School for gifted children may close

A programme for advanced school children in Dunedin may be forced to close because of staffing and administration issues.

Emails leaked to the Otago Daily Times show Pakiki Kids, a programme run in partnership with the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education, faces closure at the end of the year.

It is understood the expected departure of several key staff members is behind the potential closure.

The programme, administered by the Dunedin Gifted Kids Charitable Trust, is based at Northeast Valley Normal School and has a roll of up to 48 pupils.

It has been offering advanced tutorials for Dunedin pupils from years 3-6 since 2011, taking enrolled pupils for one day each week.

A submission outlining restructuring proposals was made by the programme's administrator to the trust in an effort to keep the service operating next year and beyond.

However, the trust's response indicated it either did not support the proposal or was not fully committed to ensuring a future for the programme, the email to parents and caregivers said.

Pakiki Kids is overseen by a paid administrator, the trust and a steering committee made up of principals, teachers and parents.

The national centre provides the curriculum and enrolment scheme.

The programme is funded by donations from parents and a percentage of Government bulk funding provided to the 12 participating primary schools.

A parent of an enrolled pupil, who did not wish to be named, said he was concerned about what the closure would mean for his 9-year-old daughter.

She had been attending the school for two years, he said.

''It's disappointing - my daughter needs that extra challenge.

''There's nowhere else [she could go]. The only solution, really, is for us to pick up the slack ourselves.''

The concerned parent said the school not only offered extra tutorial for advanced children but also a more appropriate environment.

''My daughter finds she has to dumb herself down at school to fit in.

''Because of her greater intuition, she's got different interests to other children. She fits in better [at Pakiki Kids].''

The programme's administrator, Tor Devereux, said the leaked emails were intended only for parents and caregivers, and she was disappointed they had been passed on to media.

The measures proposed to keep the programme operating included appointing volunteers to a new board of trustees, and combining the paid administrator and volunteer manager roles to form a new paid co-ordinator role.

However, the opposition from the trust to the submission meant following through with the proposal would have been too difficult, the emails said. Gifted Kids Charitable Trust chairwoman

and steering committee member Susan Scharpf could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A spokesman for the New Zealand Centre of Gifted Education said the school was independently run and the centre could make no comment on the school's future.

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