Thursday, 18 May 2017


Historically schools have put in significant support for children with learning support needs. Sadly school budgets never stretch far enough to provide the level of support that schools would love to provide. This impacts both ends of the achievement spectrum. Unfortunately some of the ‘gifted’ or ‘talented’ children (known as G.A.T.E. children) become behavioural problems as they struggle to overcome their boredom and frustration.

The good news is that in the last decade greater education policy requirements have been placed on schools to address the needs of these children. However it is one thing to make policy but many schools find it difficult to find the expertise and resources to ‘walk the talk’.

In their bid to fulfil their responsibilities, many schools provide ‘pull out’ programmes grouping children together for a few hours each week providing some ‘one off’ stimulating activities that excite these very capable children. One very positive spin off from this approach is G.A.T.E. children get the chance to engage with like minds. Sometimes these children are put up a class level. It works for some but it is socially very risky. There are various ‘one day’ fee paying G.A.T.E. schools operating and some schools recommend parents enroll their gifted child(ren) into one of these.

However these options do not deal with the fundamental issue. G.A.T.E. children deserve to have their educational needs, including social needs met every day. Their minds need to be challenged and engaged throughout their school life! 

This is very achievable when the curriculum is well understood, planned and differentiated appropriately. Schools must build on the interests of students providing them with the skills so they have more control over the topic or content they wish to pursue allowing the opportunity for individual and independent study. The exciting 21stC education technology rich paradigm supports and further empowers the learner. This interactive approach encourages creativity, deep flexible thinking and access to a broader range of higher level resources.

Sometime GATE children can fly ‘under the radar’ of teachers. They can ‘bomb’ in standardised tests because of cognitive processing challenges or for some other reason including issues around attendance or social problems. However, there is an abundance of research on what works for GATE children and how to identify them. Over the years experts have regularly referred to Renzulli (1978) who developed a definition of gifted and talented children based on the interaction of three basic clusters of human traits:

  • Above average ability
  • A high level of task commitment
  • A high level of creativity
Renzulli and Reis (1985) claim that gifted and talented children “are those possessing or capable of developing this composite set of traits and applying them to any potentially valuable area of human performance.” (1)

It must be emphasised that all the characteristics above may not be highly advanced in equal proportions.

“It’s probably also true to say that whatever their area of ability, GATE children will tend to ask more insightful questions, be better than others at seeing relationships and patterns and at predicting consequences, be more curious and persistent in exploring concepts and seeking answers, stay focussed for longer and build up more detailed and ‘expert’ knowledge. “ (2)

It is an exciting time in education providing schools take up the opportunities available to unleash their students’ motivation and potential.

We are working as a staff to ensure all our children’s needs are met. It is a tall order to get this right 100% of the time but we are aspirational and will strive to do our very best including meeting the needs of our GATE children.

(1)  Renzulli, J.S. and Reis, S.M. (1985) The Schoolwide Enrichment Model: A Comprehensive Plan for Educational Excellence. Creative Learning Press.

(2)    Cathcart R.  May 1997  p. 6  Tall Poppies  NZ Association of Gifted Children

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