Azara Blog: The government wants to waste money on "e-credits"

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Date published: 2006/12/28

The BBC says:

The government is arranging "e-credits" for schools to access extra lessons for an estimated 800,000 gifted pupils.

The £65m scheme is part of its drive to ensure all children in England with special talents are given extra help.

It requires all schools to list their gifted and talented pupils in the census data it now collects each term.

Some teachers have resisted the whole idea - while others say the obvious answer is to reintroduce grammar schools in all areas.

The e-credits system is to be run by the not-for-profit CfBT Education Trust from next September.

It says each pupil would initially receive the equivalent of a number of credits - worth about £80 - which their schools could use to buy extra lessons from companies, independent schools, universities or learned bodies.

Development director Tim Emmett said: "The government is seeing this as part of school improvement rather than a lifeboat for a few bright children."

A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) declined to comment on the details because contract negotiations were continuing.

The government says it now wants schools to identify the top 10% of pupils - amounting to about 800,000 nationally.

Within those, about half would also be eligible for the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth.

But there is no requirement on schools or even guidance setting out any such figure. It is up to each school to identify its gifted and talented pupils.

Officials at the DfES say that on average last year the census in secondary schools identified "around 10%" as gifted and talented.

The department defines these as having abilities which are "developed to a level significantly ahead of their year group - or with the potential to develop those abilities".

Gifted refers to capability in academic subjects, talented covers visio-spatial or practical skills such as in games and PE, drama or art.

The government acknowledges that often the children who are identified are those who have had opportunities to develop their talents.

So it is also trying to reach children whose parents either do not bother or cannot afford to provide such extra-curricular activities.

Schools minister Lord Adonis told a "gifted and talented" conference in November: "Let's be absolutely clear that these children exist in every school.

"When the stork delivering gifted babies to the families of this country flies overhead, it doesn't carry instructions to land only on pitched roofs in the leafy suburbs."

Another pathetic government education policy. How ever did Adonis get to be so influential? It's good to know that he believes that babies are delivered by stork, but more seriously, even if poorer people on average have babies just as inherently bright at birth as richer people do, by the time they are six or seven, poorer children will have had a far worse intellectual environment, and that counts for just as much as, if not more than, inherent ability. By the time children are at an age when anyone is capable of determining that they are allegedly "gifted and talented", it is far too late to do much about it for the disadvantaged in society.

Further, who is the crackpot who came up with the idea of e-credits? It sounds like the government is going to pay over and over again for the very same material. When a school has a book in its library, many, many children, year after year, can read that book. When a school has a teacher, more than one child can benefit from a lesson and the child also (normally) receives sensible feedback. With these e-credits it sounds like one child at one point in time is going to pay to see some (possibly useless) webpage. And even if the CfBT Education Trust is "not-for-profit", no doubt the people who run it are well paid, and the companies they farm out much of the money to will be private. Who is going to control the quality and is this whole scheme just another gravy train for the consultants who New Labour seem to be so fond of?

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