Gifted Learners

Tukuna kia rere

Beyond the Classroom

Utilise a range of opportunities and expertise in your community to support talent development.

Deciding to move beyond the kura/school/ECE setting/Kāhui Ako

The MoE (2012) supports a continuum of approaches to meeting the needs of gifted learners. This is in recognition of the fact that children spend only part of their lives in school and although it is a large portion of each day, only a fraction of their school day may be spent in differentiated or specialised programmes to develop their gifts and talents. Olszewski-Kubilius and Limburg-Weber (1999) suggest that while traditionally, schools might have been considered the panacea for developing academic knowledge and skills, the development of musical, performing art, athletic and leadership abilities is equally reliant upon community-based programmes. However, the out-of-school special lessons, coaching, intensive training, resources and long hours of practice required to develop these talents also assist in developing abilities in other areas.

Many schools in New Zealand use out-of-school learning opportunities for connecting gifted learners. A MoE-commissioned study (Riley et al., 2004) found that community-based provisions for gifted learners were used by nearly half of the participating schools – mainly primary, intermediate, higher decile and urban schools. The most common off-site provisions reported in this study were the Correspondence School, One Day School programmes and school clusters or networks.

Good links between schools and out-of-school providers, including teachers, parents, whānau and the community, are features of effective provisions for gifted learners.

ERO (2008) provides deeper insight into community-based opportunities, linking these to open communication with parents, whānau and the school community:

Opportunities for gifted and talented students reflected community aspirations. For example, a group of students worked with a film company to make an educational movie for schools on saving dolphins. Also a group of students worked closely with the Department of Conservation on the Learnz project answering questions online from other schools about their local marine reserve (p. 27).

The ERO report found that schools used similar programmes to those reported by Riley (2007): specifically, Te Manu Aute programme for performing and visual arts, Gifted Kids (GK) and One Day School (now MindPlus), competitions, leadership conferences, dance and art festivals and other specialised tuition. Schools with responsive provisions for their gifted learners made good links between these off-site programmes and the regular classroom, reinforced with teacher professional learning and development. Out-of-school programmes were unique and varied.

In a study conducted for the Todd Foundation in 2007, Tracy Riley notes the following results of a survey of over 75 out-of-school providers of opportunities for gifted learners in New Zealand:

  • Out-of-school programmes focus primarily on academic and creative abilities, mainly through music, science and social science programmes. Few programmes report a specific focus on the development of cultural understandings, skills and qualities. Programmes to develop leadership skills and abilities explicitly are not reported.
  • Most programmes are interdisciplinary, with a strong focus on enrichment. Accelerated programmes are seldom reported or described.
  • Most programmes are designed for individual learners’ participation, with only a small number reporting support for parents, community members and teachers.
  • Learners are identified for participation primarily by their teachers and schools.
  • The most common provision is a withdrawal or pull-out programme during school hours; however, there are not vast differences between the representation of these and weekend, holiday and after-school programmes or competitions.
  • The duration of programmes varies from less than a week to several years, but programmes of between a week and a month are seldom reported.
  • Most programmes are local and national. Few programmes progress from local to regional to national.


Linking provisions

When learners are offered a continuum of learning opportunities, it is important that these be connected with one another, well-articulated and comprehensive. To link provisions effectively, both in-school and out-of-school providers need to ensure they have developed:

  • shared and comprehensive understandings of the entire continuum of provisions – what they are offering as well as what is being provided by others
  • opportunities for collaboration and communication, including planning
  • professional learning and development for all teachers and providers, across all provisions
  • curricular and instructional alignment and integration
  • systematic tracking of individual learners’ opportunities and their responses to those (academically, creatively, socially, culturally, etc.)
  • pathways and avenues for communication, as ‘two-way streets’ between schools and providers
  • a shared vision for gifted learners within the local or regional community.

Steps communities can take to link provisions

A sense of community – whether local, regional or national, face-to-face or virtual – can be developed if the focus is on identifying gifted learners’ needs and meeting those within a responsive context. Donald Treffinger (2008) and his colleagues in the US provide recommendations for implementing contemporary, comprehensive provisions in a school district. These have been adapted for wider use, as follows:

  • Create a vision and commit to a master plan to guide development of a continuum of provisions.
  • Provide regular opportunities, individually, in groups or teams and across providers, to share what works or doesn’t work for gifted learners.
  • Adopt a philosophy statement that reflects your community’s cultures, values and beliefs.
  • Promote community awareness of provisions, their purpose and effectiveness.
  • Provide opportunities for sustained professional learning and development, which is linked to provisions.
  • Encourage and support provisions that ‘cut across’ age, gender, cultural, ethnic, geographic and other potential barriers.
  • Support initiatives that demonstrate continuous growth and improvement, as well as innovation.
  • Take risks and be open to experimentation, but don’t reinvent the wheel.
  • Use problem solving, creativity and decision making to work together to address new opportunities, challenges or concerns.
  • Promote continuous, lifelong learning for all those involved in gifted education.
  • Seek creative funding through community grants and trusts.

The New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education Limited (NZCGE)

The New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education Limited (NZCGE) is a registered charity governed by a Board of Directors and employs educators who are experienced in, and passionate about, gifted education. NZCGE was formed in 2014 upon the merger of The Gifted Education Centre and The Gifted Children’s Advancement Charitable Trust, The vision of NZCGE is that all gifted Kiwi kids get the specialist educational support they need to thrive and achieve their full potential.

The NZCGE offers a number of services to support gifted children and their parents, educators and others who connect with young gifted New Zealanders. Support for learners includes: * MindPlus OurSchool - our flagship one day a week programme, in-person, at one of our host schools nationwide MindPlus Online - our online programme connecting gifted learners across Aotearoa New Zealand for a half day each week MindPlus YourSchool - a partnership between schools and NZCGE to run MindPlus within a school, with ongoing professional support and coaching

Visit the NZCGE website to access the full range of services offered.