Our first political blog in the 2015 #NZGAW Blog Tour comes from Tracey Martin, whose many hats include Member of Parliament and holder of the Education Portfolio for New Zealand First. Thank you, Tracey.
We believe that every child is talented. A talent is something that one does well and often we do it well without even thinking about it. Take me for example – one of the most common statements to my parents during my school years was – “She certainly has the gift of the gab!” So talking has always been my talent. For a good number of those school years it may not have been recognised as a positive talent but it is in many ways this talent that got me to where I am today – a Member of Parliament for New Zealand First. That and a natural resilience.
So if every child is talented is the current education system geared up to recognise and support that talent?
If we agree that every child is talented, at something, then at the end of their formative years they should walk away knowing that they have a talent – talking, running, art, reading, math – it doesn’t really matter what as long as they feel pride in knowing it exists. A talent in one area can compensate for a struggle in another.
But then you have some children, some students, NZAGC reports 5 in 100, who are gifted. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel much like a gift going on some of the conversations I have had with gifted students and their parents. Much of this negativity is created by an inability of schools to appropriately identify and then deliver for these students.
For some time New Zealand First has been concerned that the Ministry of Education does not require nor collect data around the numbers of students who schools have identified as being in the top academic band or who have been identified as Gifted. Combine this with the narrowing of the curriculum to a focus on numeracy and literacy and the removal of the “well above” target in National Standards leads us to conclude only one thing. We have to conclude that this government doesn’t understand that it has a responsibility to commit to raising the achievement of students at both ends of the learning continuum, i.e., special needs and gifted and talented.
Often, because these students are literate and numerate with committed parents, the universal attitude can be dismissive with a “they will be fine” response when concerns are raised. But as research has shown us often these students are not fine. They are lonely. They are frustrated. They give up on formal education and act out to gain attention. What a loss to us as a nation that these children are not being assisted to reach their full potential.
New Zealand First believes early identification is key to assisting these children and their families become the best they can be. That is why we want to work with educators and families to establish a pilot programme, in partnership with the early childhood education sector, for the collection and analysis of school entry baseline evidence to target staffing and resourcing to meet both support and extension on a needs basis.
But just to identify is not enough. How will we continue to deliver and engage these students, both the gifted and the talented, in their academic lives?
We believe that the only way to truly deliver for these students is to establish tagged funding for student extension and enrichment. And this would be alongside the establishment of nationwide teacher professional development and funding support for high ability and gifted students.
This tagged funding could be used to release specific teachers to create personalised programmes for specific students. It could be used to fund onsite academies such as Science Academies, Performing Acts Academies, Maths, English, Sporting – where each area of gift or talent can be nourished and grown.
But more than that we would like to look at establishing Primary and Secondary Scholarships to cover costs such as MindPlus. If the Ministry of Education can dual fund secondary students to attend both high school and trade academies why is this not possible much earlier in the educational journey and why is it not available to gifted students?
The theme for Gifted Awareness Week this year is “changing the way you see us”. I hope that we don’t – my wish for each gifted and talented child is that “we see you” as you are. That we see you and challenge you and nurture you in the specific ways you need to be your best. I have hope that in the not too distant future, with the right policy settings, that this is not only possible it will become the norm.
Find other #NZGAW Blog Tour posts at http://giftededucation.ultranet.school.nz/WebSpace/1286/.