Supporting Academically More Able Pupils

Once known as ‘gifted and talented’, pupils working at above average levels can benefit significantly from appropriately planned and targeted one-to-one tuition.

In March 2015, an Ofsted report concluded that many of the most able children attending non-selective secondary schools were failing to achieve their potential. It’s no surprise then that many parents of more able children consider private tuition to ensure their children flourish.

Current approaches to academically more able pupils

While there has been considerable debate about the best term to use for pupils with advanced abilities – with ‘gifted’, ‘talented’, ‘very able’, ‘exceptionally able’ and now ‘academically more able’ among the most used options – education leaders are in no doubt about the importance of supporting and stretching these pupils.

The Department for Education currently defines ‘academically more able learners’ as ‘those who have abilities in one or more academic subjects such as mathematics or English.’

Potential Plus UK (formerly known as the National Association for Gifted Children), which uses the term ‘high learning potential’ (with ‘gifted and able’ in brackets) goes further.

‘Children with High Learning Potential are much more than high IQ scorers,’ they state. ‘These children are fascinating, complex, challenging, brimming with vast potential and an incredible thirst for knowledge.’

The decision to update the name and vocabulary of the NAGC followed concerns about a social stigma attached to the word ‘gifted’, with parents, teachers and children labelled as ‘gifted’ saying they felt the term was limiting and exclusive.

The national strategy for supporting able pupils has similarly changed, and in the past 15 years the government has implemented and then withdrawn various differing national and area-specific schemes. In 2009 the government reviewed its current national programme and concluded that it was not having sufficient impact on schools. Consequently, provision was scaled back and schools were expected to do more themselves for their most able pupils.

As a result, there is considerable difference between schools and the ways in which they support their most able students.

The most effective teaching approaches

In a 2011 report, the DfE recognised that more able pupils often enjoy a creative and sometimes more cross-curricular approach to teaching and learning. The DfE also concluded that these pupils have diverse learning preferences, and a wider variety of teaching strategies and approaches are needed.

They also discovered that these pupils may only do the minimum amount of work, if not sufficiently academically stretched – saying they need to be ‘pushed to deeper thinking’.

In successful schools, the 2015 Ofsted report found that the most able students are able to thrive because school leaders provide a challenging and stimulating curriculum that meets these students’ needs. These schools use the information they receive from primary schools to make sure that students are doing work that stretches them as soon as they join year 7 and throughout their time at the school.

However, in other schools, Ofsted’s inspectors found that the needs of many of the most able students were not sufficiently prioritised. Too many were receiving teaching within a curriculum that did not sufficiently challenge them and around a quarter of those who showed very strong potential in English and maths at age 11 did not go on to achieve a B grade at GCSE.

The benefits of one-to-one tuition for more academically able pupils

Academically more able pupils can benefit significantly from one-to-one tuition, as the 2011 DfE report concluded, especially when tuition sessions are planned to foster independence.

Home-School Tutoring understands the needs of more able children and young people. We can provide specialist extra one-to-one private tuition which is student-led, challenging and stimulating.  Tuition can be arranged for after-school, at the weekend or in the school holidays.

Our home tutors understand that more diverse learning approaches and a variety of teaching strategies are often needed to stimulate many able students who lack motivation if they are not sufficiently academically stretched.

Home-School Tutoring can also provide private tuition to help students prepare for the 11-plus and Common Entrance exams.

Margaret Sweetland, the Director of Home-School Tutoring, says: “Our tutors are committed to helping ensure the most able students fulfil their potential and are thoroughly engaged by learning.

“We have tutors who are experts in all subjects taught in school, as well as in other subjects that students may be interested in, including extra-curricular languages and musical instrument tuition.”

Home-School Tutoring has provided quality home tuition for over 25 years. A rigorous registration procedure ensures that all tutors are suitably qualified and committed to delivering attentive and effective tuition. Certificates of qualifications are verified, references are obtained, and an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is made to verify tutors’ suitability.

Home-School Tutoring’s Area Advisors are available to provide advice to parents considering home tutoring, and can match pupils with the tutor best suited to their needs.

Parents can find contact details for their local Area Advisor via the locations page of our website.

Home-School Tutoring is also currently inviting applications from qualified tutors interested in joining Home-School Tutoring. See Become a Tutor for details.

Further reading:

Developing quality tuition: effective practice in schools – academically more able

The most able students: an update on progress since June 2013