Eventually a decision was made to provide the best for the students who were already at the school. A board representative said that parents were now convinced about the worth of mixed ability classes. Some parents had had children under both systems and did not want their children to go back to high ability classes.
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With strong leadership, and community and board support, the school developed high quality policies and procedures for GATE. Decisions about provision were based on current educational research that stressed the importance of meeting the needs of gifted and talented students in the classroom. To put this belief about classroom provision into practice, the senior management team modelled good practice, with classroom release time being used to work with individual teachers in the classroom.
This led to improved teaching practice, planning and assessment. All teachers were trained in how to differentiate programmes to meet the needs of gifted and talented students. They also attended professional development sessions about GATE, and in particular about the learning opportunities available to students outside the classroom.
The senior management team operated a programme to include new teachers that team leaders said were keen to learn how to teach gifted and talented students.
This involved teaming up new teachers with a competent and skilled member of the senior management team. A school counsellor, who was funded by the board through the operations grant, also supported teachers. She was available three afternoons a week to assist teachers with ideas on meeting the needs of gifted and talented students. There was strong community involvement throughout the process of establishing a philosophy, and policies and procedures.
The principal said that a benefit of mixed ability classes was that all teachers had a stronger awareness of what was meant by gifted and talented. Teachers planned and implemented differentiated learning programmes to suit students, particularly gifted and talented students. The school recognised gifts and talents across many subjects, disciplines and interests.
Similarly, they used a variety of methods to identify gifted and talented students throughout the year, and to develop a picture of each student. These methods included:. Most importantly this allowed for the continuation of programmes and ease of communication. Once their children were identified and recorded on a register of special abilities, parents were contacted and the best course of action for the student was discussed. This might have included dual enrolment with The Correspondence School, withdrawal programmes, or outside agency support. The register was updated by the SENCO from class descriptions compiled by teachers in Term 1, and then re-evaluated and modified in Term 3.
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Team leaders supervised the development of year level planning to ensure programmes were effective. Each classroom teacher planned and implemented differentiated programmes for mathematics, reading, and writing, with differentiation in science and social studies being trialled. High quality resources supported learning and promoted thinking, questioning, and interactive learning using ICT. Teachers had positive relationships with students, and gifted and talented students said they felt included and valued.
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There was effective coordination of provision for gifted and talented students, with out-of-class opportunities linking into regular classroom programmes. Gifted and talented students also had access to a wide range of regional, national, and international competitions; a programme for information and hands-on technological experiences; university visits; mentoring opportunities; programmes to develop digital literacy and inventive thinking; and a programme aimed at developing cognitive, emotional and social needs of gifted and talented children.
The school celebrated academic, cultural, and sporting success, operating a Blues Awards system. The school leadership promoted an environment that was open and reflective, and encouraged younger teachers to contribute freely. Classroom teachers regularly reviewed their classroom programmes and team leaders supervised this.
The senior management team provided models of reviews so teachers were able to evaluate differentiated classroom programmes and any withdrawal programmes for which they were responsible. The school had open nights for parents and regular parent interviews to discuss and review provision for gifted and talented students.
Actions resulting from this included the consolidation of programmes on offer, and new programmes being offered. The inclusive culture of this school contributed substantially to gifted and talented students being highly valued and respected by the school community. The principal attributed this lack of tall poppy syndrome to mixed ability classes. A student survey had shown that students felt they were being bullied and asked for better monitoring.
Strategies were implemented and a subsequent survey showed students were happy, excited, and engaged.
The appointment of a school counsellor enhanced learning opportunities for gifted and talented students. She set up a mentoring system that supported them emotionally and spiritually as well as in other areas. She worked with teachers, families, and the wider community. The counsellor had good strategies to help students, particularly those who were very academically advanced, and worked with their families as well.
Gifted and talented students enjoyed school, saying they were allowed to make choices and decisions. They felt challenged and were given lots of leadership opportunities. Year 8 students acknowledged that their self-esteem had grown hugely between the start of Year 7 and the end of Year 8, and attributed this to being treated as young adults.
The school was one of choice for many children and some travelled a long way to and from school each day, saying it was worth it. One gifted boy with behavioural problems, who had been at a full primary school and now had to travel a long distance by bus each day, said that the school had changed him and he was much more mature.
The deputy principal was the appointed gifted and talented student programme coordinator and was supported by a group of nine cluster class and withdrawal programme teachers. The principal, senior management team, and board were very supportive of and knowledgeable about the provision for gifted and talented students. There were six teaching teams of three to four classes. Many gifted and talented students were clustered in 12 composite classes at this school, spread across the teaching teams.
The school provided a range of opportunities for enrichment and extension through both school and community programmes. The coordinator of the gifted and talented education was very knowledgeable and skilled, and used her designated time effectively to develop GATE provision. The cluster teachers were also very knowledgeable and led many of the withdrawal and out-of-class programmes.
In addition to this, the principal had a long history of developing gifted and talented programmes both in this school and others , and encouraged teachers to be innovative and take risks in their teaching. Six years ago, the school only had withdrawal classes, and gifted and talented students were spread across 21 mixed ability composite classes.
There was only a small group of identified gifted and talented students who participated in future problem-solving extension classes. The senior management team, through self review, realised that this was not beneficial to gifted and talented students — identified and non-identified. Teachers felt that, while gifted and talented students benefited from being together, streaming was not beneficial for students. Consultation with parents challenged this belief. A large group of students at the school were achieving academically in stanines 8 and 9.
However, teachers felt that this scenario would have made use of the strength of only one teacher rather than all the teachers, and that there would have been no provision for gifted and talented students who were not in this high ability class. Further consultation with parents and professional discussions amongst staff led to the development of clusters of academically gifted students in Years 7 and 8 composite classes. The school then developed strong policies and core principles for gifted and talented provision.
This was supported by a planning and implementation document, developed by the team leaders of the six Years 7 and 8 teaching teams , the GATE coordinator, and the senior management team. The board provided a budget for professional development, resources, programme development, and staff release time.
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Class teachers were released to run withdrawal programmes, to coach sports, or attend events. The coordinator discussed planned provision for the year with teachers before the start of the school year. Teachers, particularly those new to the school, were encouraged to be involved in withdrawal programmes. Teachers who took withdrawal programmes had professional readings about the definitions and identification of gifted and talented students. The coordinator attended gifted and talented network meetings, GATE conferences and seminars, and had undertaken university study specialising in the provision for gifted and talented students.
The school placed high priority on informing and educating parents about gifted and talented education.
The coordinator gave parents a booklet with extensive information about GATE, held an open day and a parent information evening, sent regular newsletters home, and visited contributing schools to meet students and parents.