Gifted and talented: your questions answered

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If you've been told your child is gifted and talented you'll have lots of questions you want answered. We asked the experts to explain what to expect.

What does gifted and talented mean?

“There is no one rigid definition of ‘gifted and talented’,” says Julie Taplin, Deputy Chief Executive of Potential Plus UK, the operating name of the National Association for Gifted Children. “Traditionally ‘gifted’ has meant ability in academic subjects, such as maths and English. It may also refer to IQ, often of 130 or above. ‘Talented’ has been introduced more recently to reflect ability in the arts, sport, music and leadership.”

There are ways that parents can spot children who are gifted learners, as well as characteristics that gifted and talented children tend to have.

How will being gifted or talented affect my child?

All children are different and that goes for gifted and talented children too. Each child has their own specific needs. Some children will sail through school without a single issue, others may struggle to fit in and may need help socially. Some parents worry that being gifted might affect their child’s behaviour – but according to psychologist Professor Joan Freeman gifted and talented children misbehave for much the same reasons as other children. But, at the same time, they do face some special challenges just because they are exceptional. 

Will my child have to move up a year?

“If your child moves up a year it’s called ‘acceleration’,” says Julie Taplin. “It can be done in English schools, but it is usually at the discretion of the headteacher. Your child could be accelerated in one subject, such as maths, and spend the rest of their time with children of their own age. Or they could be accelerated one or more years for all their subjects. You should always consider how your child will cope – not just intellectually, but also socially and emotionally, if they will be with older children.”

Schools do support gifted and talented children, so it's important to find out what your school can do for your child. Enrichment activities are one way schools can expand subject knowledge in a way that really benefits gifted and talented children.

Will my child have to take an IQ test?

It’s up to you as a parent to decide whether you want your child to do an IQ test. “An intelligence test will measure how well your child is likely to do in school compared to thousands of other children of the same age,” says Professor Freeman. “It will tell you if your child’s abilities are exceptional for their age and show you their strengths and weaknesses. This could be helpful when you’re trying to find the best school for them.” They can be very expensive, though, so you need to be clear about why you want your child tested warns Julie Taplin. “Schools often have an educational psychologist available to them through the Local Authority, but they might only be called in if there are behavioural issues,” she says.

Should I push my child? Am I a pushy parent?

Many parents wonder if by encouraging their children’s gifts and talents they are being pushy. “It’s important to consider your child’s emotional, social and intellectual wellbeing when you’re making decisions about their education and activities,” says Julie Taplin. If you’re worried that your child isn’t reaching their full potential you could try contacting Potential Plus to speak to an education consultant. Wanting your child to achieve everything they can isn't pushy; parents have as much right to know what their children are capable of intellectually as physically.