First words of wisdom

February 23, 1996

Identifying and educating very able children is fraught with difficulty. But higher education may provide the answer. Tony Tysome reports. When Ian Murray arrived at nursery school to pick up his son, Alisdair, he was shocked to discover the three-year-old had taught himself to read. "The first I was aware of it was when his nursery teacher took me to one side and showed me how Alisdair was able to read stories to the rest of the group.

"On reflection I realised he must have cracked the phonetic code while sitting on my wife's knee as she taught our older children how to read," he says.

Now eight, Alisdair still indulges his interest in words, playing with them in the mature poetry he writes. But his passion is now mathematics, and his ability in this area soon began to stretch beyond what the school curriculum could offer.

His parents managed to persuade teachers at the Queen's Primary School in Kew, south-west London, to give Alisdair extra maths tuition, and his specialist tutor, Suzanne Brown, took him along to a Maths on Campus workshop run by the Able Children's Education Centre at Brunel University.

"I thought the workshop was very valuable because most class teachers do not have frequent exposure to very bright children and do not have the experience to know how to cope with them," she says.

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