It’s no surprise that there is heightened scrutiny at present on how schools work with its most able children, and how we prepare them for happy and successful lives. Only yesterday in the budget, it was again reinforced that the nation’s ‘production line’ of mathematicians and computer scientists, and teachers of these disciplines, is seizing up and needs its wheels well-and-truly greasing.
There is plenty of research around what makes our most able children succeed, and what barriers they face. In a recent workshop for school leaders, I shared with them this slide which typifies some of the tensions faced when working with children who are, by definition, exceptional:
The most able child will often think about our curriculum content differently. They will see things that others do not. Our challenge is to embrace this divergence and extension, see it as a vital component in their development – and their engagement – and a hugely valuable asset for their peers.
I suggested that there are three key facets to work with the most able:
Culture – A culture whereby challenge is not viewed as dissent, where divergent thinking is not rebellion, individuality is not eccentricity, and one of high expectations where we “don’t wish that it was easier, but wish that we were better.”
Curriculum – A curriculum offer that ‘works back from the end’: what do our most able need to be successful beyond school? Subjects of high currency, opportunities for challenge with their peers regionally and nationally through enrichment, developmental provision to bolster resilience, growth mindsets, communication and leadership skills.
Classroom – Specialist teachers who can ‘keep up with them’ where they can, and can ‘let them loose’ when they can’t, with activities and resources that stimulate amazing accomplishment that is supported and appreciated by their peers.
It’s that easy. And that hard! But for individual students, and our schools, and our country we have to make sure that we get the best from our most able, or at least give them our all in trying.
Thanks for reading.