Joint Media Release For Immediate Release 15 June 2015
40, 000 left out of an inclusive education push
There are almost 800,000 children in our education system. They are all unique, they are all special, they all learn differently, and they learn together. The Ministry of Education’s 2013-2018 Statement of Intent acknowledges the importance of learning together by detailing a focus on inclusive education. The document calls for the improvement of “outcomes for children with special education needs by supporting inclusive practices across schools, where parents and whanau have confidence that all children and students, including those with special education needs, will succeed and achieve.” In the New Zealand education system, children with “special education needs” include those who are gifted and talented. It seems however, that this “inclusion” is on paper only.
There are approximately 40,000 gifted and talented learners in New Zealand schools and they are not currently included in our Ministry’s priorities. Tracy Riley, Associate Professor at Massey University, states, “The Ministry of Education must address the fact that gifted students have special needs and an equitable human right to be engaged in their learning, to progress in their development and to achieve their potential. We surely cannot claim to offer a world-class inclusive education system yet fail to acknowledge and support an entire cohort of learners with special needs. ”
During Gifted Awareness Week, 15-21 June, New Zealand’s three leading gifted education organisations are celebrating giftedness, as well as advocating for an equitable and inclusive education for all gifted and talented students. The New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education (NZCGE), the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children (NZAGC), and giftEDnz, the Professional Association for Gifted Education, are concerned about the lack of recognition, resourcing and support for gifted children.
Andrew Patterson, NZAGC President, calls for the public to remember that a one-size-fits-all approach is not effective, particularly in regards to the education of our gifted and talented students. “We need to think carefully about the understanding of fairness and equity and acknowledge that equity in education means doing the right thing for each individual. Our gifted children learn and feel differently and need appropriate opportunities to achieve the ‘presence, participation and achievement’ indicators aimed at for all children by the Ministry.”
Inclusion is one of the principles that underpins the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (the curriculum document for Māori-medium schools). The curriculum states it is “non-sexist, non-racist, and non-discriminatory; it ensures that [all] students’ identities, languages, abilities, and talents are recognised and affirmed and that their learning needs are addressed.” The National Administration Guidelines, legislated by the Ministry of Education, state that schools must identify gifted and talented students and develop and implement teaching and learning strategies to address their needs. There are many in New Zealand who believe that this is not happening and thus the underlying principles of inclusion are not being applied to our gifted and talented students. It’s time for the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Government to walk their talk and acknowledge that gifted and talented children have special needs and have an equitable right to a fair education.
Let’s not leave anyone out of our inclusive education aims.
The New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, giftEDnz: the Professional Association for Gifted Education and the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children have released a Position Paper entitled ‘Gifted Students in the Inclusive Education System’. This paper can be downloaded from any of their websites.
For media enquiries
Primary Media Contact
Tracy Riley, Associate Professor Massey University, giftEDnz Board member, NZCGE Director,
027 312 1300
Secondary Media Contacts
Louise Tapper, Chair, giftEDnz, 027 368 4692
Andrew Patterson, President, NZAGC, 021 99 55 52
Deborah Walker, CEO, NZCGE, 027 491 1182