Gifted children let down by education system – but not at QE

Queen Elizabeth’s School features prominently in a Financial Times article focusing on gifted children.

The feature highlights the fact that 800,000 children nationwide are labelled ‘gifted and talented’. Yet it points out that there is no empirical national standard in this area. Instead, the Government defines ‘gifted’ children as ‘students who achieve, or have the ability to achieve, significantly above average (compared with other students in their year group at their school) in one of the National Curriculum subjects’.

QE Headmaster Dr John Marincowitz says: “Gifted children are one of the country’s most valuable assets and they’ve been treated appallingly.”

He states that demand for the academic education that such children need heavily outstrips its availability. The article was published as parents nationally are informed of the secondary school at which their child has been allocated a place this September. ""QE could take an additional 500 or 600 highly able boys each year and still achieve excellent academic results, Dr Marincowitz says. The School matches leading independent schools in examination league tables, even though 40 per cent of its pupils have English as a second language.

The article outlines a ‘mish-mash’ of policies for gifted children produced under Labour, while acknowledging that the Government has at least moved the needs of bright pupils up the education agenda. The writer adds that the Conservatives have no plans to increase the number of grammar schools.

The feature includes a number of tips for parents seeking a school able to provide the best opportunities for their bright children. ""These include: examining a school’s list of university places for leavers (last year QE sent 25 of its 150-strong Year 13 to Oxbridge); looking for ‘very good’ or ‘outstanding’ ratings in the teaching quality and standards sections of inspection reports; and asking teachers ‘awkward, specific’ questions about how they cater for the brightest pupils.

Teachers may be unwilling to give such children the assistance they need to excel. The writer, education consultant Lisa Freedman, cites the comments of Lee Elliot Major, research director at the Sutton Trust, that among teachers there exists “a confusion between excellence and elitism, and often a confusion between an academic elite and a social elite. There’s also a real reluctance to differentiate between children.”""

Pupils sometimes resist being labelled ‘gifted and talented’, the article claims, partly as it could lead to bullying but also because much of the ‘enrichment’ on offer at many schools is in after-school hours. “If you’re a bright kid, you get punished with more work on Saturdays and in the summer holidays,” says Dr Marincowitz.

Read the full article in The Financial Times here.