Gifted and talented students

Jamie Fenton passes School Certificate Scince aged 8 years old...

Teachers must be careful not to blindly follow definitions or assume children fit into stereotypes...even after advice or professional development sessions from "experts".

The following pages are a guide only...always get to know your children before deciding what YOU think is best for THEM...

New Zealand's history of neglecting gifted children... Working Party report summary

What does it mean to be called "gifted"... definitions of "Giftedness"

How to identify gifted children... some common features to look for

Consequences for parents and teacher... practical suggestions

What can Primary and Secondary teacher do? Giftedness in school

Real examples for Primary schools and Secondary schools. Acceleration, dual enrolment, and the conflicting needs of the school versus the student. Case studies

New Zealand Education System Gets a Bad Report:

RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: Included in the 2001 Working Party report on Gifted Education to the Minister of Education is

…the education of the child shall be directed to the development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child - Article 29

The working party finds that little has been done in New Zealand to assist gifted and talented students. The report then makes a number of recommendations that are NOT binding on the Government. The working party concludes (abridged and added italics):

From the report:

"Finally, the contents of this report are not entirely new and a number of individuals and committees have furnished reports in the past... The most recent,... (Department of Education, 1985).... recommendations ... are very similar to the recommendations made by the current Working Party. However, what is disappointing is that, in the intervening period of 16 years, the majority of recommendations made by this conference were never acted on.

What is even more disturbing is that the core elements of this 1985 report can be identified in even earlier reviews. It is rather sobering to consider the human cost associated with deferring such decisions. Beyond the personal cost, the cost to us as a nation must have been immense. The Working Party strongly urges the Minister to take steps to avoid this situation occurring again. "



  • As a parent or teacher with a special interest in Gifted and Talented students, visit the Ministry of Education website for new initiatives and funding and the latest ammendments to the National Administration Guidelines (NAG's). New opportunities may open up that will assist you in meeting the needs of your students.
  • Like us, you could make your own submissions to the Ministry or write to your MP. Copies of the Working Party Report, Nov 2001 can be read in full here


Many of our children are at risk. Gifted and talented students are not good at everything, though some assume this to be true. Mechanically ("good with their hands") or academically gifted students are "at risk" in terms of being undiscovered, unsupported and under-achievers because of an amazing lack of resources for these students in the education system.

Many have special needs. As an example, any student operating at two or three standard deviations below the mean in a particular subject is considered as having "special needs". The education system has funds, programs and staff dedicated to meeting the emotional and intellectual needs of the students at this end of the learning spectrum.

However, a student operating two or three standard deviations above the mean is not necessarily recognised as being a "special needs" student. This is in spite of the fact that there can be major problems in class or at home. It isn't enough just to set these students extra or more difficult work and leave them to it. The same amount of thought, time and attention needs to be provided for these students as is provided for their counterparts at the other end of the spectrum.

These "smart" kids can do some "dumb" things! Without being recognised and properly supported, they are at risk of behaviour problems, addictions, depression and worse. These students also need the nurturing and attention required to become well-rounded individuals, comfortable with their individuality.

We lack a balanced approach. Teenagers who are gifted in sports can look forward to the respect the general community has for athletes and are held up as role models to others. It is even "cool" to be an athlete with plenty of money spent on sports in general, either in the community or in schools. Sponsorship of teams and donations towards sports facilities is a routine matter.

But little is done to support the academically gifted. Don't get me wrong - I like sports too but there are no afternoons or days off school to pursue intellectual pursuits in the same way that we have Athletics Days or afternoons off for the school to watch the First Fifteen rugby team play. Business sponsorship of sports teams is common and routine ... not so the sponsorship of innovative academic programmes for primary or secondary students. New Zealand society seems to have a perception of learning in general as being "nerdy".

A light in the darkness...of a lazy way out?

Starting in 2007,  more attention has been given to dealing with the learning needs of gifted children. It is important that children are not thrown in front of computers, with ICT seen to be the cure-all or sole stimulus activity...or baby-sitter while teachers carry on with the rest of the class.

Some schools are beginning to look at appropriate solutions that are within their capabilities at the moment. I look forward to seeing their progress and hope they are encouraged and supported to continue in the right direction!


All brained up with no where to go...

A sensor system and collision track costs thousands but these students from Inglewood High School have a solution for $50.

With the demise of the New Zealand National Fair, inventions and ideas like these are no longer recognised or rewarded...


Year 13 Physics students Reece Munro and Brendan Wakeman test the air track and sensor system they have assembled.

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