What is the difference between ‘gifted’ and ‘able’?

What is the difference between ‘gifted’ and ‘able’?

‘Gifted and talented’ was a phrase once used in schools to describe students who have the potential to significantly develop beyond what is expected from their age group.

The term ‘gifted’ refers to students with skills in academic subjects, such as, Maths, English and Science. ‘Talented’ refers to students who have skills in practical areas, such as Music, Sport and Art.

In spirit of inclusivity within schools, this concept has undergone a subtle, but potentially damaging, rebranding. Most establishments no longer label achievements in academic subjects as ‘gifted’, but instead refer to it as ‘able’.

What is the difference between ‘gifted’ and ‘able’

What does it mean to be ‘gifted’?

What is the difference between ‘gifted’ and ‘able’

If we look at the definition of ‘gifted’, it refers to having ‘exceptional talent or natural ability’. In most cases, when someone has a natural talent towards a particular subject, it is also something they thoroughly enjoy doing, and in many cases, go on to build a career around that ability.

Gifted students often need more support at school. Whether this is giving them more freedom to learn at their own pace, or offer more guidance, it is important to nurture their skills at its infancy. Schools have a responsibility to show that they are doing what they can to support these students, who represent around 10 percent of young people nationally.

Schools identify their gifted students based on test results, work quality and teachers’ and parents’ views and feedback.

If we look at the definition of ‘able’, in comparison with ‘gifted’, you can see the clear differences. ‘Able’ is defined as having ‘the power, skills, means or opportunity to do something’.

The problem with this definition is that being given the opportunity to become exceptional is very different to being exceptional. Gifted students will show signs of natural ability without much, or any, intervention, and you will be able to identify them from their attitude towards certain subjects and their test results.

Some academics have argued that although it is important to give all students the opportunity, and access, to a higher level of education, it is potentially damaging to gifted young people, because it is harder to identify and then nurture that top 10 percent.

What does it mean to be ‘able’?

What is the difference between ‘gifted’ and ‘able’

‘Pull Effect’

Dr Bulvinder Michael, Director of The Learning Hubs Ltd

What is the difference between ‘gifted’ and ‘able’

Dr Bulvinder Michael, Director of The Learning Hubs Ltd and experienced educator, is a believer of the concept of gifted and talented as a tool to drive school standards:

 “It is not elitist as some educationalists may suggest, but an equal opportunity and inclusive issue. The disbanding of the gifted and talented programme nationally in UK and subsequent reduction of funding is a sad reflection of what we call aninclusive education.

High aspiration and motivation attributes, if acquired by our young people, will lead to them being more emotionally intelligent enabling them to self- manage their learning.

Dr Michael also believes that gifted and talented students perform an essential role in the classroom by motivating other students – she refers to this as the ‘Pull Effect’

Contrary to the Push Effect which most schools follow so as not to leave any young person behind, the Pull Effect requires less resources to be sustained.”

The premise of this idea being that we pull the 90 percent upwards with the gifted 10 percent, rather than pushing the 90 percent, with limited motivation, to do better whilst demotivating the 10 percent gifted and talented cohort.

So, if you are a parent or teacher, what are your thoughts on this re-branding of ‘gifted’ to ‘able’? Should schools make provisions for gifted and talented students as part of their inclusive agenda? Are we in danger of losing 10 percent of our young people nationally recognized as the gifted and talented cohort?

What is the difference between ‘gifted’ and ‘able’

Comment your thoughts below.


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