by Catherine Delahunty
Every year the Green Party celebrates the “Gifted and Talented” which to us means all children, tamariki katoa! We also specifically support “Gifted and Talented” programmes in schools because they are broad and recognise the diversity of gifts that need encouragement from a young age. These gifts include leadership strengths, academic talents, sports and arts amongst other things. I like the goals of the Gifted and Talented programme because the focus is on equitable access for all rather than only the privileged children who show a special strength getting encouraged and extended. The whole concept fits well with the broad curriculum and supports what parents and teachers know about the many pathways to learning participation and success.
Unfortunately recently our Government has tried to undermine this “whole child” approach with initiatives like increasing class size (which failed), National Standards which don’t work and threats of performance pay and school league tables. The narrowing of the curriculum to literacy and numeracy assessment focus does not support the ethos of extending our young learners through their natural gifts and talents.
The cutting of funds to the Gifted and Talented programmes doesn’t help children to reach their potential and nor do the cuts to drama, science and arts advisors. Our capacity to support gifts like Te Reo is affected by all these cuts. Of course we need to do better for all children, especially up-skilling teachers to support tangata whenua and Pacific nation’s children to learn in their mother tongue, and for all of our children to have access to Te Reo. Confidence in and fluency in your first language is a talent and cultural gift.
The Greens want to see programmes in schools which strengthen equity, build collaboration between schools, encourage students and expose them to exciting experiences that nourish their talents.
I met two visiting American teachers outside Parliament today and we chatted about the two education systems. They are so impressed with our support for children and so horrified by their Government’s “education as business / teach to assess” model. I know they would agree that all children have gifts and that school programmes must be funded to extend those gifts. In the on-going battle all educationally visionary programmes are vulnerable and we need to stand together for the kids!