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Horizons of Psychology :: Psihološka obzorja

Scientific and Professional Psychological Journal of the Slovenian Psychologists' Association

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Seeing beyond statistics: Examining the potential for disjuncture between legislation, policy and practice in meeting the needs of highly able Scottish students

Niamh Stack & Margaret Sutherland

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Abstract: The question of how best to identify and provide for gifted students has a long and contentious history internationally. In contrast to other countries where there are specialist programmes and in some cases specialist teachers for gifted pupils, Scotland has chosen to adopt an inclusive approach to provision for these students and has created a legislative and curricular framework that in theory provides a strong structure for meeting their educational and developmental needs. While there are significant benefits to this approach, care must be taken to ensure that within the space between intention and practice the needs of these learners have been explicitly identified, considered and met. Each year the Scottish Government conducts a census to collect data from all publically funded schools in Scotland. In accordance with Scottish legislation as part of this process it gathers data pertaining to pupils identified as requiring additional support for their learning, including highly able pupils. However there are anomalies within this data, for example, there are unusual and unexplained discrepancies between the proportions of pupils identified as being highly able in different geographical contexts. The purpose of the present study was therefore to examine the potential causes for these anomalies and to assess the implications for the identification of, and provision for, highly able pupils in Scotland. Thirteen structured telephone interviews were conducted with Local Education Authority personnel across Scotland. These interviews aimed to get behind the statistics and examine how highly able pupils are identified, and provided for, in practice. Several interesting issues emerged from the interviews that may begin to help to explain the anomalies and to help us better understand everyday practice. The results, while encouraging, suggest that there is a need for teachers, educational psychologists, schools and authorities to ensure that the needs of this group of learners are explicitly considered.

Keywords: Scottish Schools Census Data, gifted, education, inclusion

Stack, N., & Sutherland, M. (2014). Seeing beyond statistics: Examining the potential for disjuncture between legislation, policy and practice in meeting the needs of highly able Scottish students. Psihološka obzorja, 23, 145–154.

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