Which Political Party Cares Most for the High Learning Potential Child?

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It is now seven years since the national framework for gifted and talented children was dismantled by the then incoming government. Since then we have had seven years of postcode lottery, different definitions of who these children are and the support they will be provided. This has caused confusion, frustration and upset for countless children and young people with high learning potential as well as their parents and carers. For the last election, Potential Plus UK consulted widely and developed its own Manifesto, Raise the Bar and Mind the Gap, which outlines the issues we feel most strongly about to support these children. A copy of this Manifesto can be found here.

In this Manifesto, we make the case for supporting children with high learning potential on grounds of:

  • Equity – fair treatment regardless of prior attainment.
  • Excellence – the need to raise education standards.
  • Economic value – the need to contribute towards human capital and economic growth.
  • Social mobility – to ensure that every child is allowed to progress regardless of background or income levels.

We put forward five proposals in our Manifesto which we believe are practical, cost effective and which will have the most impact on the lives of children with high learning potential.

These recommendations are as valid as they were in the last election and should be seriously considered by whoever wins at the end of the week.

Before the last election, we sent our Manifesto out to all the main political parties (and a few of the minor ones) and only one party contacted us outlining what they would do if they won. I will leave you to make your own mind up about which one that was but would urge you to ask the question on your doorstep of every candidate who wants your vote. Just who will support these children?

We believe that the recommendations we have made can be delivered by the next government without additional funding but through the redistribution of existing budgets. These recommendations include:

  1. There must be a shared understanding of high learning potential and of effective practice in meeting the needs of children and young people with high learning potential, at home and in school, from birth through to adulthood.

This must recognise that, even though it is an important aim, sometimes high ability and achievement levels are not the same thing and some of our most able children will, for a variety of different reasons, not be achieving what they are capable of in the education system. This issue must be addressed within schools as a matter of urgency.

  1. We must be more ambitious for children and young people with high learning potential.

In schools and colleges, this must include:

  • a collective belief in and efforts to improve the standard of whole school/college provision for high potential learners, responding to shortcomings identified by Ofsted and similar organisations, with the aim of eradicating the underachievement of children and young people with high learning potential;
  • ensuring that wider education reforms (especially those impacting on classroom practice, the curriculum and assessment) fully reflect the needs of high potential learners so that ceilings on their achievement are removed;
  • a universal commitment to high quality staff awareness – training and development as well as the provision of guidance and support; and
  • piloting and evaluating innovative approaches to teaching, learning and support that can be shared between schools as examples of good practice.
  1. Increased priority must be given to particular groups of children and young people with high learning potential, including:

  • Children with special needs and high learning potential (Dual and Multiple Exceptionality) who should be given statutory recognition. As a first stage towards this, a research-based audit should be undertaken to determine the number of Dual and Multiple Exceptional learners along with the development of and investment in a range of strategies to support them in the education system;
  • Children with high learning potential from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially those in receipt of Pupil Premium and the equivalent in other countries in the UK. There should be renewed efforts to close the gap between high attainers from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds to ensure that both groups are equally able to progress to selective higher education and equivalent; and
  • Advanced early readers. Every early reader must have advanced, content-appropriate reading support to meet their needs. To enable schools to coordinate this work, consideration should be given to the establishment of an ‘Every high learning potential child an advanced reader’ scheme to mirror the approach taken in the ‘Every child a reader scheme’.
  1. Government commitment and support should be provided to pilot new approaches to teaching children with high learning potential.

Access to such approaches should be made available to all children with high learning potential, including those who are home educated or excluded from school. We are not advocating the return to a top-down approach, however. The model developed may be delivered and driven by the market. However, experience over the past five years indicates that a completely schools-led approach is not working either and requires some coordination, facilitation and a framework to improve the quantity and quality of provision. This should be spearheaded by government.

  1. Parents and carers should be recognised for the important role they play in the education of their child.

There must be a universal commitment to parental engagement and partnerships with parents and carers for all children, including parents and carers of children with high learning potential. This could include encouraging schools and colleges to provide information to parents of children with high learning potential about their child and how best they can be supported at home and at school.

Our Manifesto has helped to shape our policy work in this area. if you would like to help us with this strategy in the future, please email amazingchildren@potentialplusuk.org

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