Leading educationalist, Adam Caller, believes that the Government’s Green Paper fails to recognise and support the thousands of gifted and talented pupils throughout the UK.
OXFORD, UK: Last week, more than two years after the release of its review into special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), the Government finally published its Green Paper into SEND provision for pupils. The paper sets out proposals to establish: “…a system that offers children and young people the opportunity to thrive, with access to the right support, in the right place, and at the right time, so they can fulfil their potential and lead happy, healthy and productive adult lives”. Adam Caller, a leading educationalist and the founder and CEO of Tutors International, challenges this statement claiming that the Government has once again failed to address the educational needs of the thousands of highly-able, gifted and talented students in the UK.
Gifted and Talented Also Have Special Educational Needs
Caller describes his frustration at the omission: “The Government states that its aim is ‘to ensure that every child and young person has their needs identified quickly and met more consistently, with support determined by their needs’. However, the green paper makes no provision for the gifted and talented, whatsoever. This means that these students are still not receiving the focused attention and support they need to thrive in the classroom”.
“Schools receive extra funding to support those with special educational needs such as dyslexia, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders – and rightly so - but children who are academically gifted are ignored”, Caller complains. “When the government is looking for ways to save money, those with IQs over 125 are the first to experience the effect of funding restrictions and those with IQs of over 160 are not financially catered for at all”.
Caller goes on to say that despite their exceptional academic potential, gifted and talented students equally manifest learning disabilities in the classroom: “Occasionally, while the work is easier, these children choose to hide their ability in order to ‘fit in’ with their peer group or to avoid being singled out for praise, but it becomes harder and harder for them to excel, which can lead to emotional, behavioural and psychological problems”.
Disintegration of Support for Most Able Pupils
The provision of educational services dedicated to the super-bright is now virtually non-existent in the UK, however, this has not always been the case. The Young, Gifted & Talented Programme (YG&T), was a government scheme which aimed to enhance the educational development of students between the ages of 4 and 19. Their vision was to ‘give all gifted and talented learners in England the opportunity to reach their full potential’. Established in 2002, it was abandoned in 2010 when funds were reallocated in favour of helping disadvantaged students get into university. Since then, there has been no national definition of ‘gifted’ or ‘more able’ or any national support programme for gifted and talented students, despite numerous calls for the DfE to invest in programmes to evaluate the current provision.
In July 2018, The Sutton Trust publicised their report, ‘Potential for Success’ in which they examined: ‘the barriers faced by those of high potential’, concluding that: ‘harnessing the potential of this group is an important goal for the education system’. One of their recommendations was that structured mentoring and tutoring programmes should be offered to highly able students with the collaboration of local universities. However, whilst lending a voice of support to gifted and highly able, the Sutton Trust feels that their needs do not fall under the SEND umbrella. A spokesperson at the Trust commented: “As the green paper is only focused on those in the SEND and alternative provision systems, we wouldn’t necessarily expect there to be provision for highly able students without additional needs set out in this paper and we do not have the expertise to comment on what would be needed for highly able students with SEND and in AP”.
February 2020 saw the publication by Potential Plus UK, on the quality of provision for the most able pupils in England. The report found that the lack of provision for the most able was ‘consistently high’ in most schools and that there needed to be a change across the board in the level of challenge for these pupils in order for them to progress. Denise Yates has worked in education and training for over thirty-eight years with the aim of enabling all individuals to maximise their potential. For ten years. Denise was CEO of Potential Plus UK, leaving in 2017 to pursue her passion, which she summarises as ‘hidden potential’ children and young people with Dual or Multiple Exceptionality (DME), those with mental health problems and those who have been failed by the system. Denise is currently a Board member of The Potential Trust (https://www.thepotentialtrust.org.uk), Nisai Education Trust (https://www.nisai.com/nisaieducationtrust2/), and Potential In Me (https://potentialin.me).
Tutors International contacted Ms Yates who made the following comments: “Inclusive education should mean inclusion for every child in the classroom. As well as a strategy for supporting those with special educational needs and disabilities, there should therefore also be a parallel review and strategy to improve provision and outcomes for pupils with high learning potential and dual and multiple exceptionalities (where pupils have one of more gifts or talents as well as SEND)”.
“Unfortunately, consistent, high quality provision and parity of esteem for those pupils who are gifted and talented is woefully lacking. There is no national framework in place to identify their needs, set standards and monitor their progress and outcomes. This lack of a cohesive national strategy has led to a postcode lottery depending on the school or area of the country and a legacy of underachievement, social, emotional and behavioural problems for those children left behind”.
In December 2020, the House of Commons Library Briefing attempted to ‘detail the support available for more able and talented students in UK schools’, and…‘the attainment gaps existing amongst the more able’. The briefing drew attention to the deterioration in academic performance in initially high-achieving children from low-income households as they progressed through the education system. Whilst schools are able to access Pupil Premium to improve education for disadvantaged pupils, a recent DfE report found that, ‘Evidence shows that academically able pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are most at risk of under-performing. These pupils should receive just as much focus as less academically able pupils’.
Academic System is No Longer Fit for Purpose
Says Caller: “Our educational system is outdated and is based on a concept created over 1000 years ago but it’s no longer fit for purpose. Education in schools revolves around passing exams so that you can go to university”, he asserts. “As long as the child is deemed capable of passing exams, they’re considered to have no need of extra attention. The evidence is incontrovertible - seriously gifted children are not being given the time and focused one-to-one support to enable them to perform to the best of their unique ability”.
A gifted child is generally considered to have an IQ of 140+, however, this has been lowered from 160+ in recent years, sparking concern that profoundly gifted children are now being taught at the same levels as other children who, while still considered to be highly intelligent, cannot perform to the same standard. Caller believes that this leads to a ‘dumbing down’ of exceptionally bright children who, with the right support, have the potential to achieve much more than teachers give them credit for.
“I agree wholeheartedly with the Davidson Institute who conclude that profoundly gifted students with IQs of 160+ need ‘extremely exceptional educational accommodations to meet their needs,’ Caller argues. “These are children with the potential to become our best inventors, lawmakers, diplomats, and who could, one day, even help solve some of the world’s greatest problems. The problems that the world faces today are very different from before. If we are going to solve those problems, we need to seek out and cultivate the super-bright. We will need visionaries who are capable of thinking creatively, who are innovative and who can think outside the box”.
“Tutors International has many enquiries from ultra-high-net-worth parents of gifted and able children who are struggling within their educational setting”, Caller explains. “These parents can afford to enquire about personalised, full-time residential private tuition where their child’s specific needs are catered for. They are looking for a strengths-based education for their child where learning goes above and beyond working towards passing an exam and is instead, driven by their child’s curiosity and personal interests, but this shouldn’t have to be the case”.
Caller expands on the benefits that private tuition from Tutors International can offer the gifted and able child: “We are experts in our field and renowned for high quality provision. Tutors International offers a completely tailored process on behalf of each Client that meets their child’s exact educational needs. We see private tutoring as a valid solution here, as a tutor can very quickly home in on a child’s individual strengths and talents and nurture them according to the child’s own interests and learning style. However, if schools were given the resources to identify and put into place suitable academic provision for the gifted and very able, parents would not find this step necessary”.
Government Needs to Empower Parents with Options for Most Able Pupils
Expanding on his point, Caller recalls how one of the private tutors registered with Tutors International used to be responsible for looking after the students under the age of sixteen at Oxford University: “She reported that there were nine such students at her college alone and an equal number at each of the other colleges. Given that there are thirty-nine colleges in total, that makes over 350 academically gifted students under the age of sixteen studying at Oxford University at any one time”.
Caller emphasises that the opportunity afforded to these and other students to prematurely develop and nurture their talents is not because the Government has provided support or an alternative academic pathway for them: “The parents of these students have been forced to take matters into their own hands,” he explains. “Based on the evidence that the profoundly able child is often overlooked in a classroom setting, it is down to parents to seek ways of cultivating their child’s talents. It is often the case that those with access to financial and social resources find it easier to navigate the educational options open to them. The fact that the latest government review into SEND provision makes no mention of options available for the academically gifted compounds the problem for those parents who do not have the financial or social means that will empower them to seek alternative solutions”.
Face-to-Face Meetings with Families
Now that Covid travel restrictions are easing, Caller is once again able to attend face-to-face meetings with potential Clients exploring alternative academic options for their child. This week he will travel to Tampa in an attempt to find the perfect tutor for a child whose school is unable to support his level of capability. Caller stresses that Tutors International prides itself on its personalised service: “The first step in this process is to meet with the family to gain a thorough understanding of their lifestyle. Then, we get to know the child to find out their strengths, what hobbies they have, what they find challenging, how best they learn. Only then do we begin the search for a tutor with a job specification that specifically reflects the child’s and the family’s individual requirements”.
Tutors International has a reputation for placing exceptional, hand-picked private tutors with children all over the world – from SEN children to the academically gifted and talented – and prides itself on its commitment to finding the perfect full-time tutor to suit the individual needs of each family. Adam Caller welcomes any enquiries from parents to advise on the support options available for their child.