Pupils from less well-off homes who have shown promise early in their school career are both a vulnerable and extremely important group for social mobility. Harnessing the potential of this group is an important goal for the education system, but many of them fall behind during their school career. Since the previous ‘gifted and talented’ programme ended in 2010, there has been no national programme for the highly able.
Authored by Dr Rebecca Montacute, Potential for Success analyses how high attaining students fare in secondary schools in England. The report also explores issues surrounding how to maximise the potential of high attaining young people through analysis of existing literature and case studies of good practice in schools that do particularly well for these students.
- We urgently need stronger evidence and evaluation of activity to support the highly able. We welcome the recent announcement of the Future Talent Fund (aimed to help raise the attainment of highly able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds). The government should now ensure that the fund is properly delivered, trials are robustly evaluated, and that findings from the work are implemented in schools as part of a national programme.
- Improving attainment of highly able pupils, specifically those from disadvantaged backgrounds, should be monitored and incentivised. Ofsted inspections should as a matter of course assess a school’s provision for its disadvantaged highly able students, and GCSE attainment scores for disadvantaged pupils with high prior attainment should be published as part of school league tables.
- Increasing access to high quality teaching is essential to allowing those with high potential to flourish. Teachers with more experience and subject specialism should be incentivised, for example by offering more money and more time out of the classroom, by government, or through multi-academy trusts, to teach in more disadvantaged schools and geographical social mobility cold spots.
- Support for the highly able should be as inclusive as possible. Highly able students can be difficult to identify. To ensure that all such students (especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds) have access to work that will fit their needs, programmes should be made widely available where possible, and any grouping or targeting should be flexible and regularly reassessed.
- Students of all backgrounds should have access to high quality extra-curricular activities in order to boost essential life skills that facilitate academic attainment and future success. The government should introduce a means-tested voucher system, or encourage schools to do so, in order for lower income families to access additional support and enrichment, including extra-curricular activities and one-to-one tuition. Development of essential life skills should be incentivised and rewarded in Ofsted inspection criteria.