August 14, 2008

Schools Let Gifted Pupils Down


GIFTED pupils at most New Zealand schools are missing out on the support they need to nurture their special talents.

Since 2005, schools have been required to identify gifted pupils and develop special teaching programmes to challenge them to develop potential and ensure they do not became bored, frustrated or disruptive.

But an Education Review Office report said most schools were not adequately pinpointing the brightest pupils or providing specially tailored programmes catering to their needs. Up to 15 per cent of the school population -- more than 100,000 pupils -- were thought to be academically gifted or specially talented in some way.

Education Minister Chris Carter said gifted pupils might have unique talents in academic subjects, sport, music or arts.

"We found that some gifted and talented students are not engaged in learning because they don't see school as being relevant to them," he said.

The report assessed 315 primary and secondary schools. It found most were not promoting positive outcomes for gifted children. It offered recommendations for teachers, school leaders and Education Ministry officials.

Wellington High School has appointed a gifted and talented coordinator, Karen Shuker, to help identify gifted pupils and nurture their learning and development.

Ms Shuker said the school had 100 such pupils on its register. Most were well ahead of their peers academically.

"They're thinking laterally and they think quickly. They're creative with their ideas and they are creative thinkers as well."

Gifted pupils who were not nurtured could lose interest.

"Their mind is going a thousand miles an hour and it's just not being challenged."

Year 10 pupil Monique Hodgkinson, 14, is academically advanced and about to begin philosophy tutorials at Victoria University with five classmates.

She said she often held back when answering questions and needed to be challenged by teachers to remain interested.

"Otherwise we just don't have anything to do with our ability, I guess.

"You're just left coasting along when you could be doing so much more."


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