Today’s gifted pupils are tomorrow’s social, intellectual, economic and cultural leaders and their development cannot be left to chance.
(Deborah Eyre, director of the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, 2004)
The debate about whether to make special provision for the most able pupils in secondary schools ran its course during the last decade of the twentieth century. Explicit provision to meet their learning needs is now considered neither elitist nor a luxury. From an inclusion angle these pupils must have the same chances as others to develop their potential to the full. We know from international research that focusing on the needs of the most able changes teachers’ perceptions of the needs of all their pupils, and there follows a consequential rise in standards. But for teachers who are not convinced by the inclusion or school improvement arguments, there is a much more pragmatic reason for meeting the needs of able pupils. Of course, it is preferable that colleagues share a common willingness to address the needs of the most able, but if they don’t, it can at least be pointed out that, quite simply, it is something that all teachers are now required to do, not an optional extra.