Specialist educators in gifted education have been waiting a long time for the government’s promise of giftedness being identified and provided for as a special educational need.

Massey University’s Associate Professor Tracy Riley is among those welcoming the Draft Disability and Learning Support Action Plan released on Friday by Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin. The Draft Plan includes gifted students in its proposed overhaul..

“In my 22 year career as an academic in this field, the debate around whether we should include gifted in special education or not has never been resolved. Perhaps now is the time to include our gifted,” says Riley, who is serving as Secretary of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children.

“This plan proposes a step change that will place New Zealand amongst a small number of countries, like Scotland, that acknowledge the special needs of gifted students, as part of a fully inclusive education system,”

In 2005, the National Administration Guidelines mandated all schools in New Zealand to respond to giftedness as a special need, yet research and ERO reviews consistently showed that schools were failing to do so.

Research in New Zealand, last funded by the Ministry in 2004, showed a strong preference for working with gifted students in their regular classrooms, yet, their learning progress has likely been stifled by low expectations, set by assessment systems like National Standards and lack of opportunity to work with like-minded peers, due to funding cuts for specialist programmes.

Dr. Nadine Ballam, co-chair of The Professional Association for Gifted Education, and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Waikato, believes collecting data on gifted students will make a difference.

“The Ministry has not collected data on gifted students, making it difficult for teachers to monitor and track their progress, and impossible for researchers to state with any certainty how many of our students in New Zealand classrooms are gifted.”

giftEDnz co-chair and doctoral student researcher, Justine Hughes, is pleased that the Ministry intends to grow teacher capability to identify and provide for giftedness.

Hughes, who is actively creating an online community of practice using social media, is hopeful the Ministry’s plans will include advanced opportunities for in-depth teacher learning.

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