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Why Bright, but Disadvantaged Students Fail

‘Gifted and talented’ pupils from low-income families are being failed because their parents don’t have the knowledge and understanding to build on their early potential.

According to research carried out by Brunel University, children who have high potential, but live in disadvantaged areas of London, often don’t get the support they need because their parents isolate themselves from the community.

The research suggests many consider their local neighbourhood to be unsafe and other children in their peer groups a negative influence. This leaves parents without access to the educational support their high-potential children need – such as a library or extra-curricular classes .

However, the findings don’t support the widely-held view that there is a need to raise the aspirations of children and parents from lower income families, with the majority demonstrating high expectations for their children’s future.

Professor Valsa Koshy, who has led the research, said: “There is a missing component. These parents have aspirations for their children, but they don’t know what they need to do to build on their potential.

“Many of these parents see the community, normally recommended as an example of support, as a negative factor. They are more likely to isolate themselves from the wider community to keep their children safe in their neighbourhood. All this shows that there should be more structured intervention from schools.”

The research included interviews with 21 parents of children selected by inner-city schools in London to attend Brunel University’s Urban Scholars programme – an  intervention scheme giving gifted and talented students aged 12 years old the chance to visit the university on nine Saturdays each year for four years, for support specific to their needs.

The majority of the parents felt that the intervention programme compensated for their lack of knowledge and understanding of the education system. Of particular benefit, they said, was the use of external speakers and targeted teaching on critical thinking, which encourages rationality and informed decision making.

Editors Note:  When asked about the role grandparents play, this response was provided:

I think it’s fair to say that the wider family can be a great support generally, but the research on which these findings are based doesn’t go into much detail on the subject.

The following extracts from the paper suggests external influences have a range of effects:

 …parents’ perceptions of the role of the external constituents in

their lives – the wider family, community and their children‘s peer groups – were also

gathered during the interviews. The results showed that the majority of participants

(14 out of 21) had wider family in the UK. However, wider family involvement was not necessarily perceived to be positive.

One parent commented that involving the wider family in their children’s education created tensions since their approach to education was ‘not helpful’, as they did not have the same attitude towards education.

 However, as another mother explained, the support of the wider family could be an indirect source of support for her children’s education by means of their support for her.

For more information about the research or the Urban Scholars programme, call Professor Koshy on 01895 267164 or Keith Coles, External Communications Officer, on 01895 266599.


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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