Gifted children policy bid

Wakatipu High School needs to develop a more coherent policy for its gifted and talented pupils, principal Steve Hall says, after a report slammed the only identification method as ''invalid''.

Mr Hall said it was no surprise the ''Review of Gifted and Talented Provisions at Wakatipu High School'' was ''frank and strong'' because the Education Review Office told the school twice it needed to look at its gifted and talented area.

Dr Janna Wardman, of the Education Faculty of the University of Auckland, was commissioned by the board of trustees and her report was posted on the school's website.

Dr Wardman said her general impression of pupils in the decile 10 school was ''one of harmony. In contrast is the perception of the staff regarding the area of gifted.

''There is a climate of mistrust, based on lack of information and lack of confidence in the current systems.

''There is no openness or clarity in procedures and policies surrounding the gifted programme.''

Dr Wardman found teachers had no knowledge of pupils' abilities outside their own department and had difficulty identifying who the bright pupils were.

There was no school-wide policy of identification and the lack of criteria transparency for selection ''gives rise to speculation and myth'', she said.

The reviewer was concerned so many bright pupils were ''accelerated'', often by two years, in addition to the lack of testing.

''Many participants related personal experiences of students at WHS who had crumpled socially, emotionally and academically under the combined pressure of acceleration in several subjects and other commitments,'' Dr Wardman said.

Mr Hall said a balance had to be struck over accelerating pupils as many valued the ability, ''but we need to look at our testing, our criteria and our consultation because while it's a positive thing there are definitely bits we have not got right.''

There were 92 pupils who were accelerated in one or more subjects out of about 700 pupils at Wakatipu High. An extra seven pupils were inherited from primary schools and were already accelerated.

''The reviewer makes comment that that is a lot,'' Mr Hall said.

''Her main point is that we should use a range of standardised tests and we need to have transparent thresholds and criteria that are used off that data to make gifted and talented decisions.''

The gifted and talented review committee met last week and decided most of the recommendations from the report were its responsibility.

It also decided the recommendation regarding reviewing all existing accelerated pupils was its first priority, with pupil wellbeing as the key driver. The process has begun and parents of accelerated pupils will be contacted by the school in the next few weeks.

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