Conclusion

The schools in this evaluation were at various stages in their provision. Many had established a shared understanding of gifted and talented education (GATE), and had implemented programmes that were beneficial to gifted and talented students. A few schools were just beginning to make special provision for gifted and talented students.

School leaders were enthusiastic about supporting the achievement of gifted and talented students in just over half the schools. This foundation was beneficial to the GATE provision in their schools. Almost half of the schools had inclusive and appropriate definitions and identification processes, and responsive and appropriate provision and programmes for gifted and talented students. Almost a quarter of schools had developed processes for reviewing the effectiveness of their provision. Nearly half the schools promoted positive outcomes for identified gifted and talented students.

The findings from this evaluation highlight three main stages for schools in providing good quality programmes for gifted and talented students. These are:

  • a shared understanding about gifted and talented;
  • good quality provision for gifted and talented; and
  • positive outcomes for gifted and talented.

Shared understanding about gifted and talented

ERO found that five factors contributed to the establishment of a shared understanding about gifted and talented in a school and its community. These factors were:

  • leadership;
  • policies and procedures;
  • professional development;
  • resourcing; and
  • community involvement.

Three of these areas presented particular challenges to schools when it came to developing a shared understanding: sustaining leadership, school‑wide professional development, and community involvement.

Leadership

In schools where ERO found good practice, there was strong leadership for gifted and talented education, either by a designated coordinator or a team knowledgeable and enthusiastic about gifted and talented education.

However, strong leadership for gifted and talented education remained a challenge for many schools. Many schools did not have a person who knew about gifted and talented education and was prepared to drive it. There remained a challenge of sustaining momentum in their provision if a dedicated person left the school.

Policies and procedures

Policies and procedures, developed in conjunction with the school community, that outlined the school’s understanding of provision for gifted and talented students gave useful guidance for all members of the school community about the definition and identification of gifted and talented students and programmes and provision for them.

Professional development

In schools where ERO found good practice, school personnel had participated in school‑wide professional development about gifted and talented education and relevant teaching and learning strategies to provide appropriate differentiation in the classroom. However, in most schools there was little or no participation in professional development about gifted and talented education.

Resourcing

Part of embedding provision for gifted and talented students in a school was the designation of a specific budget for gifted and talented education. It is important for the board to be aware of the benefits of providing this budget, and school leadership can promote this awareness through their self‑review processes and in how they show achievement and progress of gifted and talented students.

Community involvement

Communicating, consulting and collaborating with parents, whānau and the school community was an important part of developing policies and procedures, and defining and identifying gifted and talented students. It was integral to creating a shared understanding about what giftedness and talent meant, reflecting community diversity.

However involving parents, whānau and the school community was a challenge for most schools. When parents, whānau, and the community did not have an appropriate understanding of the characteristics of gifted and talented students there was little support for provision for them in the school and the wider community.

Good quality provision for gifted and talented

ERO found five factors that contributed to good quality provision for gifted and talented students:

  • identifying and meeting needs;
  • reflecting diversity;
  • providing challenging in-class provision;
  • assessment; and
  • self review.

Three of these areas were a particular challenge for schools: reflecting diversity, providing challenging in‑class provision, and self review.

Identifying and meeting needs

Good procedures for identifying gifted and talented students included multiple sources and methods. These were multi‑categorical, incorporated Māori and other cultural ways of identifying giftedness and talent, and identified students at all year levels and from a range of gifts and talents. Good quality provision began in the regular classroom, and out-of-class provision was linked back to the regular classroom programme.

In schools where ERO found very good practice, schools sought and included information from, and provided information to, education institutions such as early childhood services, primary, intermediate, and secondary schools and beyond. When clusters of educational institutions worked together to share knowledge and to provide consistency in provision, schools were better informed about the gifts and talents of their students.

Reflecting diversity

Gifted and talented students represent a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds and ages, and a multiplicity of gifts and talents. Schools’ definitions and identification processes, as well their provision, should reflect this diversity. Community consultation and promoting understanding and participation were part of ensuring that the school was providing for all its gifted and talented students.

However, ERO found for most schools providing for this diversity was a challenge. Some schools did not recognise gifts and talents beyond the traditional academic and sporting, and often provision was limited to Years 4 to 10. Many schools had not met with parents and whānau of their Māori and other non-Pākehā students to develop a broader understanding of concepts about gifted and talented.

Providing challenging in-class provision

Providing challenge in the regular classroom was an important feature of good quality provision. Students at schools where ERO found good practice reported that their teachers challenged them to think, question, and solve problems, and to challenge themselves and their beliefs about their abilities. However, many classroom teachers did not have a good understanding about providing for gifted and talented students in the regular classroom or the teaching strategy needed for these students.

Assessment

Developing achievable and measurable outcomes for all areas of giftedness and talent allowed teachers to show appropriate achievement and progress. This was particularly important for developing next steps and maintaining challenges for students. To do so, teachers, parents and students worked together to identify and set goals for students’ development of their gifts and talents. These goals were measurable in tests, performances, or development of skills and ability.

Self review

By reviewing the effectiveness of their provision, schools could make sure that their programmes for gifted and talented students were appropriate and effective. When teachers could show that students were making progress and achieving positive outcomes they were more likely to get the support of the board and parents for the ongoing provision for gifted and talented students.

Self‑review processes were developed only somewhat or not at all in almost all schools. Most of these schools lacked any sort of system of self review, or any review was based on anecdotal evidence only, and was mostly about students’ enjoyment rather than other outcomes for the students. The lack of a school self‑review culture hindered schools’ ability to ascertain how well they were providing for gifted and talented students.

Positive outcomes for gifted and talented

ERO found four factors that contributed to positive outcomes for gifted and talented students:

  • valuing of gifts and talents and using them to benefit others;
  • achievement and progress;
  • pastoral care and social and emotional wellbeing; and
  • involving parents, whānau and community.

Three of these areas were a particular challenge for schools when it came to promoting positive outcomes for gifted and talented students: achievement and progress, social and emotional wellbeing, and involving parents, whānau and community.

Valuing of gifts and talents and using them to benefit others

In schools where ERO found good practice, students felt that their gifts and talents were valued, fostered, and developed by their teachers. At these schools, there was a culture of celebrating success and sharing gifts and talents with others. In doing so, however, schools did face the challenge of ensuring students’ gifts and talents were not used in such a way as to disadvantage the student themselves at the expense of benefiting others.

Achievement and progress

The use of both summative and formative assessment to encourage and demonstrate students’ achievement and progress was an important aspect in promoting positive outcomes for gifted and talented students. Teachers’ use of good assessment practices and achievement information across the variety of gifts and talents, as well as the teacher’s own professional judgement, helped identify students’ next steps for learning. This information was used to improve programmes, and to report to the board and community.

However, only some schools were able to demonstrate gifted and talented students’ achievement and progress from a range of assessment information. Many students were not given feedback that allowed them to develop their gifts or talents.

Pastoral care and social and emotional wellbeing

Many schools had good pastoral care systems to nurture the social and emotional needs of gifted and talented students. At some schools, teachers had participated in professional development to develop their awareness of these specific social and emotional needs.

In other schools, ERO found little recognition of the specific social and emotional needs of these students, and their pastoral care was as for all students at the school. Often students were not given classwork that was differentiated for content, process, and product, and this meant they were not engaged, and could be bored, frustrated, or disruptive.

Involving parents, whānau and community

School leadership and teachers at some schools had meaningful communication with the parents and whānau of gifted and talented students, and the wider school community. Where ERO found good practice, schools had implemented a variety of practices to foster holistic wellbeing and to promote ongoing learning partnerships between teachers, parents, whānau, and students.

The main challenges for many schools were to foster discussions between the school personnel, parents and whānau about the cultural, spiritual, emotional, and social wellbeing of gifted and talented students; and for students to have more input into the direction or focus of their learning.