Gifted & Talented Schools and How to Support a Gifted Child


  1. What does gifted and talented mean in schools?
  2. Do schools still use gifted and talented? 
  3. Is gifted and talented considered special education? 
  4. What qualifies a child for gifted and talented education (GATE)?
  5. What can I do to support a gifted child?

We all think our kid’s a genius at some point, but what can you do when your child starts to show exceptional ability in a particular subject? Once their knowledge has surpassed yours, you may find yourself searching for ‘gifted and talented education’ (GATE) options. 

Here’s our overview of what it means to be ‘gifted and talented’ and what parents can do to support a gifted child. child writing in school book

What does gifted and talented mean in schools? 


The terms ‘gifted and talented’ or ‘more able’ are often used to describe students with exceptional ability in particular subjects.

In their most recent research (published in 2015) Ofsted used SATS results to define the ‘most able’ as students who start secondary school in Year 7 with Level 5 or above in English and/or Maths at the end of Key Stage 2. Further along the school path, the high score of Grade 9 at GCSE (deemed to be higher than A*) was introduced to recognise the very highest achievers.  🚀


Do schools still use gifted and talented? 


The approach to gifted and talented students in schools varies across the UK. In England, the Young, Gifted and Talented Programme closed in 2010. It was a controversial programme that was criticised by some for being elitist – but it did provide schools with a clear framework for recognising the brightest students and offered support to learners, school staff, governors and parents/carers. 

The Department for Education decided not to replace the programme, leaving it up to individual schools to create their own gifted and talented policies. Schools are still expected to identify and support the most able students using their own resources. One financial resource on offer is Pupil premium, which has been made available to support highly able students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In Wales, schools are expected to identify gifted and talented students and give them a personalised learning plan. Pupil development grants are also available to offer financial support to those who need it and the Seren Network helps higher achievers to get into university. 🏫 

In Scotland it is, again, up to the school to offer extra help to gifted students. An independent review found that schools weren’t meeting expectations so in October 2020, the Scottish government said that an Action Plan would be implemented to improve the experience of more able students. 

In Northern Ireland, schools are expected to offer more challenging lessons and extra-curricular activities, as well as moving students up from primary school a year early.


Is gifted and talented considered special education? 


Many of the schools that cater for gifted children also provide special education. This means that they support students with a range of Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), among other differences. 

Many gifted children are, in fact, dual or multiple exceptional (DME), which means that they have increased potential for learning while also having special educational needs. It’s quite common for a child’s high ability to mask special educational needs or disabilities.  This is because excelling in certain areas can mean that disabilities like Dyslexia, ADHD, sensory issues and autism spectrum disorders are not picked up.


What qualifies a child for gifted and talented education (GATE)?


Schools identify gifted students in many ways. They use Key Stage 2 results, which help identify more able students towards the end of primary school. They may also use cognitive ability tests and pay close attention to feedback from teachers and parents. 

In terms of the traits of a gifted child, there are lots of things to be aware of. If your child is gifted, in addition to being a high achiever and learning quickly, they may have an unusual memory. They may reach intellectual milestones before other kids their age, like reading early. Gifted children often have unusual hobbies and become real experts on subjects that interest them

One of the challenges that a gifted child might face is that they like to be in control and may not be tolerant of other children. This can have an effect on how they behave with others and can make social interaction difficult. Also, gifted children can set themselves impossibly high standards, which can be stressful for both parent and child.

A child that is gifted may prefer to spend time in the company of adults rather than with children their own age.  They may also be an introvert who likes spending time on their own.  However, not all gifted children are introverts. They can also be chatty extroverts with a well-developed sense of humour.  They might love to talk and ask questions all the time and are aware of what’s happening in the world.  There’s also an element of creativity to look out for. Gifted children are often musical and like to make up additional rules for games.

If you’re looking for more formal confirmation that your child is gifted, MENSA offers a supervised IQ test for children over the age of ten and a half. People often wonder if a certain IQ is required for gifted programmes but there often isn’t a particular threshold as schools consider a variety of things before highlighting a child as gifted and talented. Most schools will most likely define certain students as ‘more able’ and make provisions for them depending on their resources. 📚 


What can I do to support a gifted child?


What many parents start looking for is a list of gifted and talented programmes, but in reality, there’s more to it than that. Contrary to popular belief, being gifted does not mean that you will do well no matter what – so support is definitely needed.  

1. Environment

There’s no one-size-fits-all for parenting and the same is true of education. Finding the right educational environment for your child is key, whether that be in a classroom or at home.

If you think your child is gifted and needs more support, start by talking to their school. They will usually have their own ‘gifted and talented’ policy and will be able to talk you through the support on offer.

There are specialist schools that you can send your child to but moving schools is a big ask at any age. Take time to visit any potential schools with your child and get their input – it is their education after all. Some parents of gifted children choose to home-school their child, while others seek out subject-specific tutors to help support them with their specialist subjects.

2. Be their ally

There are lots of things you can do to help a gifted child. Firstly, don’t add to their impossibly high standards by putting pressure on them to perform. Children who are gifted can often end up feeling frustrated, bored and alone. 

Keep them motivated by seeking out activities that genuinely interest them and help them to keep challenging themselves. You can’t be with them all day every day, so it’s also important to be aware of signs of boredom and bullying – as this can lead to negative behaviour patterns.

3. Get help

Parents of gifted children can sometimes worry that they don’t have the capacity to help their children reach their full potential. This can be stressful and lonely and could potentially turn you into a helicopter parent

Organisations such as Potential Plus offer advice for parents, teachers and students.  They also organise events for gifted children and their families, making life with a gifted child a little less isolated. 

Mensa, an organisation which aims to ‘identify and foster human intelligence’ offers membership to under-18s.  In addition to producing newsletters and magazines for its younger members, they are also encouraged to join special interest groups (SIGS) and attend social events. 🤝

4. Don’t rush them

Don’t expect your child to grow up too fast. While it’s important to help them reach their full potential, it’s also essential to let them be a kid. Think about what’s age appropriate for them and create opportunities for fun.  

In the past, students were moved up a year or two in schools, but this is not the favoured solution of experts. Mensa’s gifted child consultant, Lyn Kendall, points out that 

“Intellectually able children may well enter school already two or three years ahead of their peers. Research suggests that the gap does not in fact stay constant but tends to widen as the child gets older and becomes more able to take control of their learning.”

Also, it’s important to consider whether being in a class of older kids is the right move. We love to celebrate child geniuses and their amazing achievements, but, as Lyn Kendall asks, ‘Is university a suitable environment for a child of 12?’

5. Bulk it up

There are many ways to supplement your kid’s access to learning. You can bulk up their exposure to challenging and stimulating educational material by accessing summer schools. These allow students to focus on particular subjects with equally motivated classmates. 

If you’re looking for a more specialised approach, then tutoring might be just the ticket to present a greater level of challenge to your child at a pace that suits them. Here at GoStudent, we have a range of expert tutors with the knowledge and experience to create tailored lessons to engage and challenge your bright spark! 💥