For the most able children, it can be lonely at the top. However academic the school, there will always be some children whose interests and abilities are beyond those of their peers. They may hide those abilities in order not to be seen as “weird”, or display them and suffer a social penalty.
Even for those with the social confidence to be themselves at school, there’s not much space in a crowded curriculum for their interests to flourish. Teachers overwhelmed by the pressure of getting the bulk of children exam-ready struggle to provide the individual attention they need.
The best resource for exceptionally able children is… other exceptionally able children. Extra-curricular initiatives such as philosophy clubs or occasional trips can allow such children to enjoy one another’s company, but these are still limited to those within the same school and often year group.
At GIFT, we’ve been providing opportunities for exceptionally able children to meet and learn for over 20 years. The residential weekends and Easter and Summer schools provide a whole new, aspirational peer group for bright secondary students, and lifelong friendships are formed.
Each day, students work in small groups on a whole-day project chosen from three or four options. Projects are “an inch wide and a mile deep”, exploring an unusual area in depth and with space for sustained endeavour and creativity. Each group is led by an experienced G&T specialist, and the atmosphere is more informal and “adult” than is usually possible in school. There are substantial breaks when students can socialise, and further activities in the evenings which many GIFTers use to try something different, challenging any narrow views they have about where their talents lie.
“I’ve been meaning to write that my daughter absolutely loved the Easter residential course. She really enjoyed the entire week and enjoyed being with the other students. She has a real longing to return. Although she’s not one that lacks friends, she said she realises now what it means to really bond with others. She said, ‘there ARE people just like me.’ I have honestly never heard her so genuinely happy. Many thanks for offering these retreats for our kids.”
At the 2016 Easter School, some of the projects on offer are around philosophy & roleplay, Shakespeare’s mysterious double life, the engineering challenge of the Dambusters’ bouncing bomb, improv comedy and Homer’s Odyssey. On the May residential weekend, there’s time travel, Kandinsky, Colditz and the challenge of being Chancellor of the Exchequer battling the deficit.
Each place on the Easter school or May Residential booked through this offer comes with a free copy of “The Philosophy Files” by Stephen Law, one of my favourite books for gifted teens. You can see full details of the courses at: www.giftcourses.co.uk/hamiltonhouseoffer
Jason Buckley, Director of Studies