Gifted Learners

Tukuna kia rere

A story from the Sector: Lindisfarne College

The Gifted and Talented programme at Lindisfarne College has developed significantly since it was instigated in 2008.

The original initiative for the programme came from senior leadership team and probably would not have happened without the involvement of the principal and assistant principals.

The next phase was the appointment of a gifted and talented coordinator and the opportunity to do a post-graduate diploma in gifted and talented education through Massey University. This was an invaluable background in current research and practice in this area.

Senior leadership has also supported annual professional development for the GaTE coordinator and school-wide professional development which was initially provided by Massey university and later by the GaTE coordinator. As a result of school-wide consultation and discussion, the staff agreed on what our school’s definition of ‘gifted and talented’ would be and our policy was drawn up. With the help of the Massey University consultant, we drew up a School Review and Action Plan template to guide our provisions and processes.

We agreed on a multi-categorical form of identification and within this we tried to use processes and terminology that were appropriate to each area, for example, we discussed ideas of Māori giftedness with our Māori teacher and using concepts identified by Jill Bevin-Brown, we came up with a list of identifiers for Māori giftedness. These include Toi Whakaari (physical and performance gifts) and Wairuatanga ( spirituality). We use several different methods of identification including standardised testing, teacher, peer and parent identification.

Our provisions are based on a combination of withdrawal programmes, in class provisions, differentiation, acceleration and individual provisions and are constantly being changed and adjusted to suit our students. On numerous occasions over the years, we have developed new provisions depending on the gifts and talents of our students. Some of the specialist provisions we have utilised are: mentoring for both talented rugby players and musicians, workshops with outside providers for both writers and composers and tertiary papers for students who have been accelerated. Our withdrawal programme has changed frequently to accommodate the interests and learning styles of our students. The students are surveyed at the end of each year about the withdrawal programme and their consistently favourite activities are the creativity exercises and the Dragon’s Den-type presentations. These are judged by external “Dragons” and past students from the withdrawal programme. Currently we are working on a series of sessions based around critical literacy and fake news.

We use the School Review and Action Plan template to monitor our progress in providing for gifted students and have added to and adapted this over the years. As mentioned, we also survey the students in our withdrawal programme at the end of the year and incorporate their feedback into the annual report which I present to the gifted and talented committee. We update the action plan from this information. In addition to formal self-review we constantly adjust both our processes and provisions to meet the needs of the particular students we have and the feedback they give us. Several years ago, boys who had been identified as gifted and talented asked me to discuss the identification process with them as they believed that a boy had been missed. After reviewing the matter, I agreed that the boy should be included and I have now included a question on peer-identification in our initial profiling questionnaire. The most important thing for us is that we remain flexible and responsive to the needs of our boys.

Alongside its successes over the years, the gifted and talented programme at Lindisfarne has encountered numerous problems in attempting to identify and provide for our gifted students. These have included staffing issues, change of leadership , timetabling problems and a shift in focus away from gifted education. All of these challenges should not prevent us from focussing on the essential issue in gifted education which is how to give our gifted students an environment in which they can thrive and reach their potential.