Preparing teachers to work with gifted children

Exceptionally talented children are just as likely to fail in life as succeed according to a new study. In one of the most preparing teachers to work with gifted children studies carried out, research found that out of 210 gifted children followed into later life, only three per cent were found to fulfil their early promise. Professor Joan Freeman, said that of 210 children in her study, ‘maybe only half a dozen might have been what we might consider conventionally successful. At the age of six or seven, the gifted child has potential for amazing things, but many of them are caught in situations where their potentials is handicapped.

Professor Freeman tracked the development of children who had exceptional ability in fields such as maths, art or music from 1974 to the present day. Many of those who failed to excel did so because the ‘gifted’ children were treated and in some cases robbed of their childhood, the study found. In some cases pushy parents put the children under too much pressure, or they were separated from their peer group, so they ended up having few friends. 20million National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth set up by the government eight years ago.

While meant to aid high achievers in state schools, it was considered to have failed to live up to its intended purpose. Professor Freeman is keen to emphasise that ‘the gifted’ are no more emotionally fragile than anyone else – and may even have ‘greater emotional strength. But she said that ‘being gifted means being better able to deal with things intellectually but not always emotionally. She adds: ‘I want to stress that the gifted are normal people. But they face special challenges, especially unreal expectations, notably being seen as strange and unhappy.

Others such as parents and teachers, can feel threatened by them and react with put-downs. What they need is acceptance for who they are, appropriate opportunities to develop their potential and reliable moral support. An example of a child prodigy who failed to achieve early promise includes Andrew Halliburton, who studied maths at secondary school level at the age of eight. Other examples of the differing paths gifted children can take is illustrated by Anna Markland and Jocelyn Lavin, who both started at Chetham’s school of music, in Manchester on the same day at 11.