Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a difference between a "very able" pupil and one who is "gifted"?

Words always come with baggage and meaning and the meanings will vary depending on your understanding and personal experiences.  As such SNAP are less concerned about the labels we use and more concerned with how we challenge pupils.  However, the following is a useful guide and is adapted from David George's work.

 Able Pupil  Gifted Pupil
 Is interested  Is highly curious
 Answers set questions  Discusses in detail
 Knows the answers  Asks the questions
 Grasps the meaning  Draws inferences
 Learns Easily  Already Knows
 Enjoys the company of peers      Prefers the company of adults
 Absorbs information  Manipulates information


The school have asked me to meet them to discuss  my child, I think he might be gifted, they don't seem so sure.

Firstly it's important to remember that both you and the school want the same thing - the best possible learning opportunities for your child.  Schools of course must consider how to meet the needs of all the children in their care.  Nonetheless your child is an individual and by law, in Scotland, has the right to an education that is directed to the development of their personality, talents and mental and physical abilitiesTo ensure the best possible outcome from a meeting it is important that both sides listen to each other.  As a parent you are emotionally involved with your child and as such it is helpful to remember that emotions can make us do or say things in a way we don't mean.  However, schools also have to remember that they do not know the pupil as well as you do.  Therefore they need to listen carefully and believe parents when they tell them that their child can do something at home even if they are not demonstrating this ability in school.  Where schools, pupils and parent all work in harmony, listen to each other and acknowledge and value each others feelings and contributions then learning will become easier for all.

I have a child in my class who is way ahead of the rest in maths.  What should I do?

When we say a child is ahead in maths we have to be clear about what we actually mean.  Mathematics is a vast and creative subject.  Often when teachers and parents say a child is good at maths they are referring to computation.  It can therefore be helpful to think of different aspects of mathematics.  Think about the pupil and what they can do and draw a maths profile for them.  A maths profile might include:

Number                       Information Handling                            Shape                                         Measure

                 Position                                            Weight                               Problem Solving                         Algebra


Once you have drawn a profile for a child it will allow you to see where challenges are required or where new concepts have to be taught.  We all have jagged profiles.

Sometimes children have learned to do maths or been coached to solve particular problems.  Give the child a mathematical problem they are unlikely to be able to solve.  If the child has a solid grasp and understanding of mathematics they will try to problem solve their way through the difficulty.  If they have simply learned equations, jumped through hoops with surface understanding then they are likely to give up.  There are a number of good online maths sites for pupils - Nrich would be a good starting point

My child is doing very well at school; in fact they won several prizes, including the overall year prize.  They also gained excellent results in National examinations.  My child tells me they are bored at school.  What can I do?

This is a difficult problem.  Judging by the usual standards - exam marks and prizes - this child is doing well and could even be said to be doing exceptionally well.  However, top marks are not an indication of level of engagement and interest.  If you have a good relationship with the school you could approach them, with the child, and explain how your child is feeling.  Have your child write down or record what they think school could do to make lessons more challenging. This is not to criticise what school is doing but it is to try to work in partnership with them.  In our experience pupils have a very creative way off livening up activities and often they don't cost in terms of time and money but are about choice of subjects to study, choice of how to present work etc.  Not only will able pupils benefit from challenges, all pupils will.

What is ability?

Current thinking would suggest:

  • Ability is multi-dimensional and only some aspects of it can be measured
  • Ability is a mix of inherited predispositions that collide with environmental. personality and contextual factors
  • Ability is developmental. This means that what is seen as high ability in childhood can differ from notions of adult excellence
  • Ability is only developed if it is nurtured through opportunity and support

My remit includes more able pupils.  What can I do to promote this in my school?

Ideas and possibilities are endless but here are a few to get you started.  You could:

  • Raise awareness among all staff, pupils and parents
  • Offer in-service opportunities to develop thinking in this area
  • Challenge stereotypical ideas of intelligence and ability
  • Organise whole school events
  • Support staff as they develop materials
  • Work directly with pupils
  • Participate in action research

Our school doesn't have a policy for more able pupils. Should it?

No, there is no need for a separate policy.  However, you must be clear where more able pupils are catered for in existing policies.  You could do this by carrying out an audit of existing school policies.  You could also see how they link to the Education Authority policies.

If we look at the needs of gifted children, are we not being elitist?

Scottish schools are working towards an inclusive education system.  If we are to be truly inclusive then we cannot ignore the needs of gifted children.  Legislation says education should be directed to the development of the personality, talents and mental and physical abilities of the child.  One definition of elite is (adj) Selected as the best; an elect circle of artists; elite colleges (n) group or class of persons enjoying superior intellectual or social or economic status.  Carrie Winstanley in her book A Fair Deal for Gifted Children: Too Clever By Half suggests that whilst it is a bit muddled as a definition it helps to show that elite can be synonymous with best.  Elect suggests chosen and therefore it is the selection criteria and the fairness or otherwise of such criteria that will determine the validity of the group in terms of its egalitarian nature.  So there is no reason why providing for the more able should be elitist in the negative sense if suitable criteria are applied.

I am the parent of a gifted child.  Where can I get support in Scotland

The National Association for Gifted Children in Scotland does have a website but currently don't seem to be offering any opportunities such as Saturday classes etc as they once did.  The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) has a useful forum for parents and also offeres a helpline.  Enquire is a body set up and funded by the Scottish Executive for parents, they may be able to offer some advice.  SNAP also receive calls from parents.

NAGC homepage

Enquire homepage

What might pupils/my child be doing that would suggest they have particular ability?

There is no definitive answer to this question but it would seem that children often do some of the following:

  • Display advanced oral and/or written language skills;expressive language.  They often start talking at a very early age.
  • Make unique connections; understand systems and see the "big picture"
  • Constantly ask questions; seeking in-depth information
  • Be a non conformist; will take risks and enjoy being independent
  • Have keen powers of observation and can be highly sensitive and insightful
  • Have intense and sustained interests and spend significant amounts of time on one activity; transfer learning to new situations
  • Be concerned about injustice and world situations, they have an early moral concern; they can be empathetic
  • Make non traditional responses and/or products
  • Have broad and varied interests, at times, simultaneously
  • Is really good at coming up with unique solutions

Remember - if a child does some or all of these things it will not necessarily follow that they are "gifted". It does mean you have a child who is interested in the world around them and who will have to have their educational needs catered for in a planned way, just like any learner!

What documentation deals specifically with the needs of able pupils?

There is only one document that deals specifically with the needs of these children - The Education of Able Pupils P6-S2 (SOED,1993).  It is now out of print.  Their needs are subsumed into subsequent documentation.  This is a double edged sword.  On one hand, it's good that their needs are part of on going work in schools, on the other, they can get lost as teachers grapple with meeting the needs of all.  The Additional Support for Learning (Scotland) Act (2004) specifically mentions able pupils thus their needs are enshrined in law.

Additional Support for Learning Act