Meeting the Needs of Gifted and Talented Students

Author(s) Gwen Goodhew
Publisher Network Continuum Education
Published 2009
Pages 147
Price £19.99
ISBN 9781855394650
Reviewed by Mrs Suzanne Lowe
University of Cumbria
Review published 17 July 2009

The book covers a wide range of areas and includes examples from the Foundation Stage to Secondary education. To meet the needs of the wide target audience it is necessarily more of an overview, indeed, as the back cover notes state, this book is a ‘starting point’ rather than an exhaustive theoretical discussion or practical handbook. While this may lead to some dissatisfaction if further detail is looked for, the comprehensive and current bibliography will become a really useful tool for those who require greater understanding or background. The appendices are also a useful resource to guide further research and to support teachers in extending/developing provision.

This book is intended to meet the introductory needs of many education user groups, teachers, teaching assistants, governors, Leading Teachers for Gifted and Talented education. Overall it is an interesting read having sections linking theories and practices, with possible solutions to management issues for classrooms, this makes it a useful read especially for new teachers or those involved in ITE.

I was excited to read the target audience for this book as it indicated the intent to meet the needs of a wide range of users. I was hoping this book would prove to be a useful resource for the associated staff and governing bodies hoping to raise awareness and provision. As such it would need to be accessible and useful to both trained staff and non education specialists. This is a wide remit needing all ‘education specialist vocabulary’ to be clearly explained yet with enough guidance to render it useful for a school. As a school governor I found the book useful to support both understanding and expectation. I feel it may be suitable to support governors in their ‘critical friend’ role to help a school develop a stronger gifted, talented and exceptionally able programme, especially Chapter 3 which focuses on whole school strategies. Several useful tools/strategies are described in Chapter 4 and there may be some teachers and especially leading teachers who would prefer this aspect to be further developed to support them in improving/developing their own or others practice.

As an inclusion specialist with an interest in the effects of socio-economic disadvantage on achievement/identity I was particularly interested in the discussions around this area. Although this is not deeply covered it is explored in sufficient detail to raise awareness, to support identifying and meeting these particular needs. A further area of particular interest is the explicit recognition of the provision needed for children whose “potential may be disguised by lack of opportunity, cultural differences or additional needs”. This is followed by a discussion of dual or multi-exceptionality with examples and suggestions for supporting the individual child’s needs and is recognition of the requirement for the growing drive towards personalised learning and the complexity of education.

For ITE generalist students and educators it is a useful resource to focus on an aspect of inclusive practice termed ‘a bit of a Cinderella’ by Goodhew in the introduction. From the necessary discussion relating to the difficulty in coming to a definitive definition of the terms ‘gifted’, ‘talented’ and ‘exceptionally able’ Goodhew uses a variety of sources to develop shared understanding for the purpose of the book, examining a variety of perspectives.

The use of theory and research to underpin ideas is useful to students in ITE as both a model to construct arguments and for ideas to take into schools when they begin to practise. However it should be stressed that it is a starting point and that further research on behalf of the student or teacher is necessary to consolidate or extend classroom practice, and as students learn to differentiate their lesson provision.

ITE inclusion specialist students will benefit further from the areas examining the history of Gifted and Talented provision and through considering the chapter outlining the identification of children with these abilities. Using the case study examples and practical guidance in this book may help to increase educational opportunity through reiterating the challenge to have high expectations of all children in a nurturing environment to a new generation of teachers. The case study examples also add a wider aspect to the book as it helps us to understand the impact of actions, expectations and teaching strategies upon the children, it is a valuable personalising strategy, moving the reader from the abstract to the concrete. The case studies and practical examples could easily form the basis of some interesting seminar activities.

I feel this book is of most use to those who do not have a detailed knowledge of the issues surrounding gifted, talented and exceptionally able children. It is a text which identifies a wide range of areas for consideration and will help the promotion of an initial whole school approach. Reasonable links are made with government documentation and research and as a supplementary text in a generalist education degree it would have a useful impact. For specialist inclusion students it is useful for background reading and to identify areas for further research. It does what it says on the tin and it does it well.

If you are interested in this field please see also ESCalate's review of Sutherland's (2005) ‘Gifted and Talented in the Early Years: Practical Activities for Children Aged 3 to 5’