Guest Blogger David Seymour, ACT Candidate

David Seymour is the Epsom Candidate for the ACT Party. Here he shares his thoughts following the Political Panels on Gifted Education last week:

After a recent debate on Gifted Education an expert in the field told me that I clearly must have been a gifted child.  I thanked her but she said it wasn’t a compliment.  Tough crowd, maybe, or perhaps she just knew that gifted children sometimes have a very tough time.

For better or worse I am out.  Having attended Jean Hendy-Harris’s holiday seminars and once been enrolled at a plaintive new school for gifted children (it was proposed by enthusiasts but lacked the funding to get off the ground, more on which later), I have been around this topic all my life.

There is much rhetoric but here are two observations that will serve you in good stead if you are trying to get the best for a gifted child.

Number one. There is no better vote than to vote with your feet.

Formidable parents, lawyers, CEOs and PR experts used to getting their way, have been reduced to tears more than once trying to change a school to fit their child.  That is to say nothing for children whose parents don’t have such fight, and not all do.

Worse than trying to change a school is trying to change an entire education system, and yet this is the strategy employed by many who care about gifted children.  They fight valiantly to have National Administration Guidelines amended, to have funding shifted to this or that program, or to change the rules for teacher qualifications.

I don’t wish to denigrate their efforts, but can I suggest a quicker way to have the needs of all children met?  It is simply to give parents the option to vote with their feet.  The simple proposition that the funding allocated to a child’s education belongs primarily to that child and their parents.  They should be able to take it to schools set up for the purpose of serving their needs.

Such an ability will have two results.  The first is that it will allow students who move a more suitable education.  Why else would they move?  Second, the ability to move puts more pressure on their current school.  (The plaintive school I mentioned could not find enough parents who could afford to pay twice, once by their taxes and again by school fees, in order to make the school viable, under ACT’s policies it would have been easy)

ACT’s Partnership School policy is an example of a policy designed to help parents vote with their feet.  It allows people (I call them Edupreneurs) to set up schools with a special character or distinction with the aim of helping students who mightn’t otherwise be doing very well.  So far there have been five set up, with more to come.  None have been set up for gifted students, yet, but those that have been set up for low achieving Maori and Pasifika students are showing very promising results.

The second observation is that no single person or small group of people is ever given all of the knowledge required to best educate all of the children in New Zealand.  This is a more fundamental problem with trying to solve problems by lobbying Wellington.

If it was, then it would be efficient to implement that knowledge through a one-size-fits-all scheme.  However the idea is absurd.  In every field of human endeavour we consistently find that there’s more to know than we could ever imagine.  To say otherwise is to take the position of the patent clerk who resigned in 1890, claiming everything worthwhile had been thought of, or the executive who confidently predicted, mid-20th century, that up to 100 computers could be required worldwide.

We must have a system where it is possible for more edupreneurs to try new ideas.  Schools like Unlimited, Discover-e, Corelli, Mindalive, Mt Hobson Middle School, they are all quite different and all seek to find new ways to educate children.  All of these schools are outside the regular state system.  Making them to conform to a single best practice would be a huge step backwards.

ACT champions policies that foster competition and choice in the education system.  You will see a consistent theme in our policy, we are pro-edupreneur.  We apply this across State, Integrated, Independent, Special Character and, our latest contribution, Partnership Schools Kura Hourua.  We believe that having choice gives you more power to advocate for your child and more chance of finding a school that truly suits their needs.

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You can contribute to gifted awareness by reading, writing or sharing posts. Please also consider talking to a parent, a teacher, a school board member or a principal about giftedness. If at all possible, write to your Member of Parliament.


About Mary St George

I teach in gifted education, both online and face-to-face.
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