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Professionals in education praise support package for gifted learners

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The support package for gifted students in New Zealand couldn’t have come any sooner, according to the Co-Chairperson of giftEDnz: The Professional Association for Gifted Education, Dr Nadine Ballam, a Senior Lecturer at Waikato University. "This is the first substantial funding directed at gifted learners in over a decade and confirms a commitment from government to providing a continuum of opportunities for identifying and developing talent in schools."

The support package targets programmes and awards for gifted students, including one day a week and online programmes. Ballam, whose research explores gifted learners from low-income families, explains that the new initiatives are important in achieving equity of access and opportunity for gifted learners to engage with other like-minds, not only in their classrooms and schools, but in their communities. "Students’ sense of self, place, and belonging are critical enablers of ability and talent development in a range of different educational settings."

Board representative on the Ministry of Education Advisory Group, Associate Professor Tracy Riley, Massey University, believes that teachers and other professionals need to understand giftedness, how to identify it and how to select appropriate programmes that will develop students’ potential strengths and interests. Riley emphasises the importance of teachers being able to network and learn together. "Being a member of a professional association like ours gives teachers and schools access to a community of practice, which we are reinvigorating through our newly developed website,"

But the development of in-depth specialist knowledge and skills, Ballam warns, requires more than networking, workshops and one-off events. "As advocates for professionals, while we are delighted with these initiatives, we would like to remind the Minister of the need to support ongoing, sustainable professional development and teacher study awards for advanced learning opportunities."

The professional association is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and Is adding today’s announcement to its celebrations. To the pundits who may question the need for support for gifted learners, Ballam says, "Let them eat cake! Seriously, come join us on 9 March when we will celebrate and also be talking about gifted identity from a range of perspectives, including visiting scholar Prof Debbie Clelland from Alder University in Vancouver."

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