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New test available to help schools spot ‘Intellectual Cinderellas’ and stop children being sidelined in the classroom

17 September 2012 – Children deemed to be spatial learners – those that think first in images and only afterwards in words, such as the likes of Einstein – can often be sidelined in school and pushed towards more manual subjects and professions.

But these children often excel in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and design subjects, if they are spotted early and given the right support.

At school Einstein, for example, was regarded as a dreamer. Even the famous inventor James Watt, who went on to create the steam engine, received a school report in which he was described as “dull and inapt”.

Although the modern school has a greater understanding of the different learning styles of children, the majority of teaching is based on verbal or language-based tasks (even science is taught with books) and so gifted spatial thinkers can often be left behind.

GL Assessment has today published a new edition of the Cognitive Abilities Test (CAT), the UK’s most popular test of reasoning abilities for children aged seven – 16 years.

CAT is currently used by 50% of UK secondary schools to determine a student’s potential exam results and learning preferences. The new edition, CAT4, contains a greater emphasis on uncovering those deemed to be spatial learners, children who have the potential to be our future scientists, designers and architects. It also provides guidance for teachers and parents of how to support these types of learners at home, such as using online resources, videos and books with plenty of pictures that will help them remember key facts and information.

Pauline Smith, senior psychometric consultant and developer of the CAT4 tests at
GL Assessment, said: “Educators have tended to define intelligence as those who work well on writing and language-based tasks.

“However, the reality is that much intellectual achievement has sprung from the minds of spatial thinkers such as Einstein or Watt.

“By including a clear measure of spatial ability in CAT4, the potential of such children can be identified early and acted upon.

“We need to identify and nurture our scientists, technicians, designers and engineers just as much as our writers, managers, historians and teachers. The education system cannot afford to ignore these intellectual Cinderellas any longer.”

Mark Wilkinson OBE, OLM, group design director at Mark Wilkinson Furniture, a modern day spatial thinker, endured a turbulent education, blighted by dyslexia and a strong leaning to think in pictures not words. “My school years were vile, violent and humiliating,” he recalls.

Mark eventually realised an innate talent for making objects. Today, Mark is hailed as one of this century’s leading designers of fine British furniture with an illustrious client portfolio that includes society figures, top industrialists, the country’s leading chefs, sports stars and celebrities.

“Despite my personal experience, I do believe that we all have an innate ability to achieve and succeed.

“Anything that can help spot our future designers and engineers and put them on to the path of success has to be applauded.”

Sue Thompson, Senior Publisher of CAT4, GL Assessment, said: “CAT4 will help to identify students who have the potential to pursue careers where spatial skills are needed, as well as how to support their learning in the classroom – and beyond.”

Interesting facts and figures

During the research for CAT4, an interesting insight was uncovered into the gender differences between verbal and spatial thinkers. Data from more than 24,000 UK students highlighted that girls are more often biased towards verbal than spatial thinking. Of the 1.5% of students nationally with an extreme bias towards spatial thinking, three quarters are boys.

Key findings from the CAT4 standardisation include:

• 19% of boys in primary schools have a spatial bias compared with 13% of
• Overall, 2.3% of boys aged seven – 16 years show an extreme bias towards
spatial thinking across all school years, compared with only 0.8% of girls.

Sue Thompson explains: “There are some students who show high ability for certain subjects and careers who are simply not being identified at the moment.

“We hope that CAT4 will provide better evidence and more information for those individuals to make informed decisions about their career path.”

CAT was established over 30 years ago and is currently used by schools to identify students’ strengths, weaknesses and learning preferences through a series of verbal, non-verbal and quantitative tasks.

CAT4 is available for children aged seven – 16 years. The tests are available in both paper and digital format. For more information, please visit:

- ENDS –

All those quoted in this release are available for interview by contacting Olga Hadjilambri, whose details are at the bottom of this release.

Notes to Editors:

Biographies of Spatial Thinkers

Albert Einstein

In the Appendices to his 1964 book, Ian Macfarlane Smith quoted from the biographer Frank’s account of Einstein:

’Indeed it was a very long time before he learned to speak, and his parents began to worry that he was abnormal. Finally, the child did begin to speak, but he was always taciturn … Even when Albert was nine years old and in the highest grade of the elementary school, he still lacked fluency of speech and everything he said was expressed only after thorough consideration and reflection..….He was regarded as an amiable dreamer…..’

Macfarlane Smith also noted that:

“There is considerable evidence that Einstein’s mental imagery was predominantly visuo-spatial rather than verbal … In his reply to a questionnaire circulated by Hadamard (1945), Einstein stated that the words or the language, as they are written or spoken, did not seem to play any role in his mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements of thought were, in his case, of visual and some of muscular type…’

James Watt, inventor

According to Jennifer Tann, his biographer:

"James Watt was a delicate child and suffered from frequent headaches during his childhood and adult life. He was taught at home by his mother at first, then was sent to M'Adam's school in Greenock. He later went to Greenock grammar school where he learned Latin and some Greek but was considered to be slow. However, on being introduced to mathematics, he showed both interest and ability."

Macfarlane Smith also commented that:

“He showed remarkable practical skill at a very early age……..He proved a backward scholar for a time at the grammar school.”

Mark Wilkinson OBE OLM

Recognised by many as the era’s leading designer of fine British furniture, Mark who was the founding designer of two of the country’s best known kitchen design, manufacture and supply businesses, Mark Wilkinson Furniture and Smallbone of Devizes, was honoured with an OBE for Services to the Furniture Industry and to Charity in the 2010 New Year’s Honours listings.

He is recognised by academics as the man who, in 1976, created the English Country Kitchen, which, in the words of UWE Associate Dean, Tod Burton, ‘focused on the ‘Social’’ aspect of kitchen design. Mark’s design brought ‘heart’ and ‘humanity of style’ to European kitchens previously dominated by the ‘engineering and efficiency-centred’ Germanic styling.

Although his own academic achievement was stunted by severe dyslexia, which saw him leaving school very early and unable to read or write, he is now a member of Mensa.

Creative design has been his life and there is no one finer at it, Mark Wilkinson's qualifications are currently unmatched in the design world, he is a Founding Fellow of the Society for British Interior Design (FSBID); a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA), Fellow of the Chartered Society of Designers (FCSD) and Fellow of the City & Guilds Institute (FCGI). He is a visiting lecturer in Design Creativity at the University of Western England and also contributes to the design teaching at the Rotherham college of Furniture Design, the Oxford based Rycotewood College and the Chelsea based KLC Design School. He designs many different products, from clothing, to houses, to objets d’art but it is furniture that is his first love and which he is best known for.

Typical Mark Wilkinson clients would be industry leaders, society figures, celebrities, sports stars and top chefs, like Gary Rhodes and Michel Roux. He has been described by Eliot Nusbaum, writing in the Sunday Times, as the ‘Mozart of Kitchen Cabinet Makers’ while the Editor of the key publication for interior designers and product designers, idFX, called him the ‘Finest Designer of our Time’. Mark is highly respected in the kitchen industry, being the only industry member to have been awarded its two most prestigious awards – the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 and the Special Achievement Award for Design at the industry awards ceremony in 2007.

His charitable work is manifest, he is severely dyslexic and has developed a special interest in teaching children and young people, who have learning difficulties, most recently he has spoken to Young Offenders with Dyslexia at the Ashfield Prison in Bristol and taken the role of the Project Patron for the creation of an Arts Therapy Centre, at Rowdeford School, situated in Wiltshire, close to Wilkinson’s home village of Bromham.

In 2009 Mark was awarded the Medal of the Order of the League of Mercy (OLM) at a ceremony held at The Mansion House, in the City of London.

Lord Rogers, architect

Please contact Olga Hadjilambri for a biography

About GL Assessment

GL Assessment is a leading provider of integrated assessments for children’s education, mental health and well being. Our rigorous and high quality assessments have been used by education, health and psychology professionals for three decades. Today, we lead literacy, numeracy and ability testing in UK schools and have delivered 4 million online tests to children. GL Assessment is a division of the GL Education Group.

For photography or interview requests, please contact:

Olga Hadjilambri
PR Consultant, Catherine Lane PR
Tel: 020 8351 2542

Danielle Morgan
Group Communications Manager, GL Assessment
Tel: 020 8996 3632 / 07740 393448

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