Educating the Highly Able

The Sutton Trust  (see their Press Release) published today a report by Alan Smithers and Pamela Robinson, Educating the Highly Able. From the Executive Summary of the report:

Policy and provision for the highly able in England is in a mess. […]

When compared to other countries the consequences are stark. In the 2009 PISA tests only just over half as many achieved the highest level in maths as the average of 3.1% for OECD countries. England’s 1.7 per cent has to be seen against the 8.7 per cent in Flemish Belgium and 7.8 per cent in Switzerland. On a world scale, the picture is even more concerning – 26.6 per cent achieved the highest level in Shanghai, 15.6 per cent in Singapore and 10.8 per cent in Hong Kong. In reading, where the test seems to favour English-speaking countries, England is at the OECD average, but only a third get to the highest level compared with New Zealand and only half compared with Australia. The few top performers in England are in independent and grammar schools and almost no pupils in the general run of maintained reach the highest levels.

The root of the problem is that “gifted and talented‟ is too broad a construct to be the basis of sensible policy. As it has morphed from “intelligence‟ to “gifted‟ to “gifted and talented‟, it has become ever more diffuse. It is not just the conflating of “gifted‟ and “talented‟; it is that “gifts‟ and “talents‟ are often specific. A gift for mathematics and a gift for creative writing are rarely found in the same person. Few top footballers are also top artists. Continue reading