Gifted Education Move "Perfectly Timed"
Education move “perfectly timed”
In one of those coincidences that all too rarely happen in real life, the new Education Minister’s announcement of funding for gifted education has come at exactly the same time as REACH Education, a leading provider in the field, has won a prestigious international award for its excellence in guiding teachers in working with these children, in particular through its online course which the judges described as “outstanding in calibre and sustainability”.
Dr Rosemary Cathcart, head of REACH Education, sees the combination of the prospect of funding together with recognition of expertise in teacher training as an opportunity to address the fundamental issue in gifted education in New Zealand. “It’s just perfect timing”.
She believes there is certainly a need for funding support for programmes which cater specifically for gifted children and adolescents, for assessment and counselling, and for parent support.
“However we will not significantly improve matters until we tackle the basic cause of our neglect of these children – the fact that we have simply not provided our teachers with the skills they need to identify and teach such children”. Thus many teachers wrongly assume that gifted children will automatically succeed and often resent efforts to help them, believing they don’t need support as much as others do.
Dr Cathcart is speaking from long experience. Her own career dates back more than 30 years and includes founding the country’s first professional specialist gifted education centre, the George Parkyn Centre, and with it, the innovative One Day School programme. Her current staff also taught in this programme and were involved in the Centre’s many other activities before joining her in setting up REACH Education to focus on professional development.
Almost all of this work has been without government funding and thus at times very difficult to maintain, but “when you see how many of these children are so unhappy, you have to respond and to keep going”.
Now the Government’s “perfect timing” means there is a much better chance of ensuring school can more readily access professional development in this field, while the award itself – the US NAGC Professional Development Network Award – provides schools with an assurance of top quality in what is being offered.