Call for separate classes

BY JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 13/03/2009

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Some gifted students should be removed from the mainstream school system, experts say.

The Minister of Education has rejected the argument, however, saying "regular classroom" education for gifted students will be emphasised.

Advocates for gifted education meet today in Rotorua for the first day of a three-day conference.

International expert Francoys Gagne will present evidence that "most regular classroom teachers do not offer proper enrichment to their talented students".

"I will survey all the arguments in favour of fulltime grouping. Still, that controversial question has probably more naysayers than supporters," Gagne, of Canada, said.

Deb Clark, assistant principal of the national Gifted Kids Programme, will present evidence from a study that shows gifted children relish being among like minds. It surveyed 174 past pupils of the Gifted Kids Programme, under which children are withdrawn from the classroom one day a week.

"The like minds thing is what comes through hugely," Clark said.

"Loads of kids talk about the first time they made a real friend ... people who think like I do and people who have my sense of humour."

Parents who were worried their children would never find a friend "suddenly found someone who is just as quirky or just as passionate about something".

Some children would be better off removed from the mainstream, she said.

"It is important to be with others but then when you watch some children for whom the system just isn't working for them, you are thinking, `what's happening to that potential?"' Clark said.

"What's happening is, instead of the positive attributes or characteristics, we're getting the negative ones."

Reach education director Rosemary Cathcart said gifted children got little support from the Government. Her agency supports schools working with gifted learners.

"If we relied on the Government, we wouldn't be anywhere at all," Cathcart said.

"Schools don't cater for kids who ask questions and probe and want to know more and want to know why. Schools cater really well for kids who give them back the answers that are already known and predetermined," Cathcart said.

She said the Education Ministry had told her it would not be sending a gifted education representative to the conference because it was not cost-effective.

"I think that is a bit of an insult when you've got people like Gagne coming who is one of the top three in the world," Cathcart said.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said gifted-education policy "emphasises teaching practices that meet the learning needs of these students within their regular classrooms".

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Schools and other groups could apply once every three years to a $1.4 million contestable fund for programmes related to gifted and talented education, Tolley said.

Darren Gammie, of the Ministry of Education, said it supported the conference with funding and it was represented.

The conference will feature the launch of a new lobby group funded by the Todd Foundation. The group giftednz will be a network lobbying for greater recognition and support for gifted education.

- The Press

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