High potential learners so often need ‘harder work’ – not just more work. They need more challenge – not just more work.

One of the most common reasons parents access the Information and Advice service at Potential Plus UK is because their child’s schoolwork “isn’t hard enough”. Not only does this mean that their child is unable to reach their full potential, but also often boredom has begun to kick in, disruptive behaviour is following and there are fears of this leading to school refusal or even school exclusion. And all because the lessons lack the necessary depth and are just “too easy”!

Tied into this is the way high potential learners generally only need to be taught something once or maybe twice (certainly in their area/s of particular ability) for them to understand it, apply the new knowledge – and even develop the idea further. To make these students sit daily through classes in which an idea might be repeated eight or so times can feel unbearable to them!

In any classroom, the more able learners will need fewer repetitions of the core work than average. The time this frees up should be filled instead with a side project of extension work to stretch them and enrichment activities that add depth and real-world experience. This is how they will be challenged, develop critical skills, enhance their mental wellbeing and build resilience in the face of some ‘failures’ along the way. In other words, extension activities and enrichment experiences can be the key to a learner truly growing and fulfilling their potential.

What are Extension and Enrichment?

Extension means to take the learning further to make it truly challenging. Think of extending a house to add on more rooms – ones that develop the property in some extra way.

In education terms, extension work usually involves stretching the classroom lesson to a level that is more challenging. Instead of ‘more of the same’, it should apply the core learning to new areas or add a twist.

Enrichment literally means making something ‘richer’, usually by adding something fundamentally different to it. For example, enriching cake mix by adding more chocolate to improve its quality or deepening a friendship through a shared experience.

Within an educational context, enrichment might involve an engaging trip beyond the classroom or a multimedia activity alongside the main lesson – possibly one based around a student’s individual hobbies and interests.

Our blog Extension and Enrichment in Learning explains more about this and uses the following example as an illustration:

Topic: Rainforests
Lesson: Where rainforests are located.
Extension Activity: What can be concluded about places where rainforests are located?
Enrichment Example: Create a rainforest mural/world map as a class or in a group.
Project Suggestion: What would be needed to create a rainforest environment in the UK?
Outcome/audience: An annotated diagram or animation to be shown on a website.

How to Approach the School?

Arrange a friendly meeting with your child’s teacher, head of year, SENDCo, subject specialist or whoever seems to be the most appropriate and open-minded person. If they will not meet with you, an email may have to be the way forward. Even if you feel nervous or cross, you are best to stay calmly positive, keeping in mind that you are trying to form a ‘team’ to support your child.

Before you actually meet, become familiar with the terms ‘extension work’ and ‘enrichment activities’ and understand their differences. This will improve your chances in having a clear conversation with the staff member and therefore in meeting your child’s needs,

Respectfully ask the teacher or other staff member if they would like you to share with them a copy of this blog or any of the resources below so that you are using the same language. Also, of course, this will hopefully give them ideas and reduce any workload burden, thereby making them more willing to adapt their teaching for your child.

Some parents and carers choose for their child to have a Potential Plus UK Assessment before visiting the school about any specific issues. It can strengthen them to feel ‘validated’ by an independent view of the young person’s abilities and needs.

With or without an assessment, we offer helpful advice on how to work in positive partnership with the school and all manner of advice that will allow you to advocate for your child.

Resource Round-up

Understanding and Supporting Extension and Enrichment in a High Potential Learner

 The following Resource Round-up gathers together links to blogs and advice sheets that describe enrichment, extension and thinking skills in more detail. They will show you how to understand, inspire and stretch your high potential learner as well as describe how to advocate for appropriate work at school.

These resources were created uniquely by Potential Plus UK. Our blogs are free to all and our Parent Advice (‘PA’) sheets are free to our members (log into the members area and visit the advice sheets index); most of our advice sheets have a small charge to non-members. Event pricing varies, with most being discounted or free for members.

Overviews of extension and enrichment principles

Events, online clubs and local groups

Easy guides to inspiring and nurturing ‘higher order thinking skills’ (HOTS) 

Creative Thinking and Critical Thinking skills

 Supporting High Learning Potential In…

For Schools

Any of the resources on this page are likely to be useful for teachers, tutors and home educators; however, we also offer a wealth of targeted support for these roles including:

How to Advocate for your Child

Please be encouraged and inspired that there are many resources available to help you understand the needs of your high potential child and how to nurture their invaluable mindset resilience for the future. For over 50 years, Potential Plus UK has been supporting these very children, young people and their families. Our website, https://www.potentialplusuk.org/, is full of advice, member event information and blogs that will help you and your child to ‘Discover, Nurture & Succeed’.

Skills builder logos aiming high, creativity, listening, problem solving, speaking, staying positive

About the author: Gillie Ithell is a writer, advisor and Advice and Information Officer for Potential Plus UK, holding a B.A. in Modern Languages & Communication and further qualifications in mental health. Having worked internationally as content manager of classic board games and ‘edutainment’ software, Gillie now writes to inspire others like herself; on a daily journey with High Learning Potential.