More help for talented pupils promised with £3m fund

By Bethan Lewis
BBC Wales education correspondent

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Media caption,

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams explains to pupils at Y Pant Comprehensive in Pontyclun what she is proposing

At 14-years-old, Dan has already had a taste of university life.

He was one of a group of pupils identified as more able and talented and taken on a school trip to the University of South Wales.

"We did all different subjects we would have studied in university - it developed my confidence, as well as develop my skills," he said.

Now the education secretary has announced £3m to improve support for young high achievers.

Y Pant Comprehensive in Pontyclun, Rhondda Cynon Taff has more than 1,250 pupils with around 30% identified as being more able and talented.

They are spotted when they first start school. There are extra curricular activities, extra classes at a local college and different projects and competitions, as well as guest speakers from universities.

It is about keeping them stimulated and challenged - and giving them the best opportunities.

Samuel, a year 10 pupil, said: "Teachers are very good at spotting where people are pushing through and achieving and they're good at setting stuff like extension tasks. Those tasks help you with further learning in lessons."

Media caption,

Year 9 pupil Evie explains how she has been helped already

Dan said he was not worried about being labelled as able and talented.

"You get more opportunities, you get to go on trips you wouldn't otherwise have gone on, you get to do activities you wouldn't otherwise have done," he said.

Amelia, 12, is interested in art and biology. "I think the teachers here are good at understanding everyone's level of learning," she said. "If some pupils finish their work, they're good at getting more work for them."

The school said it continued to look at how pupils progress and that includes indentifying "late bloomers".

Assistant head Lucy Bunce said: "We look for those pupils showing that extra spark in any subject.

"So while we might have a set criteria for teachers to look at what makes a more able and talented physicist, mathematician or artist, we'll also ask them to look at anything over or above, any keen interest, it doesn't always have to be purely based on ability."

The funding announced on Tuesday will look to ensure that support for more able and talented pupils is more consistent across schools in Wales.

Why does that matter?

It also showed up in the international Pisa tests, when the results of the top 10% of achievers at 15-year-olds were compared.

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams said it was clear from the evidence that Wales must do more to "identify, support and stretch" able learners, as well as deliver more consistency.

She also wants to expand the successful Seren network, which helps Wales' brightest sixth formers gain access to top universities.

From September, a pilot Seren project will start connecting younger, able pupils - before they take their GCSEs - with those from other schools and to link up with universities.

Ms Williams said: "The investment I'm announcing today means that we will be able to reach these learners at a much earlier stage, ensuring they have the support and opportunities to reach their full potential."