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The term gifted and talented is surrounded with a great deal of controversy and is currently under review by the coalition government. A vast amount of research has been undertaken in the last ten years regarding the long-term, emotional effects such a label has on children, and the role of practitioners when identifying and differentiating the curriculum. Directgov (2010), currently defines 'gifted' as one who excels in academic subjects such as maths and English, and 'talented' as those who possess skills in practical areas such as sport and music.
Teaching, through Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences enables the practitioner to bring out a gifted and talented child's advanced natural talents, in a challenging way (Conklin 2007). Pound (2008) discusses how this theory revolves around eight intelligences. Gardner believes that each individual possesses his or her own unique combination of intelligences, which he calls multiple intelligences. Gardner believes that these multiple intelligences can be enhanced and enriched in an environment which provides stimulating and challenging activities.
The DCSF (2008) recognise this, and the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) acknowledges through the 'Unique Child' that every area of development is equally important, and no child should face discrimination. The breadth of the six areas of learning allows practitioners to identify and build on a child's strengths. The DCSF (2008) also write that the early learning goals give practitioners scope to identify and plan for all children across the developmental continuum. Freeman (1991) advocates that the child who is as 'bright as a button', that maintains their enthusiasm, contributes a great deal to the world. Only, she states, if they are given the opportunity to flourish. The EYFS has however, been condemned by the Open Eye Campaign (2007) claiming that it is 'overly prescriptive and potentially harmful to development.' They claim that many of its goals are 'developmentally inappropriate'.
However, it is the curriculum in key stage one that is more academically based and The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)(2007) reported that only one third of year one teachers used the information gained from the EYFS. Consequently, many 'talented' children may be over looked. Palaiologou (2010) discusses how Gardner believes that education should be less academically driven and focus more on what he calls 'modern' day talents. This theory revolves around 'five minds' and focuses on a mind which can sort useful and relevant information in any given situation, how to think 'outside of the box' and to understand diversity, citizenship and community relationships in both the immediate and wider environment.
It is the role of the practitioner to identify and differentiate the curriculum to develop gifted and talented individuals. Failing to do this could have a negative impact on the child. A child may easily lose interest and misbehave when presented with unchallenging tasks. Freeman (2009) questions how a reception class teacher copes with a child who is working at a higher level than their peers. She writes that children should not be left to wait while others 'catch up', and believes that this is where boredom begins, and after the boredom a child will disengage themselves from challenging learning. Quart (2006) agrees with this fact and believes that there should be an increase in funding to train practitioners in the teaching techniques and assessment of 'Gifted and Talented' pupils. Freeman (2010a) writes that in order for children to succeed and be happy they need vast amounts of high quality teaching, materials and challenges, and there is no given method for producing a gifted and talented child. She discovered through research that children who were identified as gifted and talented in one school would in fact be below average in another and practitioners often mistakenly identified a child as gifted and talented. She later states that through analysis of collected data she discovered that labelling children as gifted and talented makes a 'difference' to their sense of self, and children who were labelled by parents suffered more emotional problems than their equally gifted but unlabelled peers. The reason for this she found was that children labelled by parents often had troubled home lives.
James (2007) draws our attention to the fact that many parents may be controlling and demanding, claiming that the child becomes fixated with fulfilling goals set for them. This fixation he says is a result of the child trying to minimise conflict. He later mentions that high achievement is often a consequence of over pressurisation in childhood that often leads to self criticism and depression in later years. Quart (2006) concludes that parents and educators should refrain from pushing children to succeed, and that perhaps children who suffer with depression in later years may do so because they feel in order to gain love and approval they must remain a child. Freeman(2010b) leads us to believe that the media is only interested when things go wrong, and in fact many gifted and talented children go on to lead happy ordinary lives. She states that parents should support and guide children without pushing them to succeed and love should be unconditional not reliant on achievement.
Returning to the question posed at the beginning of this review, it can be seen that Gardner's theory offers practitioners a model for providing a rich and challenging environment for children, who are gifted and talented. It also became apparent that sufficient subject knowledge is required to undertake this task. Planning any activities should be done so with care, ensuring children are challenged and stretched, not bored or pushed. Much of the literature produced in this subject indicated that gifted and talented individuals contribute a great deal to society, but it is when a child is labelled that problems can occur. It became apparent that where children have been identified as gifted and talented all parties involved, should ensure they grow into happy well-rounded adults. It was established that on transition to year one, more collaboration is needed between the key stages, and in fact it would be beneficial to children if the EYFS were continued in Year one. Through this research, a greater insight into the term gifted and talented has been obtained. It offered differing perspectives on the subject, and the conclusion reached was that there is actually a place in society for the gifted and talented, however, identification and education should be undertaken with care and sensitivity. In the words of Benjamin Franklin
Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What's a sundial in the shade?
Franklin(1706 - 1790)