New Zealand’s three nationwide charitable organisations supporting giftedness are joining forces to promote the focus of belonging in this week’s Gifted Awareness Week.
The charities, New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education (NZCGE), the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children (NZAGC) and giftEDnz, the Professional Association for Gifted Education, serve to educate, advocate and celebrate giftedness which they say often goes unrecognised. They are asking that the government finds “a valued and meaningful place for gifted learners” within the education system.
Deborah Walker, CEO of NZCGE, says that the needs of gifted learners in New Zealand are largely ignored at government level and that the gains that had been made since meeting the needs of gifted children became a legal mandate in the National Administration Guidelines 2005 have almost dwindled to nothing. “Without true valuing from the Ministry of Education the place of gifted education will continue to languish. Gifted children have complex needs and it is sadly the case that there is currently little to no ongoing commitment from the ministry to support children or their teachers in meeting those specific needs.”
“Special education is where gifted and talented education belongs,” says Louise Tapper, giftEDnz chairperson, “and it is from here that recognition, resourcing and support ought to stem, reflective of the fact that these learners have unique and special needs.”
Tracy Riley, NZCGE director, agrees. “Support from the Ministry of Education requires more than a clause in a legal document, it requires targeted funding for students and professional learning development for teachers, and support for external providers for those children who need that alternative. For example, spending time with like-minds in programmes provides increased opportunities for connectedness; improved chances of being understood and accepted; better prospects of forming high quality friendships; more suitable occasions to practice socio-affective skills; and, basically, the comfort of feeling normal and belonging.”
Ms Walker says, “This year we are focusing on the need for our young gifted New Zealanders to have a true place where they belong within our education system. They are not a curriculum subject and they are not a special interest group. They are part of every level of learning from early years to tertiary and they are part of every learning area and subject. The government has placed them legally within special needs so we’re asking them to make that a reality. We estimate there are around 40,000 gifted learners in our school system and last year the government provided less than a $1,000,000 to support their needs. What would gifted education look like if it were resourced in the same way that other areas of special needs are resourced?”