I laid a successful amendment to the Education Department’s report on Secondary Education in March 2016. My speech is below.
Sir, I did think I heard a collective groqn that another amendment would be laid but hopefully this won’t be a mammoth debate as I believe the Education Department will not oppose it. As I mentioned in earlier debate, this amendment is relevant whichever way we voted on selection. However, I do believe it will fit in very well under the non-selective system that has been approved this week.
At present the use of Gifted and Talented programmes is variable across schools and there is no central policy. The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that there is a co-ordinated policy across schools, something which I think makes complete sense and works very well under a comprehensive system. It is something in which I have taken a good deal of interest in the last few years.
So, what are Gifted and Talented students and why does there need to be a policy for them?
Dr Francois Gagne, who was a leader in the field on this area made the following definition;
Gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability; intellectual, creative, social and physical. Talented students are those whose skills are distinctly above average in one or more areas of human performance’.
The key word here is ‘Potential’. That a child needs support and guidance to achieve his or her gifted potential. It is estimated that approximately 5% of students in a mixed ability school will gifted & talented but that is not set in stone and will vary, and should.
So, why do gifted & talented students need to be considered separately? Well, the normal curriculum may not be sufficiently interesting, motivating or straetching for the most able. They often need more challenging tasks if they are to maintain their enthusiasm, develop independence and reach their potential. Some exceptionally able students may have weaknesses which need specific attention if they are not to undermine outstanding abilities in other areas.
Extremely able students can become bored, unhappy or disaffected if their potential is unrecognised or neglected.
Gifted and Talented Education or GATE, is a broad term for special practices, procedures, and theories used in the education of children who have been identified as gifted and talented.
At present, schools approach gifted and talented students in different ways and to a greater or lesser extent. There is no overriding policy approach. St Sampson has details of their GATE for years 7,8 and 9 on their website. However, there is no policy in terms of the identification of gifted and talented, aims and objectives and measurement of outcomes. The purpose of this amendment is to fill that gap.
In a recent review of gifted and talented provision in Scotland, the author suggested that the focus on equality of opportunities and reluctance to consider selction in the Scottish education system meant that the needs of gifted and talented pupils had largely been ignored. I don’t think we can afford to ignore our giftes and talented ppils. Failure to identify such students risks damage to individuals who are so tuned off by rigid education that they opt out, sitting well below the attainment radar on their way to dropping out.
In turn, that damages our society and not letting them reach their potential means we are not maximising the potential value to our economy.
Sir, this is a common sense amendment, I understand the Education Department will not oppose it and I urge members to give their support.