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Funding Needed to Keep Special Needs Schools Open

From: The Gifted Kids Programme

Funding Urgently Needed to Keep Special Needs Schools Open

The Gifted Kids Programme urgently needs funds to continue operating its special needs Day Schools for gifted youngsters from low socio-economic areas and is pinning its hopes on receiving a cash injection from the Ministry of Education’s new Contestable Fund for gifted education, announced this evening in Christchurch.

“We need to secure government funding from the Contestable Fund otherwise our programme is at serious risk of closing,” says Gifted Kids Programme Executive Trustee, Christine Fernyhough. Three representations for funding have been made in the past 18 months to the Education Minister, Mr Mallard, who officially opened the programme’s Day Schools in Auckland in 2001 and in Whangarei this year.

The Gifted Kids Programme works in lower socio-economic urban and rural communities and provincial towns to provide scholarships for gifted children from mainly low decile schools to attend its Day Schools, which deliver a specialised gifted education programme.

“Gifted children are special needs children, but for too long the focus in education has been on catering for the special needs of those with learning difficulties, while the special needs of New Zealand’s gifted children have been sadly neglected,” says Mrs Fernyhough.

“This is particularly so for children from low decile schools, whose families cannot afford to pay for them to attend user-pays gifted extension classes. The Gifted Kids Programme is working to redress this balance, with Day Schools situated in areas of greatest need and catering for children who would otherwise not have access to any special gifted education programme,” she says.

In particular, the Gifted Kids Programme is addressing the needs of Maori and Pacific Island gifted children, with up to 60 per cent of students in the Day Schools made up of this previously overlooked group.

There are currently two Gifted Kids Programme Day Schools - operating at Tamaki in Auckland and at Tikipunga in Whangarei - catering for 105 children. More schools – at Okaihau College in the Far North, Waikowhai Intermediate in Auckland, Malfoy School in Rotorua and Rata Street School in the Wellington suburb of Naenae will open in Term 4 this year if government funding is secured. There is also intense interest from a number of other communities in Hastings, Christchurch and Invercargill to open Gifted Kids Programme Day Schools in these areas.

“Most of these communities have already raised some funds towards opening their local Gifted Kids Programme Day Schools, however, to make them a reality significant funding from the Ministry of Education is needed,” says Mrs Fernyhough.

Scholarships, funded by donations from local businesses, community groups, charitable trusts and individuals, are offered so the gifted children can attend the Gifted Kids Programme Day Schools, but to date the schools have received no funding from the Ministry of Education.

Recognising that gifted children will not realise their potential without being nurtured and fostered within a specialised learning environment, the Gifted Kids Programme provides a day a week immersion programme of excellence in gifted education. This allow the gifted children to attend Day School where they work alongside their intellectual peers to learn, explore, problem solve and debate at a pace and within an environment that is appropriate to their special needs and abilities.

Tikipunga Primary School principal, Colin Davidson, has observed first hand the benefits of the gifted immersion programme offered by the Gifted Kids Programme at his school in Whangarei.

“While we may believe that we can provide for the a-typically able children in the conventional classroom setting, and indeed until this year I was of the opinion, the simple fact is that we cannot meet their intellectual needs,” says Mr Davidson.

“The challenge for us all is to ensure the Gifted Kids Programme concept and the classroom we have established cannot only be sustained but extended. There is a strong case for seeking Government funding as this is a highly credible programme that is meeting a real educational need,” says Mr Davidson.

Ends

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