School AIM 

'A rising tide lifts all ships'
Highly able students are defined as students with high attainment, but also those with the potential for high attainment. Harnessing the potential of this group is an important goal for the education system. In England, since the previous ‘gifted and talented’ programme ended in 2010, there has been no national programme for the highly able. However, many schools, charities and other organisations do continue to run programmes to support this group.  At Bristol Cathedral School we strive to offer provision for our most 'able, interested and motivated' (AIM) students through a diverse and differentiated curriculum punctuated with opportunities for 'thinking hard'. 
A cohort of 'School AIM' students have been identified through CAT score analysis and their progress is monitored by the School Co-ordinator for AIM students, Mia Helmich (reporting to the Head of Teaching and Learning), across all subjects. Staff are regularly updated with who is and is not working to the expected high standard and are given suggestions on how to stretch and challenge AIM students.

Subject AIM

We are flexible in our identification of AIM students as it is our intention not just to find AIM students but to create them. For this reason, we have a second subject based cohort to nurture the specialist ability and talent that students exhibit in particular areas of the curriculum. Each subject leader has created a set of criteria that outline what it means to be AIM in their subject area. These can be found in the poster section of this page. These student friendly posters are designed to encourage students to self reflect and take steps towards mastering high level skills applicable to each subject of study. In most cases these are closely linked to cultivating a love of learning and displaying the skills needed for high attainment in GCSE examinations. Classroom teachers have the ability to flag students as AIM based on their ability, interest and motivation to achieve in their subject area and should inform students that they are considered 'AIM' so that they may attempt the differentiated challenge tasks designed for students of a high ability.

How to support an AIM student

Parent, Carer and Community support

The support of a student’s family and the wider community play a significant role in student attainment. Research suggests that even parental acknowledgement of a student’s high ability can have a profound impact on their achievement and also their self-esteem. While we appreciate it can be difficult for parents/carers to support students academically, in all areas, we would encourage you to talk through what Ais being studied at school so students have the opportunity to retrieve what they have learnt and practice subject specific language.

For subject areas you do not feel confident in we are currently devising an online list of helpful resources, soon to be published here, on our website. This way, your son/daughter can independently access resources for further academic support and higher level content than what is explicitly offered through the core BCCS curriculum. Subject teachers will also be able to give guidance in this field.

Extracurricular activities also have the potential to develop both academic skills, and essential life skills which can help highly able students to succeed – such as confidence, motivation, resilience and communication skills. Taking part in extracurricular activities has been found to be associated with higher academic attainment and greater future earnings (1). However, it is suggested that low-income students are less likely to have access to such activities. (2,3) Therefore, interventions and free extracurricular activities through school can ensure that disadvantaged highly able students have access to activities that could potentially help to close the gaps between these students and their better-off peers. At BCCS we offer a range of after-school clubs and lunch time activities. Studies have also raised concerns that highly able students may not want to engage in programmes or interventions because they want to continue to fit in with their friends and wider peer group, who are not as able (4) and that students may drop out of programmes because of these worries. Please support the school by reinforcing the value of school interventions and extracurricular activities. 

Ultimately, students need to know that parents/carers are proud of who they are and not just what they achieve. Their ability should not become the centre of the relationship between parent and child. Students need to be allowed to ‘fail’ and make mistakes – they are a necessary part of growing up and learning to embrace a growth mindset. Indeed, parents should facilitate reflection on ‘failures’ to encourage a resilient approach to learning.



1 Potential for success. Fulfilling the promise of highly able students in secondary 

schools, Dr Rebecca Montacute , July 2018

2 Birdwell, J., Scott, R. & Koninckx, D. (2015) Demos: Learning by doing. 

3 Olszewski‐Kubilius, P. & Lee, S. (2004) Parent perceptions of the effects of the Saturday enrichment program on gifted students’ talent development. Roeper Rev. 26, 156–165

4 Stormont, M., Stebbins, M. S. & Holliday, G. (2001) Characteristics and educational support needs of underrepresented gifted adolescents. Psychol. Sch. 38, 413–423.