By: Simon Collins

Gifted children like Lochlan Wakely, 9, and Jack Fairey, 8, photographed in Napier in 2010, would now be eligible for dedicated education funding. File photo

Parents of gifted children are “stunned” that funding for gifted students has made it into the coalition deal between Labour and New Zealand First.

“We are thrilled, stunned and amazed and just really excited that at last they are being looked at, and not just kids who are under-achieving,” said Deborah Walker of the NZ Centre for Gifted Education.

Funding for gifted students was one of just six education policies listed in the deal, along with piloting counsellors in primary schools, free driver education for secondary students, restoring funding for Computers in Homes and the Te Kotahitanga teacher training scheme, and developing a 30-year plan for education.

Labour’s manifesto had also promised free driver education, funding for students’ mobile devices and for Te Kotahitanga, health services in state secondary schools and mental health services in primary schools in earthquake-affected parts of Canterbury.

Parents of gifted children are “stunned” that funding for gifted students has made it into the coalition deal between Labour and New Zealand First.

“We are thrilled, stunned and amazed and just really excited that at last they are being looked at, and not just kids who are under-achieving,” said Deborah Walker of the NZ Centre for Gifted Education.

Funding for gifted students was one of just six education policies listed in the deal, along with piloting counsellors in primary schools, free driver education for secondary students, restoring funding for Computers in Homes and the Te Kotahitanga teacher training scheme, and developing a 30-year plan for education.

Labour’s manifesto had also promised free driver education, funding for students’ mobile devices and for Te Kotahitanga, health services in state secondary schools and mental health services in primary schools in earthquake-affected parts of Canterbury.

It also promised “a ring-fenced fund to specifically support programmes for gifted learners outside their regular classroom environment [e.g. one-day programmes]”.

Grey Lynn mother Lara Nettle, whose son Inigo can explain quantum physics at 10, said the funding could “make an incredible impact on the lives of young people who are really being marginalised in education”.

“Often you are talking about a child that is so frustrated with what’s happening at school that they are literally tearing out their hair,” she said.

She said many gifted children are “exceptional at both ends of the spectrum”, with both high intelligence and specific learning disabilities such as dyspraxia, which Inigo has.

“He’s meeting the National Standard, so he doesn’t look like a problem within the education system,” she said.

Inigo attends a MindPlus class for gifted children one day a week, but parents have to pay.

Walker said the former Labour Government provided $2.4 million a year for gifted children from 2003, but the funding was stopped by the National Government in 2010.

Laurence Zwimpfer of the 20/20 Trust, which ran the Computers in Homes scheme for low-income families with children until its funding ended in June, said he was “delighted” the scheme would be revived.

Dr Mere Berryman, who co-directed Te Kotahitanga until it ended in 2012, said teacher professional development had now passed to schools through Communities of Learning which can buy training to support “challenges” mainly focused on literacy and numeracy.

The coalition deal may mean restoring funding for changing schools to respond to the cultural needs of their students.

Education: what NZ First won

• Develop a 30 year strategic plan for education.

• Restore funding for gifted students.

• Pilot counsellors in primary schools.

• Offer free driver training to all secondary students.

• Restore funding for Computers in Homes.

• Restart the Te Kotahitanga teacher professional development initiative.

What they didn’t get

• Universal student allowances, not means-tested against parents’ incomes.

• Write off student loans in areas of workforce demand.

What the Greens won

• Ensure that every child with special needs and learning difficulties can participate fully in school life.

• Make tertiary education more affordable for students and reduce the number of students living in financial hardship.

What they didn’t get

• Make te reo Māori a core subject in schools.

Source: NZ Herald

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