Case Studies

9 year old Jamie Fenton attends a Tertiary Science course while also enrolled at Primary school


Is there a conflict between the needs of the school and the needs of the students?

Primary to Secondary acceleration / dual enrolment

A mix of Primary and Secondary education using the Correspondence School

Primary to Tertiary acceleration / dual enrolment

A mix of Primary and Tertiary education attending lectures and labs.

Secondary to Tertiary acceleration

Leaving the Secondary system early to embark on Tertiary studies OR dual they work?


Is there a conflict between the needs of the school and the needs of the students?


Yes, I know encouraging students to leave the nest early will impact on the school roll and impact staff funding levels from the Ministry, but can we say then that we are sincerely trying to meet the needs of the student if as staff we are looking at the bottom line for ourselves?

Is there a conflict of interest where some schools want to keep "bright" students as a marketing ploy, to been seen as having "the best" students as if this means the school itself is also "the best"? Or, is it simply that some schools are desperate to keep any and all students for as long as they can to prevent further loss of teaching staff?

A partnership between education providers could result in an advantage to all concerned including the most important individual - the student!

I have seen many times variations of the phrases "life-long learning" or "achieving to their fullest potential" used by schools and teachers. Throwing the Australian Maths, etc, Quiz at them, when there is no class time learning toward these, is nothing to be proud of. The same goes for Science Fair if there is no learning or class time allocated to this event.

I have no doubt that students have been damaged intellectually and emotionally if their needs are not met. I have seen first hand, over many years, at various schools, students who have not coped with the traditional system and traditional courses.

I have heard all the excuses. I have tried in my own way to counter some of the deficiencies of the system. This website records one example.

My question as an educator for you is

"Are we teachers of students or followers of policy and procedure"?

One does not necessarily compliment the other...

Sometimes you just have to blaze a new pathway on your own and see if anyone else is brave enough to follow. I have no doubt I am on the correct students tell me so.

Michael Fenton 2006

Dual Primary/Secondary courses

A successful example of starting Secondary education while at Primary school is outlined:

Initially six year old Jamie was sent Year 9 Science resources and assignments to complete. The following year, 2001, she started a School Certificate Science course via the Correspondence School. Jamie spent Fridays at home with her Mum to complete experiments and reports, but otherwise was fully involved with the regular programme of Bell Block Primary School.

An article from the Daily News summarises her progress...

Jamie (8) has science sussed

22 January 2002


Bell Block eight-year-old Jamie Fenton was pretty confident when she downloaded her School Certificate result last week. The year-five primary school pupil thought she had done rather well when she sat down at the science exam last year. The 57% pass she got proved her right. "I wasn't really surprised, because I knew a lot of what was in the exam. But I'm pretty pleased that I passed because now I've proven that I can do it and people can't say I'm too young," she said. Jamie was the youngest of 40 students under the age of 12 to sit a School Certificate subject last year. The feat is more impressive given the fact that she did not decide to study the subject by correspondence until the start of term two. Not that she was without help. Both Jamie's parents, Michael and Christine, are qualified teachers and share a passion for science. Jamie has not decided what her academic plans for the year will include. The foreign language enthusiast is more concerned about getting her tonsils out next week.


Dual Primary/Tertiary courses

A successful example of starting Tertiary education while at Primary school is outlined:

After having demonstrated the ability to work at Level 1 (in the current terminology of qualification levels) in 2002 Jamie enrolled at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki. She spent half her week at Bell Block Primary taking part in the regular programme, and half her week attending lectures and laboratory sessions at WITT. She was required to participate on her own as a "normal" student.

An article from the Daily News summarises her progress after two years of part-time study toward a Certificate in Science...

SMILING SCIENTIST: Bell Block whizz kid Jamie Fenton has excelled in her academic studies again this year. The 10-year-old has just passed 12 level three Higher School Certificate science papers at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki (WITT) in New Plymouth. It is her second year at the institute after she passed several papers last year.

Jamie aims higher than the lab bench

19 December 2003


According to Jamie Fenton, one of the hardest things about studying bursary level science as a 10-year-old is being too small for the lab bench. But size certainly didn't stop Jamie becoming the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki's youngest graduate last night. The young science student got a big cheer from the crowd when she accepted her Certificate in Science Studies at the TSB Showplace – only to have to return to the stage for a second time to receive a surprise award. An excited Jamie received the science department's award for consistent high standards.

And she deserved it. During her 18 months of studying at WITT getting A grades was commonplace. For her human biology unit Jamie's A+ mark placed her third at WITT, and she was top of her class for physics and cell biology. Jamie admits she didn't find the work hard. Mum, Christine Fenton, puts it down to her excellent memory. "She remembers things very well. Some people might think that because she does so well she is always studying, but it's not like that," Mrs Fenton said. Jamie divided her time at WITT, 10 hours a week, with her other classes at Bell Block Primary School. The only pre-requisite to enrol at WITT was School Certificate. Jamie already had that under her belt.

She sat and passed School Certificate science in 2001 when she was only eight. During her time at WITT Jamie found a new love – maths. "I really enjoyed calculus and algebra. I'd like to do more maths sometime," said Jamie. She said to begin with her WITT classmates were a little shocked to see someone so young in their class, but they soon accepted and looked out for her. "One of my favourite things was watching cell division, it was really cool to see it happening." But to see it, Jamie's microscope had to be set on a special small table. Next year Jamie is off to Highlands Intermediate, fulltime. About 520 certificate students graduated at WITT's ceremony.

Secondary / Tertiary ...let them leave school early OR dual enrolment?

LEAVING EARLY... a successful example of starting Tertiary education at Year 12 is outlined:

Level 1 NCEA in Year 11

Full-time high school student taking traditional Level 1 courses.

Begins a Diploma of Applied Science in Year 12

Leaves school, enrolled at the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, works part-time in a commercial laboratory to gain work experience.

Finishes Diploma of Applied Science in Year 13

Continues part-time work in a commercial laboratory to gain work experience.

Direct entry into Second Year B.Sc at Otago university

This student scores 100% in lab manual reports during the year, and has work experience, money from savings and a Diploma qualification to assist his studies. In contrast, friends that remained in school are just beginning their first year at University.


"Cost" could mean different things for different schools.

  1. A school could use STAR funding to permit a student to complete on or two extramural papers at a University.
  2. A student might finish school at Year 12, reducing the EFTS funding.
  3. A staff member might be timetables to mentor or guide students completing extramural papers.

Regardless of the "cost" to the school, the benefit to the students and the community when the student contributes as an adult more than justifies this.

Can your school afford NOT to assist these students?

Behaviour problems, disruption to classes, truancy, poor role models, etc, could cost the school more in the long run.


DUAL ENROLMENT... a successful example of starting Tertiary education while at Secondary school is outlined:

Jamie attended Inglewood High as a Year 9 student in 2006 and was awarded

  • Level 1 NCEA
  • Level 2 NCEA
  • Level 3 NCEA
  • University Entrance.

As a Year 12 student at Inglewood High School she is also a Massey University extramural student having taken 100-level, 200-level and 300-level Maths papers. She plans on doing a con-joint degree in Arts and Science. She is a member of various community groups in New Plymouth as well.

She is also artistic and has many other interests and achievements.

In 2006 she won the New Plymouth Little theatre award for Best Actress under 18.

Jamie was named 2006 Most Oustanding Student/Trainee of the Year at the New Plymouth District Council Young Achievers Awards. She also recieved an award for her success in many aspects of the arts including literature and performance (dance and theatre).

Also that year she had a scientific journalism piece accepted and printed in a Royal Society of New Zealand journal.

Jamie’s list of achievements is extensive: She has a long-term commitment to academic study and the arts and is an excellent role model for all young people in New Zeland.

She was honoured to be named Young New Zealander of the Year for 2011. Jamie Fenton, along with Jessica Watson, was a keynote speaker at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum. Both young women  had similar messages...young people should be better supported to reach their true potential.




These are examples of interventions that pushed the boundaries of what has been the "normal" programme of study in Taranaki schools. Every day I see many students that could benefit from such interventions.

Positive energy is required to move our regions educational strategies for gifted children in the right direction. It is easy to be negative and critical of others or blame existing systems failures. I have tried instead to offer solutions with evidence and look forward to seeing others succeed where I have only just begun.

However, I make no apologies for questioning the motives of schools and whether there is a real drive and desire in New Zealand to meet the needs of the students. I am lucky as a parent to have had Bell Block Primary School, Inglewood High School and the Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki to be willing to trial new ideas.

Jamie attended Inglewood High as a Year 9 student in 2006 and was awarded Level 1 NCEA, Level 2 NCEA, Level 3 NCEA and University Entrance. She is enroling at Massey University as an extramural student in 2007. She is also artistic and has many other interests and achievements...all have contributed to her becoming a well-rounded and confident individual. She is resilient enough to fit into any social or school group she finds herself in. All she needed was to be treated as an individual, not as a stereotypically "gifted" student.

Some teachers assume she must be "immature" or have some other deficit to "balance" out the areas she is talented in. Not all people work like that...some are frustratingly good at lots of things and may make some of us feel inadequate or threatened...after all, isn't the teacher supposed to be the source of all knowledge? We must not assume we know best just because we are adults or teachers.

"Experts" are not created equally...

On the other hand, if a school decides to offer professional development to staff, and bring in a paid outside expert, don't forget that some staff may already have excellent experience in this area and can offer guidance for free. Be aware that some "expert" advice is of poor quality or too simplistic.

Some "qualified" advisors (they have completed courses and/or papers) simply regurgitate theory or stereotype children. Avoid these people if you can!

My goal as a parent and teacher is not to extend children beyond their capabilities but make them reach up to see what they are capable of.


HOW do you demonstrate this at YOUR YOUR class?

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

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