Hon. Maggie Barry, our guest blogger today, writes in her capacity as Member of Parliament for the National Party.
Gifted and Talented Education
Realising and supporting potential is the key to educational greatness. Each and every child should have the opportunity to develop their skills to new heights. Our government is doing exactly that with a comprehensive, successful, and sustainable education plan to meet the needs for five out of five children.
Gifted and talented students make up part of this five out of five. Since we were elected in 2008, our government has invested in a range of programmes and initiatives to boost the learning of gifted students and ensure they get the best possible support.
The government recognises that both direct investment of new resources and implementing new programmes, as well as changing policies and standards, collectively aid the learning of gifted children.
Government policy is that schools should differentiate their teaching to meet the needs of all students (including gifted students) in the classroom. Some schools stream their classes so that gifted children are able to learn with other gifted peers in a tailored teaching environment.
The New Zealand Curriculum acknowledges the needs of gifted learners and its flexibility ensures boards and teachers can appropriately respond to their students’ requirements. In particular, curriculum levels are not constrained to particular year groups, and resources from different levels can be used to support gifted learners.
In 2012, the government published the Gifted and Talented Students handbook to provide guidance on how to work toward an education that is responsive to the needs for gifted learners. The handbook was developed with wide input from the gifted community and provides a spectrum of information on three key areas for gifted student support: ‘regular classroom’, ‘acceleration’, and ‘special programmes’.
Our government recognises the need for gifted children to have learning environments and teaching closely tailored to their particular strengths and other weaknesses. The new range of subject-specific resources—for instance, the 8 new mathematics digital learning modules developed for gifted students in 2013—ensure gifted children can reach their full potential.
The Government provides Professional Learning and Development (PLD) to help schools and teachers identify and respond to the needs to gifted and talented students. It includes networking, step-by-step support and resources to help schools develop and implement a school-wide approach to gifted education.
The Gifted & Talented Online website provides access to resources from the PLD programme, research and resources, gifted organisations and sites, and a community forum. In December 2013, the site was refreshed and a wide range of new resources added.
Of course, over the last five years the government has directly invested resources into upgrading schools and learning environments for gifted children.
The government’s new $359 million ‘Investing in Education Success’ (IES) programme aims to support increased collaboration and the sharing of ideas across the education system to benefit accelerated student achievement and in particular gifted children.
A new $700 million investment in providing modern ICT structures in schools means that by 2017 all schools will have upgraded computer networks and high-speed uncapped internet connections through the managed network built by the crown company Network for Learning (N4L). These digital technology investments will particularly support gifted children as they provide learning outlets for more innovative and personalised learning pathways.
N4L has also recently launched its online portal, Pond. Pond is currently being tested by a group of pioneer teachers, and will soon be available to all teachers in New Zealand. Using Pond, teachers and students will have deep access to a wide range of rich educational resources that will engage students, and promote collaboration and innovation in classrooms around the country. With access to resources such as Pond and the managed network, I believe that our most gifted students will be encouraged to dive deeper into subject areas that fascinate them, promoting more self-initiated and self-directed learning in the classroom and at home.
Our government is committed to ensuring gifted and talented students reach their potential and are provided with the best possible support and encouragement for successful futures.