Inner cities' brightest children to be helped

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The Independent Online

Education Correspondent

Gifted children in inner-city schools are to be given extra support under a government-funded programme aimed at raising standards in the poorest areas. The initiative could form part of a wider school improvement drive which includes efforts by both schools inspectors and the Teacher Training Agency to find ways of boosting teachers' and pupils' performances.

A small-scale project to be run this year by the Support Society for Children of High Intelligence (CHI) could be followed by a much larger one in a year's time. The National Association for Gifted Children, which has branches all over the country, is hopeful of winning a pounds 300,000 government grant over five years to support the brightest children.

With extra teacher training to help staff to identify and support the ablest 5 per cent, officials hope that others in these schools will also have their sights raised. In schools where many pupils are not high achievers, those with great potential often become bored. The main aim is to help them but it is hoped that they will then go on to motivate others and to push up standards in their schools.

While most such projects concentrate on school management and on finding inspired headteachers, this new approach will work from the bottom up.

The CHI, which has been awarded a pounds 5,000 grant to be spent before next April, is working with Westminster City Council to identify teachers who would like to know more about working with very able children.

The society has devised an intelligence test with which to select the brightest pupils. Both teachers and pupils will then be invited to join classes already being run by the society on Saturday mornings.

The children, aged between 6 and 12, will spend much of the time in the computer room at Brunel University, where they will have access to the Internet as well as to educational computer programmes. The teachers will learn through observation about how to help the children's development.

John Walker, CHI chairman, said: "The ministry are looking to try to raise standards in schools, and inner-city ones are generally regarded as depressed. This has never been done - there has always been an attempt to pull standards up from the top but that is much harder work."

The National Association for Gifted Children, which already receives pounds 21,000 per year from the Department for Education and Employment, will hear within a few weeks whether its new bid has been successful.

Its director, Peter Carey, said it aimed to track children through their school careers and to give support and training to teachers. "We are very concerned about able children who drop out. We suspect that the drop-out rate is much greater in socially deprived areas where parents and even teachers may not be so on-the-ball about identifying and providing for these children," he said.