Hidden talents: the overlooked children whose poor verbal skills mask potential

According to the Royal Academy of Engineering, the UK will need an extra one million additional engineers and technicians by 2020. Yet as this report makes clear, our schools contain sizeable numbers of children who should have a natural affinity for science and engineering but who aren’t performing as academically as they could because poor verbal skills are masking their talents. 

Students who are highly spatial thinkers – those who think first in images – tend to excel at STEM subjects and indeed often go on to have successful careers as scientists, mathematicians and engineers, according to US researchers. Our analysis of last year’s GCSE grades in England also finds that those children who are both spatially and verbally able score highly in science, mathematics and design and technology. 

However, the analysis also shows that those children who have high spatial ability but poor verbal skills perform far less well. This cohort equates to approximately 30,000 children in every year group – many of whom would make excellent scientists, technicians and engineers.

The report is based on an analysis of data from the Cognitive Abilities Test, and it seeks to explain what steps teachers can take to redress the balance to ensure these ‘hidden talents’ don’t remain hidden for long. Contributors include our senior publisher, Sue Thompson; John Dyer and Lyndsay MacAulay from Liverpool Life Sciences UTC; and Helen Wollaston, the Chief Executive of WISE.

Read the report here