Gifted and talented pupils soar at Long Close School

Written by: David Brazier, Headteacher, Long Close School 26 September 2012

Independent schools have a reputation for nurturing gifted and talented children in a much more effective way than those in the maintained sector. At Cognita we are particularly proud of our achievements in this field and hold Long Close School up as a shining example.

Located in Upton near Slough in Berkshire, the school caters for boys and girls from ages 2 to 16. Head Teacher David Brazier has been at the school since 2005 and is particularly passionate about the school’s role in developing gifted and talented children to their full potential. “Teachers generally tend to teach to the middle – the challenge is how to stretch gifted and talented children and we seem to be achieving this successfully. Three years ago, OFSTED said that we were ‘good’ at it, but I wanted to know how to be ‘excellent’, hence the programme we put in place.”

The then revolutionary – now proven – concept of ‘curriculum collapse’ collapses the entire curriculum for a week to give way to a thematic experience that inspires, stretches and tests and opens up new experiences to not only pupils, but teaching staff too. It provides an opportunity for gifted and talented pupils to demonstrate their gifts and talents in specific ways with enrichment and inspiration.

Themes have included the Renaissance with Shakespeare performances, a planetarium, dancing, Renaissance art and poetry – and a spy academy where pupils and teachers all dress as spies, use cameras and break codes, with actors being brought in as ‘Principals’ of the academy. Everybody at the school becomes completely absorbed, is challenged in a different way from ‘normal’ schoolwork and thoroughly enjoys the experience.

Curriculum collapses enable staff to identify gifted and talented children and allocate thought-provoking and problem-solving tasks to fully stretch them. In class, the children are differentiated by task and supporting different activities, yet there is no impact on classmates owing to superb organisation.

It is not just children who shine at academic subjects who can be identified as gifted and talented. Art, Drama and Music are also included in the programme. Sport is also covered, the school joining forces with local clubs to enhance their development. For example, Long Close has produced no fewer than six county cricketers. A gifted and talented co-ordinator liaises with local universities for children to participate in courses such as Creative Writing, Poetry and Latin.

Gifted and talented pupils automatically gain membership of the Pegasus Group. If any child gains over 85% in all exams, they are awarded a silver Pegasus badge, always worn with pride. Understandably, Mr Brazier’s ambition is to have as many members as possible.

Since the inception of curriculum collapse, the results have been measurable, with more children winning scholarships, an excellent testimonial considering Long Close is an 11+ school.

Recognition also comes in the form of Cognita’s Gifted and Talented Conference, which the school hosts in March every year, attracting international speakers. David Brazier has also had an article on curriculum collapse published in Independent Schools Magazine.

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