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Identifying a child with High Learning Potential

Identifying High Learning Potential in the Early Years (0-3)

In the early years (0-3), the initial observation that a child has high learning potential can stem from a number of different sources such as:
  • Parents may notice that their young child develops skills quickly as compared with peers
  • Friends may draw attention to early speech and the use of a wide vocabulary
  • Health visitors and doctors may notice rapid development
  • Playgroup/Nursery teachers may find the new child able to do far more than usual for their age
Potential Plus UK believes that parents and family are best placed to observe their young children developing skills and talents significantly in advance of their peers. At this early stage of child development, Potential Plus UK recommends an informal identification of the characteristics of high learning potential as opposed to formal testing of Intelligence Quotient (IQ.) Potential Plus UK believes that in this pre-school phase, formal IQ assessment is unnecessary for the vast majority of children with high learning potential for the following reasons:
  1. This is the fastest rate of growth your child is experiencing. Therefore, the results of a formal assessment at this stage would be significantly different to another assessment of the same child within a few years, if not months.
  2. Very young children can find it difficult to concentrate in formal testing conditions and therefore, the results might be invalidated due to a young child's inability to finish a set task to enable an accurate assessment to be made.

Potential Plus UK does not recommend formal testing until a child is 4 and half and over. Even then, formal assessment is usually only necessary if there are significant behavioural or educational concerns.

Parents who are experiencing difficulties with their child's nursery or pre-school can sometimes feel that the only way to make the professionals believe that their child requires more challenging activities than those on offer is to seek a formal IQ assessment. The hope is that an assessment which shows a high IQ score will encourage the nursery/pre-school to change its approach to their child. Unfortunately, this tactic is unlikely to succeed and the results of a very expensive assessment often do not make any difference at all to the approach the nursery/pre-school takes.

Potential Plus UK has many years of experience in advising parents facing these problems. We can help you to work collaboratively with the professionals at your child's nursery/pre-school to help them to understand your point of view and concerns regarding the activities currently on offer. Our in-depth, personalised consultation service provides advice like this every day and we look forward to helping you to reach a mutually beneficial agreement with your child's nursery/pre-school

Identification at Primary School Age (4-11)

This is a pivotal stage in your child's life, as this is when their intellectual, social and emotional development primarily takes place away from the relative safety of the family home. Away from this safety net and the comforts of being surrounded by adults who have provided interesting conversations, experiences, opportunities and resources, a school age child with HLP understandably feels adrift sometimes. There is a lot to get used to at school and an HLP child will benefit from consistent support and guidance from parents regarding fitting into school and developing friendships.

Once your child has settled into school and their teacher gets to know them, the teacher may notice:
  • Tasks accomplished with ease
  • A demand for challenge, which if not satisfied, is rapidly replaced by boredom
  • New concepts understood quickly

When a teacher spots high learning potential in a child and parents are made aware of this, it is then imperative that both the parents and the school monitor this child's progress carefully. Parents can help by encouraging and guiding their child to explore and research new or related topics covered in the classroom. This is vital 'fuel' for high learning potential and is an area in which Potential Plus UK specialises. We can advise you on how to best to provide your child with fulfilling and challenging enrichment activities. We also organise many events with this in mind.

Identification based on classroom assessments or SATs (Scholastic Achievement Tests) also take place in state primary schools. This can form the basis of some identification, although not all HLP children will achieve highly in such tests; especially if they are experiencing issues which are causing them to underachieve (please refer to our advice on underachievement).

Identification at Secondary School Age (11-18)

Potential Plus UK hopes that children have been identified by parents and school much earlier than this stage because of the potential waste of opportunities, talent development and lower academic expectations of a child who is in fact, capable of achieving great things; if only they were given the chance, encouragement and resources to do so.

A Year 7 child entering a new secondary school is sometimes identified as having high ability because of high scores in their Year 6 SATs. The secondary school might also identify high ability with the results of CATs (Cognitive Abilities Tests) and termly classroom assessments or teacher nominations.

Potential Plus UKs concern is that some children with high learning potential can be easily missed if identification is solely based on the results of SATs, CATs or class tests. Children with high learning potential show their potential, talents and abilities in ways that are not always easy to identify with the use of abilities tests in school. Children who are divergent thinkers, who have vivid imaginations, whose biggest asset is their innate creativity, for example, are the types of HLP children who can go under the radar at school. It is on behalf of this group of children for whom Potential Plus UK works hard to advocate.

It is never too late to identify high learning potential; however, the earlier this happens, the brighter the outcomes are for this exceptional group of children.

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