Letter: Where the Government fails the brightest and best

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The Independent Online
Sir: I agree with the view in your leading article that 'gifted' children are failed by schools that do not make a special effort to meet their needs. However, I disagree with your claim that, by moving such children up 'an academic year or two . . . schools can help them integrate with their fellow students rather than becoming freakish outcasts'.

By carrying out this policy, schools are indeed likely to reduce classroom disruption, but are also likely to make things worse for the accelerated child by creating unnecessary social obstacles. Children, ever intolerant of those who do not conform to their norms, are presented with a new classmate who differs in two ways: intelligence and, now, in age. The child is surely more likely than before to become a 'freakish outcast'.

The other drawback of the policy of accelerating pupils is that it does not address the cause of the problem; the child is, after all, still brighter than his or her classmates. Once the missing year's work has been assimilated, the child will still be insufficiently stimulated.

I write from experience: I was put up a year at the age of six, and ended up taking my A-levels two years early, at 16. I would much rather have had a 'normal' education, even at the cost of more classroom boredom.

I would advise parents faced with this choice to consider the costs, as well as the benefits, of putting their child up one year, let alone two. I wouldn't do it to my children.

Yours faithfully,

JONATHAN WARD

Oxford

6 December

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