Gifted children to be included in league tables

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The Independent Online

Controversial government plans to include the number of "gifted and talented" pupils in league tables of state schools were announced yesterday, drawing criticism from teachers' leaders who said the plans will lead to more elitism in British education.

Under the new scheme, school league tables will in future advertise the achievements of the brightest pupils by measuring the number of 14-year-olds who score two or three levels above that expected for their age. The number of 14-year-olds reaching Level 7 or Level 8 in their 2008 Key Stage 3 tests two or three levels above that expected for their age will be included in school achievement and attainment tables.

The schools minister, Lord Adonis, said the "gifted and talented" programme was designed to nurture the abilities of the most able children. He said: "There are very able pupils in every school but they can often go unrecognised. Identifying and celebrating high attainment encourages schools to focus on those who need extra help because they have particular abilities and talents which is just as crucial as helping those who are at risk of falling behind.

"I want to ensure that every child has the opportunity to make the most of their potential. It is important to support able pupils who are achieving Level 7 or 8 when they are 14, making sure they are on course to achieve A* grades at GCSE, get three good A-levels or a diploma and ultimately go on to the best course at the right university."

But Steve Sinnott, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said better off parents will use the new attainment tables to shop around for what will be perceived to be the best schools in any area.

David Chaytor, the Lab-our MP for Bury North, and a member of the Children, Schools and Families Select Committee, said the new "talented and gifted" tables would increase the standing and status of the already higher-achieving schools.

Mr Sinnott said: "The achievement of all children needs to be celebrated, including those who are gifted and talented. Placing the results in school performance tables, which are a discredited way of showing achievement, is probably the last thing that schools need."

Mr Chaytor said: "We should welcome the provision of as much information as possible about the full range of a school's performance. However, there will be some concern that this particular strand of information may serve to give an additional advantage to those schools that are already well favoured in terms of their intake."

At the end of last year, Gordon Brown appointed a new champion for gifted and talented children, under plans to ensure that the most able youngsters make it to university regardless of their social background. The first priority for John Stannard, a former director of the National Literacy Strategy, will be to target the 300 secondary schools that until now have refused to take part in the government's "gifted and talented" programme.