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Gifted Programme Nurtures Excellence

Gifted Programme Nurtures Excellence In Disadvantaged Areas

Some of Northland’s brightest students are eagerly tackling fresh academic challenges this week, as the foundation students of the Whangarei Gifted Kids Programme - a new day a week school for gifted children from mainly low socio-economic areas.

The launch of the Gifted Kids Programme in Whangarei follows on from the successful groundbreaking Gifted Kids Programme pilot, which began operating at Tamaki Intermediate in Auckland in 2000 to identify and cater for the special learning needs of gifted and talented children in under-resourced areas.

The Whangarei programme began classes today, Tuesday March 5 and will be officially opened this Friday, March 8 by the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard.

Based at Tikipunga Primary School in Whangarei, the Gifted Kids Programme has worked with schools to identify 30 gifted and talented children from nine schools in the Whangarei area, including Hikirangi Primary School, Hurupaki School, Manaia View Primary, Maunu Primary School, Otangarei School, Raurimu Primary, Tikipunga Primary School, Whangarei Intermediate and Whau Valley School.

The Whangarei programme, coordinated by specialist gifted education teacher Michelle Parsons-Sim, runs two classes a week. Each class is made up of 15 children who attend the class for one day a week and spend the rest of the week at their regular school.

Ultimately the Gifted Kids Programme would like to run classes five days a week, to cater for other gifted children in the area, but this is dependent on obtaining government funding or finding more sponsorship to fund the additional days.

“The talent is definitely here amongst the Northland children, but the Gifted Kids Programme currently receives no government funding and is instead funded by the generosity of interested businesses, trust grants, community groups and individuals,” explains Gifted Kids Programme founding trustee, Christine Fernyhough, who is in Whangarei this week seeking sponsorship support for the programme from the public and local businesses.

“We have requested funds from the Ministry of Education, but until we get some government funding, the programme is totally reliant on sponsorship to provide scholarships so these children with exceptional abilities have access to the programme,” she says.

It was while involved with the “Books in Homes” initiative that Christine Fernyhough saw “some of the best and brightest students in low socio-economic areas quietly melting down” and this was the motivation for her and other trustees to establish the Gifted Kids Programme.

“Intelligence is not the preserve of the wealthy, it is spread throughout our society and the aim of the Gifted Kids Programme is to give gifted children in under-resourced areas throughout New Zealand opportunities to have their potential recognised and acknowledged. We launched the programme in Auckland and are thrilled to be bringing it to Northland and ultimately would like to set it up in other areas too,” says Christine.

The majority of schools involved in the Gifted Kids Programme are from lower decile schools, however, the programme is not exclusive and there are some higher decile schools taking part.

Once a week the children, from years 3-5 (7, 8 and 9 year olds) and years 6-8 (10,11 and 12 year olds) attend the Gifted Kids Programme, which is specifically designed to cater for their exceptional abilities and provide an environment that encourages the students to grow intellectually, creatively and emotionally in order to reach their fullest potential.

Gifted and talented students are identified as those with the potential to exhibit superior performance across a range of areas and endeavours, while talented students are those with the potential to exhibit superior performance in one area of endeavour. They make up the top five per cent of intellect.

“Bright kids are currently disadvantaged in New Zealand with a high proportion of energy and resources in schools directed towards kids with learning and reading difficulties. There are few opportunities for bright kids – particularly those from financially disadvantaged backgrounds – and as a result their special talents are often wasted and their potential unfulfilled,” says Christine.

“The Gifted Kids Programme is working to redress this imbalance. The future of New Zealand is so dependent on our highly intelligent gifted kids. They are the people who will influence the direction of New Zealand, expands its technologies, teach in our universities and polytechs, create jobs, and direct New Zealand’s cultural and political institutions. We can’t let these fine young people go to waste,” says Christine.

The principals of the eight contributing schools are delighted to have the Gifted Kids Programme extend to Whangarei. Colin Davidson is the principal of Tikipunga Primary School, which is rated decile one and has five students attending the programme. He also sees the Gifted Kids Programme as redressing the balance and providing a standard of extension that cannot be achieved within each school.

“It is fair to say that the greatest need many of our schools face is with children who have learning difficulties and that has to be addressed, but equally at the other end of the spectrum children with learning needs have potential that is not being met. No matter how good a school’s programming is it can’t do it all. In the past there has been an emphasis on the children with special needs and I see the Gifted Kids Programme as an opportunity to redress that imbalance and give the children with special abilities further opportunities,” says Colin.

“I am really excited about bringing together our gifted and talented children from the greater Whangarei area and enabling them to rub shoulders with children of like ability.”


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