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Statement on 'More Able'

October 2015

Gifted &Talented: a change of approach

In response to the recommendations in the Sutton Trust Report of July 2012 (“…abandoning the construct ‘gifted and talented’… the term G&T is flawed and that the brightest pupils have become a neglected group…”), we are planning the following changes…

  • The term ‘gifted’ to be replaced with ‘more able’ in any circumstances that those students need to be identified as a groupat all; this relative term might be more suitable as, over time, we feel the impact of our changing school demographic. As Carol Dweck warns: being labeled ‘gifted’ can be the “kiss of death” to the learning dispositions and achievements of many students.
  • Students will no longer be informed (nor families) that they have been identified for their intelligence. Barry Hymer warns that “…praise of students’ intelligence can generate fear of failure, the avoidance of risks and self-doubt”. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that the counterproductive effects of such stress are already evident here at KS4.
  • We move away from the ‘entity’ theory of intelligence: i.e. that it is static, and move towards an ’incremental’ approach which will allow us the flexibility to annually re-assess who we consider to be our ‘more able’ students (according to a wider set of criteria?) as they move up the school, not keep to the same (mostly fixed) cohort based mainly on Year 7 NFER data.
  • Students can thus be added to those being monitored for underachievement and targeted for intervention.
  • Students identified by departments as ‘talented’ in their subject (as distinct from across a range of subjects) will be monitored and nurtured within those departments, and not grouped together with the ‘more able’. Similarly, the ‘list’ of these students will be mutable as we review the data annually.’ This would also enable us to include the increasing number of students across the school whom we admit ‘in-year’.
  • As the language and currency of ‘Learning to Learn’ becomes embedded within the school, and tied into the Learning Sets launch presentation on ‘Growth’ vs ‘Fixed’ mindset, identifying ‘G&T’ as a separate group becomes anachronistic.

Key points from the Lead Practitioners' presentation:

  • “From skills to disposition…”
  • “Focus on the expandability of students’ minds rather than their fixedness…”
  • “Create a culture of risk taking…”
  • “Promote a ‘learning culture’ rather than a ‘performance culture’…”
  • “Intelligence praise can undermine motivation and performance…”


In favour of a more subtle and sophisticated approach, Barry Hymer concludes: “We end up with ‘gifted’ students who avoid challenges, risk, uncertainty and lifelong learning, and opt instead for easy successes and validation through performance – the very opposite of what we intend.”

D. Edwards
Coordinator for Higher Ability Learning

October 2015