One Day School a wel­come chal­lenge for gifted pupils

Central Leader - - News - By Carly Tawhiao

A happy, healthy child­hood where five-year-olds can learn at their lo­cal school is what ev­ery par­ent wants for their chil­dren.

But for par­ents like those of gifted and tal­ented pupils Emily Jer­rom and Lilly MacDon­nell, that’s sim­ply ask­ing too much.

“Gifted doesn’t mean in­tel­li­gent,” says Emily’s fa­ther Paul Jer­rom.

“It’s a mind­set, the way you think. If you don’t fit in at school and are left to your own de­vices, it can be frus­trat­ing.”

Out of ev­ery 100 chil­dren, about five can be classified as gifted, yet only a small pro­por­tion may be iden­ti­fied as such in school.

Mr Jer­rom says he didn’t think Emily was gifted but de­cided to get her cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties tested be­cause of her 11-year-old brother Tyler, who is gifted.

Mr Jer­rom says Tyler’s lack of class­room par­tic­i­pa­tion was the first warn­ing bell.

A friend sug­gested he be tested for One Day School, a pro­gramme run by the Gifted Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre, and the re­sults star­tled them.

“Gifted kids ei­ther with­draw or be­come naughty. Tyler was bored to tears at school but rather than set fire to the cur­tains, he would veg­e­tate,” he says.

“Gifted boys are iden­ti­fied at least twice as of­ten as gifted girls be­cause girls are bet­ter at hid­ing it. No one wants to stick out. That opens you to bul­ly­ing and ridicule.”

Mr Jer­rom is now chair­man of the Gifted Ed­u­ca­tion Trust Board and says al­though he loves the con­ver­sa­tions around the din­ner ta­ble, rais­ing a gifted child is hard work.

“There’s ba­si­cally never a dull mo­ment, but re­search shows th­ese kids re­ally are over-rep­re­sented in prison as well as in de­pres­sion and sui­cide statis­tics.”

Lilly’s mother Louise Grieg agrees.

“Par­ents think gifted means bright and that you’d skite, but it’s hard work.”

Ms Grieg says Lilly’s younger sis­ter So­phie was in year 3 when she was iden­ti­fied as be­ing gifted. Unim­pressed with her daugh­ters’ strug­gles with school, Ms Grieg de­cided to home­school them.

“Kids at the end and the top of the learn­ing spec­trum are not dis­sim­i­lar. You have to learn about their unique­ness and then feed the fire,” she says.

“Go­ing to One Day School is mag­i­cal but feels to­tally nor­mal to them.

“There’s an in­cred­i­bly di­verse bunch of kids there and they feel val­i­dated by it. If the out­side world thinks you’re okay it re­ally means a lot.”

One Day School, which be­gan in 1995, is run by the Gifted Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre based at Owairaka Pri­mary School.

There are six cen­tres in Auck­land in­clud­ing Small Pop­pies preschools. Up to 300 schools sup­port their work na­tion­ally.

“Par­ents can gen­er­ally recog­nise gift­ed­ness in their chil­dren, but a lot don’t see you can have a gifted child with a learn­ing dis­abil­ity,” say Gifted Ed­u­ca­tion’s as­sis­tant di­rec­tor Sh­eryl Burns.

A mother of two gifted chil­dren her­self, Ms Burns says the Gifted Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre uses the Wood­cock John­son test to de­ter­mine whether chil­dren’s cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties iden­tify them as gifted.

Par­ents re­fer their chil­dren for test­ing, which can take up to two hours and costs $225.

But ex­pense is of­ten a bar­rier to many fam­i­lies ac­cess­ing the cen­tre be­cause classes cost up to $60 a week.

“Na­tional

guide­lines

say schools must iden­tify and cater for gifted kids, but no ex­tra fund­ing is pro­vided to do this. It’s an on­go­ing process lob­by­ing the gov­ern­ment,” says Ms Burns.

The Gifted Kids pro­gramme, like the Gifted Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre, is a char­i­ta­ble trust, but rather than take re­fer­rals from par­ents it works with schools di­rectly.

Ex­ec­u­tive prin­ci­pal Clive Sharpe says low decile schools are most dis­ad­van­taged when it comes to teach­ing gifted chil­dren.

“The first class was set up to open the door to dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren. Now we have eight sites in the North Is­land and four satel­lite classes in Pan­mure, Otara, Mt Roskill and Man­gere.”

The cur­ricu­lum has been de­vel­oped over the past nine years.

Mt Roskill classes are based at Waikowhai In­ter­me­di­ate.

Teacher Cather­ine Pit­tam teaches up to 16 stu­dents four days a week.

Ms Pit­tam has also taught chil­dren with spe­cial needs and says the teach­ing tech­niques are the same, with the cur­ricu­lum fo­cus­ing on a child’s strengths.

“The kids take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their learn­ing and set their own tal­ent-based goals,” she says.

Ms Pit­tam says teach­ers need to be ed­u­cated on how to iden­tify gifted chil­dren.

“The ideal would be schools do­ing their own pro­gramme so we’d be without jobs.”

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Gifted guise: For chil­dren like Emily Jer­rom, 8, left, and Lilly MacDon­nell, 12, be­ing gifted in con­ven­tional so­ci­ety can be more of a hin­drance than a help.

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