An examination of the nature of high ability and of provision for highly able children
At first glance, it seems that gifted and talented children have no need for advocates, being generously endowed with ability and needing only reasonable schooling to translate this into academic success, with all the advantages that it brings. However, it is simplistic to equate high ability with high achievement. High ability is a contentious issue. The highly able are not a homogeneous group; many able people have learning problems and disabilities, as well as becoming disillusioned and consequently disaffected as a result of unchallenging and limiting school provision. Because of the complexities of high ability, it is difficult to create a definition of the able child. I discuss the gifted education literature tackling the nature of high ability and school-based provision. This work is predominantly written from psychological perspectives and I analyse the underpinning premises, reconsidering them from a philosophical angle, allowing for clarification of commonly used but rarely examined ideas. Having established the nature of highly able children, I make a morally defensible argument for supporting them through educational provision. Examining ideas of equality, elitism and excellence, I show that able children are entitled to educational activities that match their abilities and that this is a vital investment in personal well-being with potential subsidiary social and economic benefits.