Findings

School leadership

What did ERO ask?

How well does the school leadership support the achievement of gifted and talented students?

Why did ERO ask this question?

Gifted and talented students’ achievement and progress is likely to be enhanced if schools make effective decisions, and organise people and resources to implement appropriate educational programmes. Embedding the provision for gifted and talented students in school policies and practice makes it sustainable rather than tenuous.

Indicators of good practice

To evaluate how well school leadership supported the achievement of gifted and talented students ERO looked for evidence that:

  • the provision of gifted and talented education was embedded in school culture and practice;
  • there was a school‑wide shared understanding about gifted and talented education;
  • there was regular communication, consultation, and collaboration amongst all members of the school community, including staff, parents, whānau, students, and the wider community; [11]
  • the school had good quality policies, procedures or plans for gifted and talented education;
  • there was leadership for the provision of gifted and talented education, for example principal, designated coordinator or team;
  • the school was building capability through a planned approach to school‑wide and ongoing professional development and performance management; and
  • gifted and talented education was well resourced through informed decision‑making about staffing, funding, and programmes.

What ERO found

Figure 1 shows that school leadership for the provision of GATE was highly supportive or supportive in over half the schools (58 percent). In 42 percent of schools, leadership was either somewhat or not supportive of the provision of GATE.

Figure 1: Support from school leadership

This is a bar graph. The y axis is called percent of schools and is ranged from 0-100 at intervals of 20. The x axis has four labels they are highly supportive 18%, Supportive 40%, Somewhat supportive 31% and Not supportive 11%

Discussion

The following sections discuss the strengths and challenges for schools in supporting the achievement of gifted and talented information, in relation to each of the indicators of good practice.

Leadership of provision for gifted and talented students

Over half the schools had good leadership for the provision of gifted and talented education (GATE). Either a GATE coordinator or a GATE team was responsible for leading this provision in most of these schools. In the remaining schools, the principal or deputy principal usually took on the responsibility.

Successful leadership was characterised by enthusiasm and good organisational abilities. Leaders had support from the school’s board of trustees, and senior management team. There were also good strategies for implementing GATE and adequate resourcing such as staffing, funding, space, and time. Where ERO found very good practice, designated coordinators and teams worked extensively with other staff. These leaders had strong knowledge of, and interest, skill, and passion for providing for gifted and talented students.

Two teachers worked as a team, coordinating and leading the school in providing for gifted and talented students. They had considerable experience working with gifted and talented students as well as participation in professional development initiatives over the years. They worked together in the past in an organisation catering for gifted and talented students. One of the coordinators was the deputy principal and, in that role, worked alongside individual teachers supporting them – including strategies and resources to cater for gifted and talented students.

The main challenge for this group of schools was sustaining momentum. Some schools had had experienced GATE leaders leaving the school, either permanently or temporarily. Even when good policies and procedures were in place, if a strong school‑wide understanding was missing in the school and its community it was hard for the leaders to maintain good practices.

Schools varied in how effectively GATE was led. Some schools had a specific GATE coordinator or a GATE team responsible for leading this provision, and the remaining schools had no one responsible for GATE.

In some schools the GATE leader had been designated only recently, and the knowledge and skills of that person were not yet developed, or the school lacked well‑conceived policies and procedures for the person to implement. This meant that any action taken was limited and there was inadequate support for other teachers wishing to implement GATE programmes. In some of these schools the departure of key staff had meant the loss of vital knowledge and skills.

Seven staff made up the gifted and talented team for the school. Of those seven, only two remain, with one being the principal. The challenge was to grow this capacity again and for this team to assume responsibilities for GATE.

Shared understanding and school culture

In some schools, the provision of GATE was embedded in school culture, and there was a school‑wide, shared understanding of GATE. Good quality policies and strong expectations of teachers were established. The provision for gifted and talented students was included in the school’s strategic direction. ERO found a tangible commitment amongst staff, and GATE was an intrinsic part of the school’s culture. Most teachers had a full understanding of GATE and this was fostered through professional development and internal review of their provision.

The student centred nature of the school meant that the provision for gifted and talented students was intrinsic to the culture, and the learning and teaching practice in the school.

In most schools, the provision of GATE was not yet well embedded and school‑wide understanding of GATE was limited. Teachers were just starting to think about the implications for their school. Providing for gifted and talented students had either not been a priority at the school, or there was a fragmented approach, evident only in some classrooms or learning areas.

In most of these schools, there was a need to build a greater conceptual understanding and common philosophy about GATE and its place in the regular classroom. In a few schools, there was a need to challenge teachers’ predetermined expectations, for example, when student behaviour did not always match characteristics of gifted and talented students, or there was a much greater focus on students with special educational needs.

Policies, procedures and plans

About half the schools had good quality policies, procedures, or plans for GATE. These included a clearly documented philosophy, guidelines for teachers, a clear rationale and strategies for providing differentiated learning, appropriate emotional and social support, and action plans for implementing provision. There were principles and concepts guiding GATE, as well as documented school planning that was reviewed and implemented.

There were several challenges for these schools. Teachers needed ongoing support to implement strategies outlines in policies and procedures, particularly differentiated teaching in the classroom. School policies lacked a focus on personalising learning for individual gifted and talented students preferring to match them to existing programmes.

The other half of the schools lacked good quality policies, procedures, or plans for GATE. Many had no policy for providing for gifted and talented students, or policy was either outdated or not used. There was often a lack of commitment from the school leadership to implement policies. Some schools that had a policy relied on one that had been developed by a local cluster group, and this did not reflect their particular school situation. Other policies were simply an act of compliance with the NAG, and the school’s policies did not match what was actually happening in practice.

Professional development

Some schools were building capability through a planned approach to professional development about GATE. Professional development included topics on identification, differentiation, pedagogy, inquiry-based and cooperative learning, social and emotional needs, and how learning difficulties may mask giftedness. Gifted and talented coordinators and/or teams participated in ongoing professional development, often working closely with external advisers, and undertaking tertiary level courses specialising in GATE. They disseminated this additional learning to their colleagues. Teachers at almost two-thirds of these schools had participated in school‑wide professional development, and many new staff benefited from prompt induction about the school’s GATE expectations. At schools where ERO found very good practice, the school leadership set a clear direction about building teacher capability to meet the needs of gifted and talented students in the classroom programme.

Teachers have been involved in professional development initiatives that have the potential to benefit gifted and talented students – training in ICT, gifted and talented education, thinking skills, integrated curriculum, learning pathway model and higher order questioning. The gifted and talented contract was with an external facilitator, funded by the board, who worked with staff to increase their understanding of the nature of what being gifted and talented entailed and build their capability to identify gifted and talented students. This professional development also helped senior managers to compile the gifted and talented policy and guidelines. Lead teachers from this Ministry of Education training contract received ongoing professional development.

The main challenge facing these schools was staff turnover and keeping all teachers’ skills updated. This highlighted the need for ongoing professional development in GATE in the face of competing professional development priorities. Even with professional development, staff needed to have confidence and guidance to implement new strategies in the classroom, and to take risks in identifying gifted students with learning difficulties or who were not demonstrating their potential.

Many schools did not take a planned approach to building capability through professional development in gifted and talented education. Most of these schools had prioritised other professional development that used teacher release time and funding. A third had not undertaken any gifted and talented professional development, and said that to provide school-wide professional development was a huge challenge. While a very few of these schools had offered professional development in GATE to all teachers, they had found it a challenge to maintain any ongoing training. When teachers with expertise left the school this created a knowledge gap.

GATE coordinators or teams in some of these schools had undertaken relevant professional development, but often this was not disseminated to the rest of the teachers, and consequently not embedded in teaching practice.

Provisions for gifted and talented students were largely informal. The next step was to formalise this process by developing a plan for school‑wide and ongoing professional development. This particularly needed to be done to increase teacher skills and knowledge to provide for students’ diverse learning needs with their class programmes.

Informed decision-making

At some schools, GATE was well resourced through informed decision‑making about staffing, funding, and programmes. Provision for gifted and talented students was prioritised in school planning, and the board tagged funding for resourcing. Some of these schools also made good use of Ministry of Education funding such as the Education Development Initiative, Extending High Standards Across Schools, and GATE contracts. As well as providing space for out-of-classroom provision, funding was used to release teachers for professional development, to resource specialist programmes, and to employ specialist teachers and teacher aides. Decisions to direct resources to GATE were made on the basis of well-informed debate and discussion.

In the past, specialist staff ran withdrawal programmes. However, as a result of professional development and discussion with staff we rearranged the timetable and made provision through release time and cover for other staff members with particular strengths to run these out-of-class programmes. The curriculum areas involved covered any budget requirements. (Self reported)

Specialist teachers, who were not timetabled to teach their specialist programme, released class teachers so they could facilitate withdrawal programmes. Class teachers were also released to coach at sport events and Super Art events. The coordinator held a non-teaching position. Space was used as it was available when a specialist or class teacher was not in a particular teaching space, staffroom, or learning support room. A specific budget supported gifted and talented learning programmes: the purchase of equipment, materials, payment of fees, registrations and entry fees, and books to support teachers. (Self reported)

However, the ongoing resourcing of gifted and talented provision was a constant challenge for these schools. For small or rural schools there was the challenge of finding specialists to run out-of-class programmes. The challenge for schools who had benefited from Ministry of Education funding was to sustain their programmes through their operational funding or through sponsorship.

In most schools, decisions made on GATE resourcing (staffing, funding, and programmes) were not well informed. At many of these schools there was no specific budget for gifted and talented provision, and only a few schools allocated management units and time allowances specifically for GATE. Some funding was directed towards providing for those gifted in sports or for students to attend off-site programmes. For other schools, there was a tension in terms of the availability of time to instigate effective programmes, particularly where teacher release time was necessary. However, some schools saw no need to resource gifted and talented provision, reflecting little understanding of their responsibilities to NAG 1 (iii)(c).

Communication, consultation and collaboration

Some schools regularly communicated, consulted, and collaborated with all members of the school community, including staff, parents, whānau, students, and the wider community about their provisions for gifted and talented students. Gifted and talented coordinators and teams disseminated information not only to teaching staff, but also to their wider school community. They held individual conversations with parents of gifted and talented students, published newsletters and pānui to all parents, reported regularly to the board of trustees, and made good use of parents and experts in the community. Where ERO found very good practice, staff responsible for gifted and talented education were committed to educating parents about GATE, for example, by holding parent information evenings.

Consultation was multi-faceted. Parents had had the opportunity to participate in a review of the gifted and talented policy. The school communicated through portfolio entries, displays around the school, letters to parents, interview between parents and the gifted and talented coordinator. Other opportunities for sharing what was happening around the school included parent involvement with programmes, regular shows and presentations, and celebrating achievement and success through newsletters and the school website.

There were two main challenges for these schools when it came to communicating with their parent community: communicating the school’s particular philosophy about GATE; and consulting parents from diverse cultures.

The challenges for school leadership revolved around the tension between providing in‑class support and out-of-classroom extension programmes.

The challenge was consultation with parents/whānau about GATE in this growing multi-cultural school so that relevant aspects of students’ cultures and thinking were valued and reflected in provisions for gifted and talented students.

The majority of schools did not communicate, consult, or collaborate on GATE with all members of their school community. At many of these schools, consultation was limited to the teachers and parents of identified gifted and talented students. However, even the parents consulted wanted to be more actively involved, and it was clear that there was a lack of consultation with different groups in the community, for example, Māori whānau and/or Pacific parents, to discover and incorporate their concepts of giftedness. At other schools there was no communication with parents or others in the school community. School leaders and board members lacked the skills or desire to consult or elicit responses from a variety of parents. At schools where gifted and talented provision was in place, students were not consulted about programmes that were being implemented.

The deputy principal did not see the value in wider community consultation when reviewing policy, practice or procedures for GATE.

Although there was a shared staff view of what gifted and talented meant, there hadn’t been consultation with the school community about what gifted and talented meant to parents and whānau.

Key findings

Schools with supportive school leadership for GATE:

  • had a designated GATE coordinator or team, supported by a dedicated principal, senior management team, and board of trustees; and
  • had developed a school‑wide understanding of GATE through well‑developed policies and procedures, and relevant staff professional development.

The majority of schools:

  • did not have a shared understanding of GATE;
  • had not participated in appropriate professional development; and
  • resourcing for GATE was not well informed or planned.

For almost all schools, the main challenges were:

  • regularly communicating, consulting, and collaborating with all members of the school community; and
  • competing priorities for professional development, resourcing, and teacher release time.

Defining and identifying giftedness and talent

What did ERO ask?

How inclusive and appropriate are the school’s processes for defining and identifying giftedness and talent?

Why did ERO ask this question?

Gifted and talented students represent diverse ethnic backgrounds and ages, with a multiplicity of gifts and talents. Concepts of giftedness and talent vary across cultures. Schools’ definitions and ways of identifying should reflect the beliefs, values, attitudes, and customs of the school community.

Indicators of good practice

To evaluate how inclusive and appropriate schools’ processes were for defining and identifying giftedness ERO looked for evidence that:

the school’s definition of giftedness and talent:

  • reflected the context and values of the school community;
  • was multi-categorical;
  • incorporated Māori concepts;
  • incorporated multicultural concepts; and
  • was grounded in sound research and theories.

the school’s identification process:

  • was multi-categorical;.
  • included Māori theories and knowledge;
  • included multi-culturally appropriate methods;
  • included both informal and formal identification;
  • included triangulation;
  • was early and timely;
  • was ongoing, covered transition points and ensured continuity; and
  • included potential and actual/demonstrated performance.

students identified as gifted and talented reflected the diversity of the school population;

policies and procedures had been developed in consultation with the wider school community; and

there was regular communication, consultation and collaboration amongst all members of the school community.

What ERO found

Figure 2 shows that the definition of, and identification process for, gifted and talented students were highly inclusive and appropriate in only five percent of schools, with a further 40 percent being inclusive and appropriate. In 55 percent of schools, their definition and identification process was either somewhat, or not, inclusive and appropriate.

Figure 2: Inclusive and appropriate definition and identification

This is a bar graph. The y axis is called percent of schools and is ranged from 0-100 at intervals of 20.  The x axis has four labels which are highly inclusive and appropriate 5%, Inclusive and appropriate 40%, Somewhat inclusive and appropriate 32% and Not inclusive and appropriate 23%.

Discussion

The following sections discuss the strengths and challenges for schools in defining and identifying gifted and talented students, in relation to each of the indicators of good practice.

Definition

Context and values of school community

Definitions of giftedness and talents reflected the context and values of the school community in just under half the schools. The definition reflected the special character or philosophy of the school, and focused on providing an holistic education; one that reflected gifted and talented students’ spiritual, physical and intellectual capabilities.

In the remaining schools, the context and values of the school community were not reflected in their definition of giftedness and talent. Some of these schools did not have a definition, but for those that did, there was often only a reference to a concept or theory and no practical application to their own school community. Teachers at these schools had yet to consider theory-based definitions in light of what these meant for their own school philosophy and community.

Multi-categorical definitions

Definitions in half the schools included recognition of the multi-categorical nature of giftedness and talent. These definitions were broad and inclusive, and reflected the schools’ values. Behavioural and spiritual aspects were acknowledged, as was the possibility of gifted and talented students underachieving. In schools where ERO found very good practice, culturally‑based gifts and talents were well defined.

In the remaining half of the schools, there was little or no recognition of multiple categories of giftedness and talent. While some recognised different types of gifts and talents, there was little acknowledgement of attributes, characteristics, or domains such as leadership or cultural abilities. Staff at many of these schools had not participated in professional development about gifted and talented education, and this limited their understanding of the need to be inclusive, and hence reflect this in their definition.

Incorporates Māori and multi-cultural concepts

Some schools incorporated Māori or multi-cultural concepts of giftedness and talents in their definition. Many of these schools had high proportions of Māori and/or non‑Pākehā students on their roll, and their definition reflected the multi-cultural context of the school population. They had consulted the different ethnic groups in the school community about what they considered giftedness and talents meant in this context. In particular, to make sure their definition was inclusive and valued Māori and other groups’ concepts of giftedness, they had drawn on the work of academic researchers such as Jill Bevan‑Brown and Cecylia Rymarczyk Hyde. [12]

The majority of schools did not adequately take into account Māori or multi‑cultural concepts in their definition of giftedness and talent. Most of these schools had not considered Māori or multi-cultural concepts of giftedness and had not established school‑whānau networks to help them understand and incorporate these concepts. In some schools, Māori beliefs and perspectives were included in definitions, but there was little practical application of these in programmes or in strategies for delivery.

The policy included mention of Māori concepts, but the action to meet this was to have kapa haka at the school, which was for all students and an expected part of school life.

The rapidly increasing multi-cultural nature of the school’s students and community was not reflected in what lay behind their definition. The teachers lacked an awareness of cultural diversity when identifying and providing for gifted and talented students.

Grounded in research and theories

Some schools grounded their definition in sound research and current theories about gifted and talented education. The starting point for many of these schools was Ministry of Education publications. However, they had moved further afield, exploring theories, for example, Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences, Renzulli’s Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness, and Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Gifted and Talent. [13] For some of these schools, it was still a challenge to ensure that all teachers were aware of, and understood, these theories and their practical implications.

Most schools did not base their definition on sound research and theories about giftedness and talent. Teachers at these schools did not have a broad understanding of current theories, and many had not moved beyond considering Ministry of Education publications. Often there had been little or no relevant professional development, and definitions had been borrowed from another school with little recognition of how these may or may not have reflected their own schools.

Identification

Multi-categorical process

Just under half the schools had an identification process that was multi-categorical. In these schools procedures were set up to identify a wide range of gifts and talents across multiple domains and dimensions – including sporting, leadership, creativity, visual and performing arts, academic, language, intellectual, thinking, ICT, spirituality, cultural specific, and social. Staff were open-minded about what constituted gifted and talented, and actual practice reflected this belief, for example, written procedures had been developed for identifying gifted and talented students.

The remaining schools were not able to identify students across multiple categories of giftedness and talent. If these schools had an identification process, it was often limited to one category such as academic, sporting, or arts. There was often a lack of underlying criteria to identify gifted and talented students, and if there were criteria, these were often not put into practice by teachers.

Inclusiveness of Māori and multi-cultural theories and methods

A few schools included Māori theories and knowledge (15 percent) or multi‑culturally appropriate methods (12 percent) in their identification process. In most of these schools, staff had sought to increase their knowledge of what Māori and non-Pākehā ethnic groups in their school community perceived giftedness and talent to mean. Where ERO found very good practice, gifted and talented identification procedures were strongly inclusive of Māori and other cultural dimensions. Staff had consulted parents, whānau and the wider Māori and non‑Pākehā community, using interpreters where appropriate, to actively involve these groups.

The identification process was developed to identify students that had a variety of abilities. More qualities of giftedness were identified as a result of meetings with Māori, Tongan and Samoan parents.

Almost all of the schools did not include Māori theories and knowledge or multi‑culturally appropriate methods in their identification process. The challenge for these schools was to acknowledge and include Māori and multi-cultural themes, knowledge, understanding and values relating to giftedness and talent in their school practices. Many of these schools had not met with parents and whānau of their Māori and other non-Pākehā students to develop a broader understanding of concepts about gifts and talents beyond, for example, kapa haka, dance, and music. A consequence of this lack of action was an under-representation of Māori and other non-Pākehā students on their school‑wide gifted and talented registers.

Formal and informal identification, triangulation, potential and demonstrated

Some schools drew on both formal and informal methods of identification, made decisions based on multiple sources (triangulation), rather than just one or two methods, and included both potential and actual or demonstrated performance in a gift or talent.

Formal and informal methods included:

  • teacher checklists of characteristics;
  • observation by teachers;
  • standardised testing and other teacher-made assessment;
  • use of portfolios;
  • use of previous school information;
  • parent nomination;
  • peer nomination; and
  • self nomination (for example using self awareness forms).

These methods were written into procedures for all teachers to follow. Staff used a variety of ways of identifying students to create an holistic picture of a student’s possible gifts and talents. This multiple-method approach also helped teachers to identify both potential and demonstrated gifts and talents. Teachers were encouraged to look beyond the obvious and consider students with learning difficulties or those who were not achieving to expected levels. However, responsiveness to parent and student input remained a challenge for these schools.

Most schools did not use either formal or informal methods, failed to triangulate findings, and did not consider both potential and demonstrated performance when making a decision about giftedness and talents. Many of this group of schools had not established any formal school‑wide processes to identify gifted and talented students. Others were beginning to formalise processes, but lacked consistency across teacher practice.

The main methods of identification used were standardised testing in literacy and mathematics, and teachers’ own professional judgement. A dependence on testing as a means of identification did not allow for the recognition of potential, particularly for ESL, [14] uncooperative, uninterested, or underachieving students. Teachers’ professional judgement was often hindered by a lack of professional development to further their understanding of giftedness and talent. There was little parent or student input into identification and, at schools where this was apparent, it was very informal and not practised across the school.

The school was increasing opportunities for parent/whānau referral. However the input from parents was limited. Other than a discussion at the time students enrolled, parent nominations were not sought. Including student referral had not been considered.

Early and ongoing identification

Some schools had a process that enabled gifted and talented students to be identified early in their time at the school that ensured continuity and coverage at transition points, such as entry into and exit from the school. Teachers followed processes, which helped make sure that they thought about the identification of gifted and talented students throughout the school year, and in all year levels at the school. Gifted and talented coordinators at primary schools worked, in particular, with teachers of Year 1 and 2 students to make sure they were knowledgeable about identifying gifted and talented students. Tracking of gifted and talented students on registers from one year to the next and during transitions between early childhood services and schools ensured a continuity of understanding about individual student needs and strategies to support them. However, ERO found that many of these schools were still reluctant to value other educational institutions’ knowledge and judgement.

In Term 1 each teacher completed a gifted and talented identification form using an initial checklist, and then six weeks later a more in depth check of those students who featured strongly on the initial checklist. This time lag was so teachers were more familiar with their students’ capabilities, their personalities and attitudes to work and social interactions.

Most schools were not identifying gifted and talented students early enough in their time at the school, nor were they doing so on an ongoing basis. Similarly, these schools were also not ensuring continuity and coverage of transition points. The main challenges were having processes to identify gifted and talented students early on in their time at the school and, in primary schools, to identify gifted and talented students in Years 1 and 2. Many of these schools lacked links with early childhood services and other schools to gather (and pass on) existing knowledge about gifted and talented students. A lack of professional development hindered teachers of Year 1 and 2 students from being able to identify their students as gifted and talented - the school relied on standardised testing rather than multiple methods such as also using teacher observation and checklists of behavioural characteristics.

Reflecting diversity in identification

Identified gifted and talented students reflected the diversity of the school population at just under half the schools. This diversity included ethnicity, year levels, gender, and curriculum areas. Even where schools were largely mono-cultural, Māori, Pacific and Asian students, for example, were identified as gifted and talented. In schools where ERO found very good practice, there was also a good mix of identified students who were underachieving, excelling, or with learning or behavioural difficulties.

In just over half the schools, students identified as gifted and talented did not reflect the diversity of the school population. At these schools definitions were limited to academic domains, for example, or were not developed in consultation with all parts of the school community.

Policies and procedures, and communication, consultation, and collaboration

A few schools regularly communicated, consulted, and collaborated with all members of the school community about identification and the development of policies and procedures outlining these processes. For these schools, policies and procedures reflected the attributes valued by their community, and there was a shared understanding about provision for gifted and talented students. School leadership was strong and staff were involved in ongoing discussions and development. Where ERO found very good practice, schools had helped parents and whānau build their knowledge about what gifted and talented education meant. Some had used interpreters from the community to communicate better with parents from non‑English speaking backgrounds.

There was good provision for consulting the community and this was being successfully extended. For example there was significant provision for different ethnic groups with interpreters and support for attending meetings to facilitate communication with Samoan and Afghani parents.

Most schools did not regularly communicate, consult, or collaborate with all members of the school community about identification and the development of policies and procedures outlining these processes. As a result, any definition or identification processes did not reflect the perspectives, aspirations and values of the community. Parents and whānau of gifted and talented students were unaware of how the school might be providing for their children, and there were no opportunities for them to increase their understanding of what it meant to be gifted and talented.

At some of these schools, communication and consultation with parents, whānau and the wider school community needed to be strengthened, particularly with early childhood services and other schools’ students were transitioning to and from. Of particular concern was the need to strengthen communication with the parents and whānau of Māori, Pacific, and other ethnic groups. There was little formalising or recording of any communication with parents, and schools were unsure of the nature and impact of consultation.

Key findings

Schools with inclusive and appropriate definitions and identification processes:

  • had mutli‑categorical definitions that reflected the diversity of their community;
  • had a variety of ways of identifying gifted and talented students; and
  • sought and included information from previous educational institutions.

For almost all schools, the main challenges were:

  • developing and putting into practice inclusive and appropriate definitions and identification processes for gifted and talented students;
  • communicating with all members of the school community to develop policies and procedures; and
  • reflecting Māori and multi-cultural concepts in their definitions and identifications processes.

Schools’ programmes and provision for gifted and talented students

What did ERO ask?

How effective is the school’s provision for gifted and talented students?

Why did ERO ask this?

The development of programmes and provision for gifted and talented students that are tailored to individual students’ gifts and talents is crucial. Differentiation in the classroom, and provision beyond the regular classroom, must include content, process, and product changes to be meaningful.

Indicators of good practice

In evaluating how effectively schools provided for gifted and talented students ERO looked for evidence that:

  • there was school-wide coordination of programmes and provision;
  • programmes and provision had been developed in consultation with the wider school community as appropriate;
  • programmes and provision were provided across the curriculum as appropriate;
  • programmes and provision were provided across all areas of giftedness and talent as appropriate;
  • regular classroom programmes were differentiated for content, process, and product; [15]
  • beyond the regular classroom programmes were planned, monitored, evaluated, and reported;
  • off-site programmes were planned, monitored, evaluated, and reported;
  • programmes beyond the regular classroom and off-site had links to the regular classroom programme;
  • a range of assessment information demonstrated the achievement and progress of gifted and talented students;
  • programmes were inclusive of Māori values, tikanga, and pedagogy; and
  • the provision of gifted and talented education was school‑wide.

What ERO found

Figure 3 shows that programmes and provision for gifted and talented students were highly responsive and appropriate in only five percent of schools, with a further 37 percent being responsive and appropriate. In 58 percent of schools, programmes and provision were either somewhat, or not, responsive and appropriate.

Figure 3: Responsive and appropriate programmes and provision

This is a bar graph. The y axis is called percent of schools and is ranged from 0-100 at intervals of 20. The x axis has four labels which are Highly responsive and appropriate 5%, Reponsive and appropriate 37%, Somewhat responsive and appropriate 41% and Not responsive and appropriate 17%.

School‑wide coordination and provision

At almost half the schools there was school‑wide coordination and provision of gifted and talented education. At these schools, there was a capable coordinator or team who ensured that policies were implemented across all year levels of the school. These staff met regularly as a team, or with all staff to discuss the needs of gifted and talented students and their progress. Good practice was characterised by strong coordination of in‑class and out-of-class programmes. School leadership promoted a shared understanding of, and responsibility for, gifted and talented education, particularly through professional development. Coordinators provided useful examples of practice to teaching staff, by modelling and observing differentiated teaching programmes.

The coordinator was active in promoting good practice across the school. She communicated effectively with class teachers about their children, and about students coming into and out of the programmes. She linked her withdrawal programmes to the concept-based curriculum planning the staff use throughout the school.

Just over half the schools were yet to develop a systematic shared, and coordinated approach to their provision. Some schools did not have a person responsible for gifted and talented students, and others lacked policies and procedures to guide teachers’ work. At many of these schools there had either been no professional development related to gifted and talented education, or where there had been, teachers had not developed a shared understanding of GATE.

Classroom teachers lacked a coordinated approach to providing for gifted and talented students. While some schools were adopting an approach to classroom programmes based on inquiry learning and thinking skills, this was not enough to meet the needs of gifted and talented students throughout the school. Where there was provision for gifted and talented students, this was often limited to particular year levels (usually Years 4 to 10) or particular departments in secondary schools.

Consultation with wider school community

Some schools had developed programmes and provision in consultation with their wider school community. There was open communication with parents, whānau, and the community as appropriate. This meant the opportunities for gifted and talented students reflected the aspirations of the school community and resources and expertise available in the community.

Opportunities for gifted and talented students reflected community aspirations. For example, a group of students worked with a film company to make an educational movie for schools on saving dolphins. Also a group of students worked closely with the Department of Conservation on the Learnz project answering questions online from other schools about a local marine reserve.

There were challenges for this group of schools. Students’ contribution to their own learning programmes was an area for improvement, as was establishing better links with other educational institutions, such as early childhood services and other schools. Some schools had difficulty in finding experts in the community to help with their out-of-class provision for gifted and talented students.

Most schools had not consulted their school community about gifted and talented programmes and provision. While some of these schools had responded to individual parent requests, there was no coordinated approach to consulting the wider school community, and therefore school personnel were not making the best use of expertise in the community, nor were they aware of parents’ aspirations so they could develop appropriate programmes. At most of these schools, consultation was inhibited by a lack of school‑wide teacher knowledge about gifted and talented education. This made it difficult for teachers to consult with parents in a well-informed manner.

Cross-curriculum and gifts and talents

Some schools provided gifted and talented programmes across the curriculum, or across most or all areas of giftedness and talent, as appropriate for their students. These schools had provision both in- and out-of-class, based on identified needs of gifted and talented students. The expectations for this were clear and teachers acted on planning to meet the needs of gifted and talented students across the curriculum. Where ERO found very good practice, programmes were designed to meet the needs of all year levels at the school. An extensive register was kept to ensure that appropriate programmes were offered.

This group of schools faced challenges in providing for all types of gifts and talents, and across curriculum areas. The curriculum areas covered by these schools included, but was not limited to:

  • performing and visual arts;
  • English - literacy, writing;
  • ICT;
  • thinking;
  • creativity;
  • languages;
  • leadership;
  • mathematics/numeracy;
  • science;
  • physical education; and
  • social intra- and inter-personal skills.

The rural college was an initiative that was introduced, funded and run by community members. Students of all abilities could apply to enter the college at Year 11. They studied level 2 unit and achievement standards and engaged in practical components at the agricultural training centre. Gifted students could go on and study at higher levels and at university. The local farmers endorsed this programme as it provided a good source of farmers’ labour and expertise.

The gifted and talented education team identified students with writing giftedness through the use of the school’s identification tool. There had been some discussion from a parent meeting that highlighted an interest in providing for students with particular literacy skills. A group of students was brought together weekly from across the regular classes to prepare, contribute, and present a school newspaper. This was circulated across the school and in the local community. Publication was valued as a skill worth pursuing so quality, not quantity determined the number of completed publications. Each publication provided new challenges for the students as roles regularly changed. It was expected that students understood, in some detail, the roles and responsibilities of reporters, photographers, graphic artists and others in preparing a newspaper. Sustainability was built into the programme with staff professional development on effective questioning. All staff were encouraged to ask searching, challenging questions using a school‑wide thinking tool.

The principal initiated the establishment of cultural ambassadors in the school (for example, Māori, Samoan, Afghani students). Nominated students took a key role in welcoming visitors in their first language and in supporting students from their culture in the school. This provided good opportunities for extending leadership skills and for ‘cultural affirmation.’

Most schools did not provide programmes that matched the gifts and talents of their students or, where appropriate, across a variety of curriculum areas. Most of these schools were only providing for academically gifted students. A small number of schools had no provision at all.

In primary schools, provision was predominantly in reading, writing and mathematics, and at secondary level, in English, mathematics and science. At primary level, there was often cross grouping in or across classes based on ability. This partially met the needs of those gifted in literacy and numeracy. At secondary level, core subjects were often streamed or banded and this went some way to meeting the needs of academically gifted students. Some schools also had an arts or sports focus that, although not targeted specifically at gifted and talented students, was partially meeting the needs of these students.

The challenge for these schools was to move beyond acceleration and to undertake assessment early. More importantly, schools needed to broaden the scope of their provision to acknowledge and provide for non-academic gifted and talented students. An additional challenge for secondary schools was to move from a departmental approach to cross-curricular provision to suit multi‑talented students. A lack of systematic ways to define and identify gifted and talented students and a lack of staff knowledge about gifted and talented education often hindered these schools.

Differentiation for content, process, and product

Differentiating classroom programmes for content, process, product includes:

  • what is taught or learned – the concepts, information, ideas, and facts within the curriculum;
  • how the content is taught or learnt – how new material is presented, what activities students are involved in, and what teaching methods are used; and
  • how learning is shown by gifted and talented students – tangible or intangible results of learning, real solutions to real problems. [16] Almost half the schools differentiated regular classroom programmes for content, process, and product. Teachers used a range of strategies to differentiate programmes including:
  • problem solving;
  • thinking and questioning skills;
  • inquiry learning;
  • ability grouping;
  • multi-level tasks;
  • use of ICT;
  • individual challenges or projects for social studies, science, health and technology;
  • open-ended learning centres and investigations;
  • critical and creative thinking;
  • increasing the pace of learning;
  • clearly expressed expectations for outcomes; and
  • opportunities for leadership and responsibility.

Teachers participated in professional development about differentiated programmes, and in syndicate or departmental discussions on how to provide for gifted and talented students in the classroom. There was an understanding that every teacher was a teacher of the gifted and talented, and that the needs of these students had to be met initially in the regular classroom.

There was little or no differentiation of classroom programmes in over half the schools. While at some of these schools, professional development in AToL [17] and inquiry learning was helping teachers to begin to differentiate programmes, the outcomes were variable and/or limited, and there was little in programmes to challenge or provoke student thinking. In some primary schools, there was a belief that cross-grouping for literacy and mathematics was sufficient to meet the needs of gifted and talented students. Similarly, gifted and talented students were provided with “more of the same” rather than differentiated content, process and product. Gifted and talented students expressed dissatisfaction, boredom and frustration at the lack of challenge in their classroom programmes.

Beyond the regular classroom programmes

Some of the schools provided programmes for gifted and talented students beyond the regular classroom and off-site, and planned, monitored, evaluated, and reported on this. A similar number of schools linked these programmes back to the regular classroom programme.

Effective school‑based programmes beyond the regular classroom were planned in such a way as to meet identified needs, and had clear rationale and success criteria for student learning and progress. The planned learning and success criteria were reported to classroom teachers to help ensure continuity. These programmes included lunchtime sessions or special courses such as future problem solving, technology challenges, ICT, enviro-schools, and journalism.

A learning conference on local sustainability was initiated, planned and managed by Year 9 and 10 gifted and talented students. Students invited and thanked guest speakers and parents. Panel discussions were held to debate issues. There were very positive outcomes in terms of information and processing. The one-day conference provided opportunities for planning and managing that really challenged students - many described it as the best thing they had done at school.

The school ran a Philosophy for Children (P4C) critical thinking and problem solving programme that built children’s competencies, skills, and attitudes in a learning community. Children were formally reflecting on the skills they learnt in the programme.

Off-site programmes available to gifted and talented students at these schools were for the most part well planned, monitored and evaluated, and provided opportunities for students to pursue their individual interests and passions. These included provisions such as Te Manu Aute programme in performing and visual arts, the Gifted Kids Programme (GKP) and One Day Schools (ODS), regional, national and international competitions and challenges, courses available through The Correspondence School, leadership conferences, dance and art festivals, and special training or tuition.

Generally, in these schools, there were good links between the programmes and what was happening in the regular classroom. This was strongly associated with teachers participating in gifted and talented professional development that raised their awareness of the ongoing needs of gifted and talented students. However, some of these schools still needed to develop stronger links and improve communication, particularly with ODS and the GKP, to ensure that learning experiences were more meaningful for gifted and talented students.

Two other areas of challenge for these schools were reporting to the board and the community about the value of off-site programmes, and the sourcing of experts from the community to meet the needs of students with culturally-based gifts such as visual and performing arts.

Most schools that had provision for gifted and talented students, beyond the regular classroom and off-site, did not plan, monitor, evaluate, or report appropriately on this provision. Nor did they link it back to the regular classroom programme. In most cases, where students were participating in programmes beyond the regular classroom, few links were made with classroom programmes and, back in the regular environment, skills learnt were not used or enhanced. There was a sense that students who attended ODS and the GKP were gifted and talented for one day only. There was little or no planning to meet their needs at any other time. Often these students were expected to do five days’ worth of classwork in four days.

Assessment information

Some schools used a variety of assessment information to demonstrate the achievement and progress of gifted and talented students. Teachers made good use of achievement information across the curriculum as well as their professional judgement. This achievement information was comprehensive and used to identify next steps for learning for students, improve programmes, and report gifted and talented student achievement and progress to the board and community.

Challenges for these schools included finding ways to measure the impact of non‑academic programmes on gifted and talented student achievement and progress, and improving the information received from ODS and the GKP so teachers could determine progress and the influence of attendance on the regular classroom programme.

Most schools did not use, or used only partially, a variety of assessment information to demonstrate gifted and talented students’ achievement and progress. There was little use of learning intentions and success criteria to determine achievement and progress. At primary level, there was little collection of assessment information beyond literacy and numeracy, and at secondary level, the achievement of gifted and talented students who were not sitting NCEA [18] standards was not well monitored. In addition to this there was little or no reporting of outcomes for gifted and talented students involved in programmes beyond the regular classroom.

Māori values, tikanga and pedagogy

In Gifted and Talented: New Zealand Perspectives, Jill Bevan-Brown outlines six factors pertinent to incorporating Māori values, tikanga and pedagogy into gifted and talented provision. [19] These include:

  • being open to group talent “kotahitanga” and providing opportunities for this talent to be nurtured and developed;
  • providing broad opportunities for gifted and talented Māori students and considering abilities from a Māori perspective, for example, leadership by example or support;
  • taking an holistic approach that is intertwined with Māori concepts of manaakitanga (kindness, hospitality and respect), aroha-ki-te-tangata (love of fellow person), whānaungatanga (familiness), wairua (spirituality), and āwhinatanga (helping, assisting);
  • providing opportunities for gifts and talents to be used to benefit others;
  • providing opportunities to develop talents in a Māori relevant context; and
  • using pedagogy such as cooperative, group, holistic, active and experiential teaching and learning, by providing mentors and role models, and meeting needs in the regular classroom so Māori gifted and talented are not isolated from their peers.

Programmes at only a few schools were inclusive of Māori values, tikanga, and pedagogy. At these schools there was strong support for students with gifts and talents in aspects of Māori culture. There was a strong focus on Māori tikanga, such as whānaungatanga, manaakitanga, and tuakana-teina. Opportunities were provided at school and marae for those with gifts and talents in te reo, ngā mahi-a-rehia, [20] and taiaha. [21]

On alternate Thursdays the students in the bilingual unit worked at the marae for the whole day. Gifted and talented students were promoted, valued, and given opportunities to use and grow their skills and talents in an authentic context, and to learn from elders that had good knowledge.

The school had culturally appropriate programmes in a culturally supportive environment. A broad range of talent was valued: academic, the arts, leadership, sporting prowess, Māori knowledge and understanding, service to the community, spiritual qualities, mana, pride in Māori identity, plus there was recognition that a group may be gifted.

At almost all schools, programmes for gifted and talented students did not include Māori values, tikanga, and pedagogy. Teachers at these schools lacked appropriate knowledge to identify gifted and talented Māori students or to provide programmes to meet their needs, particularly in areas valued by Māori. Many thought that they were meeting their particular needs by providing kapa haka and te reo, and by incorporating some aspects of tuakana-teina in their classroom programmes.

Key indicators

Schools with effective provision and programmes:

  • began their provision in the regular classroom;
  • provided challenge in the regular classroom; and
  • developed next learning steps for gifted and talented students to promote and demonstrate achievement and progress.

The majority of schools:

  • did not develop provision and programmes in consultation with the school community.

For almost all schools the main challenges were:

  • including Māori values, tikanga, and pedagogy in their provision;
  • planning, monitoring, evaluating, and reporting on programmes that were beyond the regular classroom and off-site; and
  • linking programmes that were beyond the regular classroom and off-site back to the regular classroom programme

Schools’ review of their provision for gifted and talented students

What did ERO ask?

How well does the school review the effectiveness of their provision for gifted and talented students?

Why did ERO ask this question?

Effective self review allows schools to review how well their provision for gifted and talented students fits with their strengths, interests, and needs, and to make well‑informed decisions about policy, resources, and teacher professional development.

Indicators of good practice

In evaluating how well schools reviewed the effectiveness of their provision for gifted and talented students ERO looked for evidence that:

  • there was a systematic and ongoing process for evaluating the outcomes for students;
  • the school shared and consulted about evaluation findings with staff, parents/whānau, students, and the community;
  • the school acted on recommendations arising from evaluation; and
  • the impact of programmes and provisions, both internal and external to the school, was evaluated.

What ERO found

Figure 4 shows that self review of the effectiveness of provisions for gifted and talented students was highly developed or developed in only 23 percent of schools. Self review practices were somewhat developed in almost a third of schools (31 percent), and not developed in nearly half of schools (46 percent).

Figure 4: Development of self review

This is a bar graph. The y axis is called percent of schools and is ranged from 0-100 at intervals of 20. The x axis has four lables which are Highly developed 3%, Developed 20%, Somewhat developed 31% and Not developed 46%.

Systematic and ongoing process

Some schools had a systematic and ongoing process for evaluating outcomes for gifted and talented students. Student participation in gifted and talented programmes was monitored, and outcomes were reviewed against the schools’ intended outcomes for individual gifted and talented students. This monitoring not only included information about students’ achievement and progress, but also attitudinal information obtained through surveys of students. An important part of this process was the use of review information to inform the school’s strategic direction, in particular, desired outcomes and resourcing of gifted and talented programmes. In schools where ERO found very good practice, there was a tiered system of review, often involving the curriculum team, the gifted and talented team, and the teachers.

Teachers engaged in ongoing assessment, reflection, and evaluation about the progress of each student in the classroom. Individual student outcomes were systematically considered. Teachers in charge of delivering special programmes targeted for gifted and talented students evaluate the effectiveness of individual programmes.

Most schools did not have a well-developed process for evaluating outcomes for gifted and talented students. The majority of these schools lacked policies and procedures to undertake a systematic school‑wide review of gifted and talented provision. There was no or little focus on outcomes for gifted and talented students such as achievement, attitudes or behaviour. In some cases, individual teachers were left to evaluate outcomes, and many did not have the knowledge and skills to know how to do this well. In other cases, where there was some school‑wide review of assessment data, any analysis of gifted and talented students as a sub-group was lacking.

In the other schools in this group, there was some informal discussion amongst syndicate or gifted and talented teams about the achievement and progress of gifted and talented students. However, this was mostly literacy and numeracy based in primary schools, and only in academic subjects in secondary schools. The challenge for these schools was to find ways to evaluate outcomes for students who were gifted or talented in non-academic areas, to move beyond anecdotal information, and to collect baseline data so they were able to make comparisons and show progress.

Consultation about evaluation

A few schools consulted staff, parents, whānau, students and the community about evaluation findings. At these schools there was an expectation that teachers would review their provision for gifted and talented students, in the classroom and other out‑of-class programmes. These evaluations, and those at a school‑wide level, included and/or were reported to students, parents, other teachers, the senior management team and the board. Many of these schools surveyed parents of gifted and talented students about provision, or met with them to review programmes, and used this information to inform future planning. For some of these schools, formalising student and parent input into evaluation and doing so on a regular basis remained a challenge.

Parents and students were given the opportunity to comment at the end of gifted and talented education programmes thus contributing to the school’s overall evaluation of that specific programme. This process was well established and was used for each programme.

The board was positive about the gifted and talented programmes and knew that the parents valued them. Until recently the board had not thought that it would be worthwhile for them to share evaluations of these programmes with parents. However, they realised that to further resource the programmes parents needed to know the programmes’ worth and value.

Very few schools were effective in sharing or consulting about any evaluation findings with staff, parents, whānau, students and the community. There was some annual reporting to the board by heads of department or gifted and talented teams, but this lacked a focus on student outcomes and, while informative, was not evaluative. Any reporting to parents and the community was often limited to publishing successes in competitions and events.

Students and parents were not generally involved in any review process. While some students participated in self-assessment processes, this was not focused on an evaluation of gifted and talented provision. Some students reported that they would feel uncomfortable about commenting negatively on programmes, indicating that student evaluation was not a normal and integral part of evaluation in the school. ERO found that in many of these schools, the senior management team and board did not share any evaluation with parents.

While parents may be pleased that their child is participating in gifted and talented programmes, they will also be able to help promote positive outcomes for their children if they are informed about the value of their evaluative contribution, and participate in evaluation of gifted and talented provision.

Acting on recommendations

Some schools acted on recommendations arising from evaluation of gifted and talented programmes and provision. These schools used evaluation findings to identify what worked well, areas for further development, and to identify foci for the next year based on student need. The needs of each upcoming year’s cohort of gifted and talented students were reviewed to develop new opportunities and adapt current provisions. Boards used recommendations from evaluation as a basis for decision‑making about resourcing and funding.

Most schools were did not act on any recommendations that arose from evaluating gifted and talented programmes. These programmes were repeated from year to year with little use of student achievement and progress information to determine any changes needed. Decisions to continue programmes were based solely on student enjoyment. The challenge for these schools was to use findings from self review to inform the development and enhancement of gifted and talented programmes at a classroom and school‑wide level.

Evaluation of impact of programmes and provision

A few schools evaluated the impact of programmes and provisions, both internal and external to the school. As well as review of classroom programmes, teachers and/or gifted and talented coordinators evaluated out-of-class provisions such as workshops, withdrawal programmes, and programmes such as ODS and the GKP. They looked at the success of students and feedback received from participating students, as well as from those responsible for the programmes, and compared this with expected outcomes for students. In this way, they were able to make sure that outcomes of programmes matched the needs of individual gifted and talented students, and could make recommendations about future provision. A challenge for these schools was to differentiate between the impact of out-of-class programmes and regular classroom programmes. This meant they were unable to determine the value of continuing out‑of‑class programmes or the need to adapt both types of programmes to suit their students.

Most schools did not evaluate effectively the impact of programmes and provisions for gifted and talented students, both internal and external to the school. Most of these schools were yet to review the impact of gifted and talented provision, or to extend self review beyond anecdotal information only. ERO found that any review was limited to classroom programmes in reading, writing, and mathematics, or anecdotal information about cultural and sporting gifts and talents. Some schools had information about out-of-class programmes, but this was limited and could not be compared to any measurable outcomes. The challenge for this group of schools was to develop measurable outcome indicators for non-academic gifts and talents and with people responsible for out-of-class programmes.

Correlation between effective self review and responsive and appropriate programmes

ERO found a strong correlation between self review and the programmes and provision for gifted and talented students. The more developed a school’s self‑review process, the more responsive and appropriate programmes and provisions. This relationship was statistically significant. [22] However, using schools’ self-reported information, ERO also found that regardless of how effective self-review process were, over three‑quarters of schools thought the majority of their programmes and provision for gifted and talented students were contributing significantly, or were contributing (but could be strengthened) to meeting the needs of gifted and talented students.

Key findings

Schools that had well developed self review of the effectiveness of their provision:

  • could show that gifted and talented students were making progress and experiencing positive outcomes; and
  • were more likely to get the support of the board and parents for ongoing provision.

Very few schools:

  • had well developed self review of the effectiveness of their provision.

Promoting positive outcomes for gifted and talented students

What did ERO ask?

To what extent do gifted and talented programmes promote positive outcomes for gifted and talented students?

Why did ERO ask this question?

Being gifted and talented extends beyond the regular school day, and schools play an important part in working with students and their parents and whānau to ensure and support their social and emotional wellbeing, as well as celebrate their achievement and progress.

Indicators of good practice

In evaluating the extent to which gifted and talented programmes promoted positive outcomes for gifted and talented students ERO looked for evidence that:

  • gifted and talented students enjoyed school;
  • gifted and talented students received regular feedback on their achievement and progress;
  • gifted and talented students were well supported;
  • gifted and talented students’ social and emotional wellbeing was nurtured through pastoral care;
  • gifted and talented students were given opportunities and choice to use their gifts and talents to benefit other students and the wider community;
  • gifted and talented students felt their gifts and talents were valued;
  • focused communication between school, parents and whānau supported gifted and talented students’ holistic wellbeing (cultural, spiritual, emotional, and social); and
  • parents of gifted and talented students were informed and consulted by teachers about their child’s achievement and progress.

What ERO found

Figure 5 shows that ERO found that 48 percent of schools were highly effective or effective in promoting positive outcomes for their gifted and talented students. The promotion of positive outcomes was only somewhat effective or not effective in just over half of schools (52 percent).

Figure 5: Promoting positive outcomes for gifted and talented students

This is a bar graph. The y axis is called percent of schools and is ranged from 0-100 at intervals of 100. The x axis has four labels which are Highly effective 11%, Effective 37%, Somewhat effective 35% and Not effective 17%.

Enjoyment of school

Gifted and talented students at about half the schools enjoyed school. These students enjoyed the opportunities given them for leadership and responsibility, working with other like‑minded students, and the ability to focus on a special talent. Students who participated in programmes such as cluster programmes, ODS, or the GKP, enjoyed getting to know and work with students from other schools who had similar strengths and interests.

Students spoken to in cluster classrooms were excited about the programmes they were involved in and felt that they were being challenged. Their teachers made learning interesting and fun.

In the remaining schools, gifted and talented students did not enjoy school. Some students said they were bored and not interested in school. Other students, identified as gifted and talented, while enjoying the opportunities they were given, felt that the programmes did not really meet their needs. At many of these schools, identification procedures were limited and there was a tendency to identify ‘bright and compliant’ students. Gifted and talented students with learning or behavioural difficulties were not identified, sometimes leading to increased off-task and disruptive behaviour among them.

Pastoral care

Just over half the schools nurtured social and emotional wellbeing of gifted and talented students through pastoral care. These schools had good systems in place for providing these students with mentors to promote personal growth and to develop social and emotional skills. Gifted and talented students were given opportunities to develop their self esteem and confidence through leadership, buddying, and tuakana-teina opportunities.

Mentoring was a significant feature of the gifted and talented education programme. The gifted and talented education coordinator considered mentoring of students to be an important part of her role. She also developed an extensive register of potential external mentors to assist students. Students expressed their appreciation of the contributions of their mentors had made. Gifted and talented students told ERO that they enjoyed mentoring their peers when they were given opportunities to do this through leadership roles, role modelling, and classroom support.

In schools where ERO found very good practice, teachers had had extensive professional development to develop their awareness of the specific social and emotional needs of gifted and talented students.

Many of the schools had implemented effective programmes to prevent bullying. However, making sure that gifted and talented students were not singled out and subjected to ‘tall poppy syndrome’ remained a challenge for some of these schools. Some schools were also concerned that their emphasis on building self esteem and confidence was neglected when gifted and talented students moved on to the local secondary schools, as there was much less emphasis on these aspects of gifted and talented students’ needs.

At just under half the schools, gifted and talented students’ social and emotional wellbeing was not being nurtured through pastoral care. There was little recognition of the specific social and emotional needs of these students, and pastoral care was as for all students at the school. For example, there was little consideration of specific types of bullying of these students, or of balancing learning needs with social needs when students were moved into older age group classes for extension or acceleration.

Feedback and support to achieve

About half the schools were giving gifted and talented students regular feedback about their achievement and progress, and were supporting their achievements.

This feedback included timely in-class formative feedback, the use of learning journals and portfolios, and conferencing involving teachers, students, and parents. Students knew and understood teachers’ expectations and the next steps for their learning. However, this was more likely to happen for specific learning areas, rather than for co‑curricular programmes such as leadership or cultural programmes.

Teachers had high expectations for student achievement and they used effective teaching strategies to encourage gifted and talented students to be collaborative and support each other. Learning environments were well resourced and conducive to learning. Boards provided specialist teachers and paid for registration fees and transport costs if required.

There is an extensive range of effective teaching strategies and opportunities for gifted and talented students to realise their potential. The leadership team has a clear understanding of theory, research and practice around provision for gifted and talented education.

In schools where ERO found very good practice, gifted and talented students had individual learning goals and were given feedback about their achievement and progress regarding these goals, or about outcomes included in Individual Education Plans. At some of these schools, students were very involved in setting their own goals, as well as regularly reviewing progress towards achieving these goals and setting new ones.

Gifted and talented students were challenged in their classroom context, and were able to take risks, make mistakes, participate in higher thinking skills and in friendly competition. They were able to express a different viewpoint without fear of criticism. In these classrooms, learning and achievement were celebrated.

Students talked about the changes that had influenced their own attitude to schools. For example, knowing that working harder gives better results, having confidence in their own abilities, and taking opportunities to share and lead.

In the remaining schools, gifted and talented students were not well supported, nor did they get regular feedback about their achievement and progress.

Gifted and talented students at these schools received feedback similar to other students, but at some of these schools, processes for student feedback were poor overall. In addition to this, any feedback was limited to regular classroom programmes only, and not about any out-of-class provision. Some students who had been identified as gifted and talented were unsure of what their strengths were, nor were they given feedback about their achievement and progress. Other students said that if their gifts and talents were not academic then they were less likely to receive feedback about their progress.

While many gifted and talented students at these schools were in a positive classroom learning environment and their teachers used good teaching strategies, there was little specific support for the students. Gifted and talented students were given additional work rather than work that was differentiated for content, process, and product. Some students reported that their teachers were unaware of some of their gifts and talents. Others said they were bored and switched off in class, claiming that much had been promised by the school in the way of support, but had not been delivered.

Using and valuing gifts and talents

Gifted and talented students at just under half the schools felt that their gifts and talents were valued, and at a third of schools there were opportunities and choice for students to use their gifts and talents to benefit other students and the wider community.

Students felt that their gifts and talents were valued, fostered, and developed, and most importantly, they were not embarrassed about their achievements and successes being acknowledged publicly in assemblies, newsletters, shows, presentations, and demonstrations. The schools had developed a culture where it was acceptable to celebrate success and to share gifts and talents with others. Some of the ways that students shared their gifts and talents for the benefit of others included:

  • environmental activities;
  • peer teaching of ICT;
  • leadership in kapa haka and pōwhiri;
  • choreography for shows;
  • newspaper, yearbook and video productions showcasing the school;
  • designing fitness trails and playgrounds; and
  • organising cultural, sporting, academic, and community activities for other students to participate in.

Year 13 kapa haka students tutored students in the South Island through video conference learning, as well as performing at wider community events.

The opportunities for students to use their gifts and talents to benefit others were a definite strength. Gifted and talented students organised and ran a Pet Day at the school, and organised the school’s buddy reading programmes. Years 5 and 6 students prepared e-folios and presented these to their parents.

Students in Years 7 and 8 coached miniball – developing leadership skills. Year 8 students modelled leadership for the Year 7 students. The students used their talents in the wider community. They were involved in World Vision and Daffodil Day and the music group and choir performed in the community, for example, at the local rest home.

Another particular challenge that some schools faced was to identify ways in which to encourage gifted and talented Māori students to accept their gifts and talents as part of their identity, to be confident, and to raise their self esteem.

Many schools did not give gifted and talented students opportunities to use their gifts and talents to benefit other students and the wider community; and gifted and talented students at half the schools felt that their gifts and talents were not valued.

At most of these schools there was little or no evidence of gifted and talented students being encouraged to use their gifts and talents to benefit other students and the community, and students felt that this led to their gifts and talents being valued by some teachers but not by their fellow students. While, at some schools, some gifts and talents were valued and shared, this was usually limited to sport, performing and visual arts, and some leadership opportunities such as student council and buddying systems. Many school leaders had not developed a school culture where it was acceptable to celebrate and share gifts and talents and some students were not comfortable at being singled out, stating that the attitudes of other students was off‑putting, and that they were often bullied as a result of having their gifts and talents celebrated.

Communication between school and parents and whānau

Some schools undertook focused communication with parents and whānau to support gifted and talented students’ holistic wellbeing. [23] Less than half informed parents about their gifted and talented child’s achievement and progress.

School leadership and teachers implemented a variety of practices to foster holistic wellbeing and to promote learning partnerships between teachers, parents, whānau, and students. These practices helped parents and teachers to be knowledgeable about children’s overall wellbeing and not just their achievement and progress. Parents and whānau were well informed about provisions for gifted and talented students, and about their child’s involvement in programmes. Teachers and parents met as a group or individually to discuss and review provision. Teachers asked parents to provide information about their child, and to be involved in determining goals for their learning and holistic wellbeing.

Parents of gifted and talented students were well informed in their children’s learning. They had ongoing opportunities for information and consultation through their participation in formulating and monitoring their children’s individual education plans. There was strong focus on interest areas, achievements in and out of school, possible career goals, co-curricular involvement, progress in general learning skills and goal setting across the curriculum.

There were however some challenges for these schools. Parents still expressed a desire for greater involvement, of themselves and their child, both in the identification process and in evaluating provision, and for their child to have more choice about their learning in the classroom. Some parents also wanted the school to talk to them about how they could nurture their child’s gifts and talents at home.

At most schools, there was little or no communication with parents about the holistic wellbeing of gifted and talented students, and over half did not inform parents about the achievement and progress of their child. At most of these schools, leaders and teachers had not communicated or engaged with parents, whānau, and the school community about gifted and talented students in particular. Rather, any communication about achievement, progress, or wellbeing was reported as with standard school practices, ignoring the particular challenges facing these students and their families. The main challenges for these schools were to foster discussions between 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. ERO also found that parents at these schools often had negative perceptions about gifted and talented students (for example, tall poppy syndrome and thinking of gifted and talented students as ‘nerds’).

Key findings

Schools that promoted positive outcomes for gifted and talented students:

  • valued, fostered and developed students’ gifts and talents;
  • nurtured the social and emotional wellbeing of gifted and talented students through good quality pastoral care; and
  • fostered holistic wellbeing through involving parents, whānau and the community.

The majority of schools:

  • were not able to demonstrate achievement and progress for many gifted and talented students;
  • did not recognise the special social and emotional needs of gifted and talented students; and
  • did not foster discussions between school personnel, parents and whānau about holistic wellbeing.

Schools’ overall provision for gifted and talented students

Schools’ provision for gifted and talented students was reviewed against five key evaluation areas.

ERO found that 17 percent of schools had good provision across all five key evaluative areas. This included 18 percent of primary schools and 13 percent of secondary schools.

Forty‑eight percent of schools had good provision in some areas, but not in others. This included 46 percent of primary schools, and 56 percent of secondary schools. Most of the schools in this group did not have well‑developed self review of their gifted and talented provision.

Thirty-five percent of schools did not have good provision for gifted and talented students in any of the five evaluative areas. This included 36 percent of primary schools and 31 percent of secondary schools.

School differences

For each of the five evaluative questions, ERO compared overall effectiveness by school type, locality, and decile grouping. ERO also compared the provision in primary schools with that of secondary schools. Where there was a statistical difference in each of these groupings this is included below. [24]

While ERO found no statistically significant differences between types of schools, there were differences by decile and locality. In general, high decile schools were more likely to have good quality provision for their gifted and talented students than low decile schools. Similarly, urban schools were more likely to have good quality provision for their gifted and talented students than rural schools. The following findings were statistically significant:

  • High and medium decile schools were more likely than low decile schools to have supportive school leadership for the provision of gifted and talented education.
  • Urban schools were more likely than rural schools to have supportive school leadership for the provision of gifted and talented education.
  • High decile schools were more likely than medium and low decile schools to have appropriate and inclusive definitions and identification of gifted and talented students.
  • Urban schools were more likely than rural schools to have appropriate and inclusive definitions and identification of gifted and talented students.
  • High and medium decile schools were more likely than low decile schools to have responsive and appropriate provision and programmes for gifted and talented students.
  • Urban schools were more likely than rural schools to have responsive and appropriate provision and programmes for gifted and talented students.
  • High decile schools were more likely than low decile schools to have developed self review of their provision for gifted and talented students.
  • Urban schools were more likely than rural schools to have developed self review of their provision for gifted and talented students.
  • Primary schools were more likely than secondary schools to have developed self review of their provision for gifted and talented students.
  • High decile schools were more likely than low decile schools to have effectively promoted positive outcomes for gifted and talented students.
  • Urban schools were more likely than rural schools to have effectively promoted positive outcomes for gifted and talented students.

The most significant differences between high and low decile schools were in:

  • all aspects of a supportive school leadership for GATE;
  • all aspects of defining gifted and talented students, apart from incorporating Māori and multi‑cultural concepts of giftedness and talent;
  • many aspects of identifying gifted and talented students such as identification being multi‑categorical, early and timely, ongoing and continuous across transition points, and incorporating informal and formal methods that are triangulated;
  • school‑wide coordination of, and provision for, gifted and talented programmes; and
  • positive outcomes for gifted and talented students, such as enjoying school, being well supported to achieve, pastoral care of social and emotional wellbeing, and informing and consulting with parents about achievement and progress.

The particular aspects where there was the most significant difference between urban and rural schools were:

  • having a designated person or team responsible for gifted and talented education;
  • building capability through school‑wide and ongoing professional development;
  • providing gifted and talented education that is school‑wide and across‑curriculum; and
  • acting on recommendations from self review of gifted and talented education.