Able, Gifted & Talented
Herts & Essex has a proven track record in providing for, challenging and inspiring its most able students. It is one of only a small number of secondary schools nationally to have achieved the NACE Challenge Award, which recognises excellence in the area of Able, Gifted and Talented (A,G&T) provision.
At Herts & Essex there is a strong commitment to ensuring challenge and opportunity for the most able students, allowing them to develop their full potential in a wide variety of fields as they progress through the school. For students in KS4 and KS5, the school's Excelsior Programme is a well-established route helping students to make successful applications to the most competitive university courses. In recent years, the school has been consistently successful in preparing those students who wish to take up places at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
At Herts & Essex, identification of the most able students is a continuous and rigorous process, reviewed as part of the school's tracking and reporting system on a termly basis. A wide variety of performance indicators is considered, including teacher recommendations, performance in tests and examinations, and feedback from external sources eg parents or sports coaches. Using the special nomination form, parents can inform the school of high-level performances and achievements of which it might not otherwise be aware.
The primary focus of the A,G&T provision offered at Herts & Essex is outstanding teaching and learning in the classroom, with a continual drive to provide challenge for all students. This provision is supported by pastoral interventions, and enhanced by a wide range of extra- and supra-curricular opportunities. These are provided within and across faculties in the school.
Able, Gifted & Talented in the Curriculum
Herts & Essex aims to ensure that every student identified as A,G&T is challenged, making progress both in acquiring knowledge and in developing skills. In the classroom, all teachers use appropriate teaching and learning strategies to encourage high achievement, originality, problem solving, higher order thinking skills and creativity. Teachers regularly pose open-ended questions, activities and assignments and may use group work to allow scope for leadership, co-operative decision making and student-initiated perspectives.
As the inspectors for the NACE Challenge Award reported in 2011: “Classrooms are positive learning environments where pupils feel safe and challenged in lessons. They are therefore able to take risks with their learning and push the boundaries of their understanding.”
In addition to the high-quality teaching and learning provided to all students at Herts & Essex, there are regular opportunities for A,G&T students to extend themselves within the curriculum. These opportunities include Additional Maths GCSE in Year 11 and the possibility of accessing Astronomy GCSE. In KS5, two research qualifications are available, which are highly suitable for developing the skills and interests of the most able students. These are the Extended Project Qualification and the Cambridge Pre-University Global Perspectives and Research.
As part of supporting A,G&T students' progress in the classroom, regular individual and group intervention meetings take place between A,G&T students and designated members of staff. The focus of these meetings is to develop metacognition and independent learning skills, and to ensure the most able students are challenged across the curriculum and know how to progress in their learning. Where particular pastoral support needs arise for A,G&T students, eg a need for improved organisational skills or coping with stress, then individual targeted mentoring programmes are also available.
Extra-curricular Able, Gifted & Talented
Herts & Essex provides a huge range of extra-curricular activities for its most able students, many of which are covered in detail on individual subject pages. Activities may be based around individual subjects, such as clubs in Drama, Music and PE, or across broader curriculum areas, such as the Arts Award. Many such opportunities lead to opportunities for performance and competition, ranging up to national level.
The school has a strong tradition of entering students into a wide range of regional and national competitions and of achieving considerable success. Students compete in all levels of the Maths Challenge. They have presented CREST Science projects in regional and national events, and have recently reached the national final of the Coca-Cola Real Business Challenge.
There are also opportunities at Herts & Essex for A,G&T students to take part in day and residential trips. Choirs from Herts & Essex sing annually at Christmas at St. Pancras station and the Art Department runs trips to many of the current exhibitions in London and beyond. The school's very successful Science German Exchange with the Maria-Ward Schule in Mainz has run annually since 2007, allowing the most able Scientists to develop their Science and language skills alongside their cultural awareness.
In a cross-curricular capacity, there is an annual A,G&T summer school for students in Years 8 and 9. This takes place for two days immediately after the close of the summer term and involves students being challenged by an exciting variety of problem-solving and team-building activities. It is always a lot of fun:
‘”We had to find a way of balancing ten nails on top a single nail; we were guided through an obstacle course using sounds alone; we had to see how far we could throw an egg protected only by tape, paper, card and string! All of these challenged us about our ways of thinking and learning”. Summer School Student, July 2012
The Excelsior Programme is the flagship of A,G&T provision. This is an integrated programme for in KS4 and KS5 which aims to prepare them for application to the most competitive courses at university. Highlights of the programme include talks from university admissions tutors from high-ranking universities, trips to Oxbridge Colleges and targeted advice and guidance from the careers team at the school. Popular amongst students involved in the programme is the opportunity to 'buddy up' with other A,G&T students in the school, who can share their own experiences of making informed choices post-16.
‘There is a culture of high aspiration and celebration of success which permeates all aspects of the school and as a result standards are very high.’
NACE Challenge Award Inspectors, March 2011