Not Saussure

December 29, 2006

E-credits for more gifted pupils?

Filed under: Education, Spin, UK — notsaussure @ 1:10 am

The BBC reports that

The government is arranging “e-credits” for schools to access extra lessons for an estimated 800,000 gifted pupils.

The £65m scheme is part of its drive to ensure all children in England with special talents are given extra help.

It requires all schools to list their gifted and talented pupils in the census data it now collects each term.

Apparently,

each pupil would initially receive the equivalent of a number of credits – worth about £80 – which their schools could use to buy extra lessons from companies, independent schools, universities or learned bodies.

The report goes on to explain that these pupils — rather endearingly refererred to as ‘G&T pupils’ by the DfES — apparently comprise about 10% of the pupils in each school and are to be identified by … well, it’s up to the school, really. The DfES provide a range of indicators so wide as to be virtually meaningless.

This hasn’t gone down astonishingly well with some teachers; one teacher wants to know, not unreasonably,

What do you say to a hard-working Year 8 girl who says, “Miss, I really wanted to go to the giant insects workshop today, but I’m not clever enough”.

to which the DfES’s response is, somewhat opaquely,

Please let me assure readers that the scheme is not about selection, and it is not a case of children not meeting the criteria being neglected or losing out on activities or opportunities

which leaves me a tad unsure what it is supposed to be about; I mean, presumably these ‘e-credits’ are supposed to buy something for the 10% who receive them that they wouldn’t otherwise — and the 90% won’t — receive. Otherwise, what are they being used to pay for?

I suspect that, in practice, this is more of a contingency fund to allow schools to lay on extra-curricular activities of one sort or another, and good for them. Just seems a bit of a gimmick to dress it up as some special initiative.

My main worry, on reading about it, was where on earth are some of these children going to find the time? I have in mind one of my nieces, who’s a terrifyingly bright and talented 14-year-old. She scoops the pool each school prize day and still finds time to act, play the violin and represent the school at county level in athletics. She achieves this partly because of her natural abilities and partly because her parents encourage her — and can afford both the time and money so to do — in all these extra-curricular activities. How she’d find the time to fit in still more special activities I do not know, and it might well be argued that there are other girls at the school who could probably benefit more from the investment than would my niece. But if the school’s going to draw up a list of the most talented and gifted pupils that doesn’t include her, then it’s a nonsense.

Just another gimmick, I suppose.

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