Guest Blogger, Hon. Maggie Barry

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.

This post is part of the #NZGAW Blog Tour.Blog Tour icon and link.

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About Mary St George

I teach in gifted education, both online and face-to-face.
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6 Responses to Guest Blogger, Hon. Maggie Barry

  1. Leigh says:

    When I read Ms Barry’s post I wondered if I was in the wrong universe. My son has/had not seen what she describes at all. One teacher said to me “I can’t do anything more for your son, I don’t have the training – and I have 30? other children with varying needs”. then I went to the principal and spoke to him and he acknowledged E’s giftedness, but ‘I am sorry, we can’t do anything for him, perhaps you would like to homeschool him?” Thankfully, this year, he has had a great male teacher who has attempted to extend him. Sadly he is leaving – and once again I have to pop in and say hello to the teacher and get the lines of communication opened

  2. Tracy says:

    These are all excellent initiatives for all kids, with some focus directly on our gifted and talented learners. Can the Ministry of Education provide evidence of the effectiveness of these initiatives in terms of schools’ obligations to identify and provide for gifted learners (NAG1)? What difference are these initiatives making for children, their teachers and families? I would like to see a review of gifted and talented education in NZ conducted with rigor. As someone who has contributed to some of these (eg, the revised handbook and some TKI materials) I would welcome an external review of their effectiveness, impact, influence.

  3. Nikki says:

    I agree with both Leigh and Tracy on this. I appreciate Maggie’s thoughts on the initiatives for gifted education, but know from experience the resources and support are not being played out in schools for a lot of pupils that need it. The initiatives are idealistic, and a place to start from, but how does the government and the MOE know if they are being successfully implemented in schools? What if they are not? I invite Maggie to read my blog contribution, ‘Unlocking the Cage’, under ‘Recent Posts’ at the top of this page, to view what it can be like for many parents facing the very real challenges of unmet needs of their children in schools.

  4. Jess@miniMum says:

    I applaud Ms Barry’s post; she is an able and apt politician to raise awareness for her party.

    There is an old saying, “Put your money where your mouth is.” National showed this clearly in 2009 when they cut funding and support levels for gifted and talented education. They decided to leave parents funding special education for their gifted children if we could and schools struggling to handle the result.

    I encourage everyone to take the power they can. See my recent posts http://minimalistmum.blogspot.co.nz/2014/06/is-it-smart-to-vote.html
    http://minimalistmum.blogspot.co.nz/2014/06/the-politicians-in-person-for-nz-gifted.html

  5. Sharon says:

    Let’s be clear. None of the programmes and initiatives mentioned above by Maggie will be effective for our gifted learners without appreciation of the knowledge gap that currently exists and a substantial shift of attitude towards this population of students. Without a real, meaningful commitment by government to support gifted education initiatives, specifically and financially, the above comment is just more rhetorical hot air.

    Yes, policies have changed. National Administration Guidelines have for a number of years now required that schools identify and provide for their gifted and talented students. I know that there are examples of schools out there that do this and do it well. However the reality is that they are a minority. I believe, on the evidence that I have observed, that most schools pay lip service to this requirement, doing just enough to document that they are meeting the obligation.

    National Standards strongly focus on “bringing up the tail”. It is very telling that there are categories for Below, Well Below and At, with just one Above category. Schools focus on bringing those Well Below and Below up. They don’t want too many students in the Above category because they can’t then show any shift. They certainly don’t focus on doing anything with them once they are there.

    Best possible support? Really?

    Government policy for teachers to differentiate their teaching to meet the needs of learners in their classrooms is ineffective when teachers have little idea, for their gifted students, of what those needs are. The latest initiative that aims to implement a system of increased collaboration to support schools presupposes that there are excellent teachers who can share their knowledge with others. And rightly so; however, unless a specific focus is included acknowledging gifted and talented students as being priority students in this process, they will continue to be marginalised. Based on the gap that currently exists in knowledge around gifted and talented education and indifferent attitudes mainstream educators hold towards these students, I don’t see how Ms Barry can otherwise justify her statement that gifted children in particular will benefit or realize accelerated achievement.

    I must say that I am perplexed by a government that talks of the importance of supporting the development of potential but then ignores the difficulties that have been raised by those who are struggling to do so in real time.

  6. Zen says:

    I concur with the above. Where is school accountability? Do schools have to regularly report on their identification processes and provisions for gifted students? Consistency is a problem. Some schools seem to be providing admirably for gifted students, and at other schools, gifted students’ needs are barely acknowledged – and these students can suffer terribly as a result. In some cases parents are left trying to put their children ‘back together’ following difficulties at school. In other cases, parents find themselves working overtime to keep their children’s heads above water – year after year, it’s just a matter of coping, and getting through. This is not for lack of parents trying to communicate positively with school staff either. The current situation is simply not good enough. We need accountability of schools and staff, and we need consistency of appropriate provisions and support for gifted children within all New Zealand schools.

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