going backwards with the scrapping of dedicated funding and the absence of any drive from the centre. Our research has also shown that England ranks 26th out of the 34 OECD countries on the proportion of highest achieving children in maths tests at age 15.

“Today’s report confirms that most non-selective state schools are failing to stretch their highly able students. I welcome the stronger focus that Sir Michael Wilshaw is bringing to this issue. But we need to go further.

“Schools must improve their provision, as Ofsted recommends. But the Government should play its part too, by providing funding to trial the most effective ways to enable our brightest young people to fulfil their potential. Enabling able students to fulfil their potential goes right to the heart of social mobility, basic fairness and economic efficiency.”


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 120 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to Access to the Professions.
  2. The Ofsted report, The Most Able Students, is available at
  3. The Sutton Trust report, Educating the Highly Able by Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson is available at

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