Education Quandary: 'How can we make our children's new school provide for them as gifted pupils? The head makes us feel so pushy'

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Hilary's advice

Some parents of gifted and talented pupils argue that being pushy and a nuisance is the only way to get anything going. Despite some improvement in recent years, many schools are still not providing for their brightest pupils. They just don't see it as important. And the national "gifted and talented" programme that was put in place has not been successful. It was originally based on summer schools, but now it offers online provision.

Try to avoid waving in the face of this new head all the wonderful things that your children's previous school did. People are only human, and that is bound to get up their nose. But be doggedly persistent and brilliantly persuasive in your arguments that they need extra help to stretch and stimulate them. Show documented evidence and make it clear you are not going to go away. That alone can often get a response.

In addition, be very clear about what sort of provision you are talking about. Is it more-challenging work? Do you want special lunchtime or after-school sessions? Or access to a gifted and talented network? If you can make specific suggestions, the school might be more inclined to do something.

If that doesn't work, take it to one of the parent governors. And also track down who, in the local education authority, is responsible for gifted and talented children, and find out from them what local opportunities are available and what the school should be offering.

Readers' advice

I am wondering whether this reader's children are gifted or whether she is just a parent who believes they are. As a long-time teacher in a prep school I am so tired of having parents tell me their children are exceptionally talented. These parents always have all the answers. If you tell them their child has problems concentrating, it's because the work you do is too boring. If their homework is bad, it's because their gigantic brains have rushed too far ahead to be bothered with the task. Meanwhile the poor children concerned just feel so pressurised and confused. I applaud any head who stands his ground on this.

Mary Weeden, Somerset

It sounds as if you have moved away from one of the very few education authorities that take the needs of gifted children as seriously as they take the needs of other groups such as disabled children. All authorities need to understand that gifted children are not ones who are just a bit brighter than their classmates. They are really different, and need help not just with their academic work but also to socialise with similar children.

Lee Pettigrew, London W10

Do what we did when our child was younger. Don't waste your energy on school. Join the National Association for Gifted Children, if you haven't already done so, and use its resources and networks. There is plenty of help out there but you have to find it.

Janet Crooke, Kent

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