State Schools Admit They Do Not Push Gifted Pupils Because They Don’t Want to Promote ‘Elitism’

Laura Clark, Daily Mail (London), December 11, 2009

As many as three-quarters of state schools are failing to push their brightest pupils because teachers are reluctant to promote ‘elitism’, an Ofsted study says today.

Many teachers are not convinced of the importance of providing more challenging tasks for their gifted and talented pupils.

Bright youngsters told inspectors they were forced to ask for harder work. Others were resentful at being dragooned into ‘mentoring’ weaker pupils.

In nearly three-quarters of 26 schools studied, pupils designated as being academically gifted or talented in sport or the arts were ‘not a priority’, Ofsted found.

Teachers feared that a focus on the brightest pupils would ‘undermine the school’s efforts to improve the attainment and progress of all other groups of pupils’.

Head teachers told inspectors that ministers had failed to give a strong enough signal that catering for gifted pupils should be central to schools’ work.

Schools are meant to identify the top 5 to 10 per cent of pupils as ‘gifted and talented’ and ensure they are given appropriate tasks to help them achieve their potential.

By September 2010, such pupils should expect to receive written confirmation from their school of the extra activities and master-classes they will benefit from.

The schools in the study, 17 secondary and nine primary, were chosen because they had been told to improve provision for gifted pupils.

Previous studies have pointed to a widespread ideological reluctance in schools and local authorities to champion academic excellence.

A separate study has called for the introduction of academic selection at the age of 13 or 14 to identify pupils who excel at science.

The study, by Professor Alan Smithers and Dr Pamela Robinson of Buckingham University, said it was ‘a nonsense’ that specialist science schools were barred from selecting pupils according to their ability in science.

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