Andi Delaune, University of Canterbury / giftEDnz
Taking the lead from Valerie Margrain’s textual analysis of Te Whāriki 2017 which asked “… and the gifted child?”, the recent announcement from the NZ government regarding new funding for gifted learners needs to be re-considered to ask: and the gifted young child? That is, where does the gifted young child fit within this plan?
There is no question that learning starts before school age, and that gifted learners are demonstrating their capacity for intensified learning (in their areas of interest/passion) from a very young age. There is ample evidence to support this (e.g. see here and here). Furthermore, there is no question that support at this young age will benefit long term well-being of the individual, both to their benefit individually and to the benefit of their community. Findings of the Dunedin Study have demonstrated this long-term impact.
The new funding provision
My colleague, Associate Professor Tracy Riley, has analysed the new funding for gifted learners in this blog post, acknowledging that, in general, this provision represents “a high watermark in the ebbs and flows, or peaks and troughs, of gifted education.”
But where do young gifted learners fit within this funding announcement? Where will young gifted children in early childhood education find support when they need it?
The newly-announced funding is provisioned for the following (quoted directly from https://gifted.tki.org.nz/):
- Part-funding for one-day schools to enable gifted learners to access learning with like-minded peers. Applications are now open and will remain open as long as places are available. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to apply.
- Awards for gifted students for school-aged learners (or groups of learners) who are gifted or have exceptional abilities to extend and challenge their learning and support their wellbeing. It enables them to complete a particular project or activity in areas that may be quite different from their usual learning. Applications for the first round are now open and close on 22 March. There will be two rounds of awards each year.
- A programme of events, experiences and opportunities. Details of the new programme will be announced in March.
- Expansion of online modules. Improved access to online modules which enable gifted learners to learn alongside like-minded peers. Contact email@example.com to apply.
- Additional guidance for teachers and kaiako to help them recognise and support gifted learners. This will be released in March.
So … where does the gifted young child fit?
Well, not within part funding for one day schools. The current major provider only enrolls children from the age of 6 – so only once they are officially ‘school age’.
And again, not within the awards for gifted students – these are for school aged learners also.
Hopefully (and this is also a request to those with the wherewithal to make it happen) there will be events, experiences and opportunities which will not restrict participation from young gifted learners, and will enable opportunities for these young learners to demonstrate their competence and capability.
Possibly some young gifted learners will participate in online modules – again, one hopes that these will cater to a wide age bracket (or even better, no age, and just capability and interest).
The best chance there is for increasing the opportunities for young gifted learners is within the final provision: Additional guidance for teachers and kaiako.
The utilisation of the term kaiako is hopefully an indication that early childhood teachers are able to be a part of this support network. In order to be highly effective, this needs to be led by teachers who are within early childhood education settings and who are sensitive to not only the needs of gifted learners and their families, but also the early childhood context which carefully considers giftedness in accordance with the philosophical underpinnings of Te Whāriki.
It appears nonsensical that within provisions for gifted education – a domain of knowledge and research which resists compartmentalising age-based boundaries – access to opportunities and support should be restricted according to age.
I wait in hope and anticipation that the gifted young learner will not be marginalised according to their age, but freed to learn in accordance with their desire and passion.
This post originally appeared on the author’s personal blog here. It is reproduced by permission.
Andrea Delaune is an early childhood teacher and researcher who has worked in many areas of early childhood education. As an educational researcher, Andrea wrote an MEd thesis entitled “Gifted education for infants and toddlers in Aotearoa New Zealand: An insight into exemplary practice”. Currently, she is working towards a PhD focusing upon the relationship between the teacher and the child within the early childhood context. Andrea is a mother of two young children who inspire her to be a better educator and person every day. She is also currently the Secretary of giftEDnz.