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Strengthening Connections, Despite the Politics of Being Gifted and Talented. By Tracy Riley.

Red Gerbera Daisies CC BY Clyde Robinson
Image CC BY Clyde Robinson.

Tracy Riley, Chairperson of giftEDnz, writes on strengthening connections this Gifted Awareness Week.


This year marks the 5th anniversary of New Zealand’s Gifted Awareness Week.  As I reflect back to 2008, our first year, I can’t help but wonder how, in the face of a stronger, united front, we have seen a diminished provision, commitment and oversight of gifted and talented education.  

Back in June 2008, Chris Carter was the Minister of Education and the Ministry was undergoing a review – of everything, if my memory serves me right, and definitely of gifted and talented initiatives. The Talent Development Initiatives were winding down and put ‘on hold.’ 

In 2009, just weeks before Gifted Awareness Week, National’s Vote Education eliminated the positions of advisors in gifted and talented, and, in doing, so, diminished our funding to half: an annual budget of around $1.27 million.  But we had an Associate Minister of Education seeking responsibility for gifted!

Heather Roy established a Working Party in response to a collaborative letter bringing her attention to the cuts and also the fact that the Ministry of Education review of its provisions (from 2008) had yet to see the light of day. Later that year a Ministerial Advisory Group was established, and a call for proposals was released for professional learning and development.

Ministerial responsibilities held steady into June 2010, with the politicians blogging and questions being raised in the House. The Ministry of Education funded the redevelopment of the tki gifted and talented community, and some regional and national programmes of professional learning and development. 

Two months later, there was no one in Government responsible for gifted and talented! But things were set in motion: a ‘rollover’ of contracts; development of an online National Standards resource; and revisions to the handbook on gifted education. 

Rodney Hide had a tough act to follow (no pun intended!), and  by June 2011, despite being rolled as leader of his party, he re-established a Ministry of Education Policy Advisory Group which was given an opportunity to develop a strategy. Between the end of June and November, the vision, principles and recommendations were developed, reviewed by over 240 stakeholders, and forwarded to the Ministry’s Management Team for consideration. 

So here we are today – June 2012. Gifted and talented is the responsibility of Minister of Education Hekia Parata and appears to be ‘shared’ within the Ministry of Education. The vision and principles have been adopted for inclusion in the handbook, but decisions are still being made in terms of the recommendations. The Advisory Group has not met since September 2011. Professional learning and development is being provided by two consortia, supported by the ongoing development of the tki community and its mailing list. 

Looking back: four Ministers with responsibility for gifted, implemented by an ever-shifting and changing cadre of Ministry personnel, and no one, in my view, with any oversight, follow-through or commitment to gifted and talented learners in New Zealand ... except us, the gifted and talented community!

Did you know that a gift of wood, representing strength and a solidified relationship, or silverware, representing connectedness, is suggested for 5th wedding anniversaries?  Strengthening connections is the theme of this year’s Gifted Awareness Week. Whether by accident, design, or sheer necessity, the relationships between and amongst advocates for New Zealand’s gifted and talented learners have developed, solidified, and grown stronger over the last 5 years. 

The flower for 5th anniversaries is the daisy. Is the Government and Ministry of Education taking a “she loves me, she loves me not” approach to determining its relationship with the gifted and talented community? Or is it a case of a bunch of red daisies, representing beauty that is unknown to the possessor? Could our strengths as a gifted and talented community be maximised to work together to make this vision a reality?

All gifted and talented learners have equitable access to a differentiated and culturally responsive education.  They are recognised, valued, and empowered to develop their exceptional abilities and qualities (Ministry of Education Policy Advisory Group on Gifted, 2011 - unpublished and unrealised).

This post is part of the #NZGAW Blog Tour.

#NZGAW Blog Tour



An organisation for anyone with a professional interest in gifted and talented education.