More able coordinator's toolkit

Many schools still struggle with their more able pupils. Use this toolkit of ideas to raise the profile of gifted and talented and improve provision at whole-school and classroom level

Author details

Owen Carter is co-founder and managing director of ImpactEd, a not-for-profit organisation which exists to help schools and education providers understand and improve the impact of the programmes they run. A...

Are your more able pupils 'making progress towards attaining the highest standards'? (Ofsted school inspection handbook)

Progress for these pupils is still not always taken seriously. This toolkit offers core guidance on how more able provision can be most effectively incorporated and implemented in school, and what is distinctive about the learning of more able pupils in the classroom. 

For new more able leads or G&T coordinators

Recently appointed to your post? Want to know what you should prioritise? Here are the seven things you should do to start off.

The first priority for a coordinator should be ensuring support from senior leaders and colleagues to put the more able on the map. An access to high challenge agenda makes sense for all pupils, not just the more able - so do also try these strategies for getting staff on board.

Want to know where to focus your own skill and role development? Rate yourself using the skills audit template for more able coordinators.

For opening and closing lessons 

For the more able, though, it does come down to the nuts and bolts of classroom practice.

  • Do all your lessons have sufficient challenge?
  • Are you using starter sessions and plenaries in effective ways?
  • Do you demand explanation, not just presentation, of learning?

Get ideas to embed all these ways to teach gifted and talented learners.

For challenging questioning

A lot of teachers' questions are routine, focusing on whether a pupil can reproduce a piece of information and neglecting the deeper learning that needs to take place. Teachers ask up to 400 questions a day, so it's crucial to get them right. 

Questioning succeeds when input is truly equal - not just the most enthusiastic responding. Pupils need time to consider their answers, and their process of responding should help model the learning to others in the classroom. Successful questioning technique creates more questions and thinking for pupils.

For creating independence and openness

Ask any teacher what works for more able pupils, and you're bound to hear words like independence, openness and risk taking.

Unfortunately for a lot of teachers stretch and challenge evokes painstakingly planned activities and endlessly tailored worksheets. In fact, your task setting can make your life much easier from the outset: just set rich, open-ended tasks.

Once you have built an adequate knowledge base with your class, and tested this through closed, diagnostic questions, rich tasks should allow self-direction and creativity. Pupils could respond to a question through an essay, a diagram, a presentation or a video, for instance. These tasks can allow for the adoption of different roles: in history, you could encourage pupils to think about the middle ages from different positions in the feudal system, for instance.

The open-ended nature of these tasks can help make them self-differentiating. 

Even for more able learners, though, freedom without guidance just leads to confusion. That's why it's important to encourage independent learning in a careful, structured way.

In particular:

  • promote encounters with difficulty as the route to learning
  • externalise your thinking procedures and decision making in front of the class
  • dig deeper into pupils' answers: don't be afraid to ask, 'so what'?

Get some more ideas for promoting independent learning.

For grouping and task differentiation

Some issues are always recurrent in more able teaching. Grouping is a constant: how to do it without alienating children? And should similar abilities be grouped together, or is it better to mix?

There are a number of powerful ways to use group work, including:

  • cascade
  • goldfish 
  • snowball
  • pupils as teachers.

Find the best ways to group pupils.

New approaches to differentiation are constantly in demand. When it comes to task setting, it's not always as straightforward as making things easier or making things harder. Thinking conceptually about differentiation allows you to spice things up: from basic understanding to reapplication; from structured to open; from single-faceted ideas to multi-faceted - these are all concepts that can allow you to make your task differentiation more effective. Here are some more ideas for effective task differentiation.

Effective use of your time

Keeping on track with different aspects of your responsibility can be a challenge. Use the more able year planner to make sure you are completing key tasks. 

Don't have much time allocated for your role? Find out how to manage more able provision in two hours a week.

Bringing it all together

Want to embed these ideas across the school? Review your more able policy using our template, update your more able register, and decide on your priorities for the year ahead.

Last Updated: 
12 Sep 2018