Getting the Paperwork right: A Gifted Policy

This post has been adapted from an original article in NZAGC Tall Poppies Magazine in November 2016.

Like most aspects of education, there are different ways of completing the paperwork. This blog is written to be a guide to help inform your own school’s gifted policy and/or procedures. Some schools choose to include gifted under inclusive policy while others have a separate policy. Some schools like lots of detail in their policies while others prefer to keep these as a high level overview and include the detail in their procedures. You need to discuss with your Senior Leadership Team what would have the best impact for gifted learners in your context.

A policy is written to be a practical administration guide for whānau, teachers, leadership and the Board of Trustees. It needs to be written thinking about the ‘user’ in your context rather than what may be used at the another school; this is what will dictate the style and content of the policy.

‘Good’ policies:

  • are updated regularly to respond to changing contexts;
  • give guidance to the ‘user’ about the education aspect;
  • are easy to understand (no jargon) and are laid out in an easy to read format.

When writing a policy, you need to keep in mind why a ‘user’ would be referring to the policy and if it will answer the questions that they may have. This means that you sometimes have to think about what other issues or events may be happening that someone needs to refer to the policy.

In general the structure of a policy would include:

  1. Review date
  2. Rationale/purpose
    Why do we have a policy about gifted education? What part of the education act does it refer to? What is the link to current changes (e.g., the Learning Support Action Plan)? What impact to we want this policy to have on gifted students?
  3. Definition
    What do we mean by gifted education in our context? What domains do we recognise? Have we outlined what multi-exceptional means? Are we recognising potential as well as performance? This definition should be created with input from all key stakeholders and needs to recognise all cultures within your kura.
  4. Policy
    This is a brief statement that outlines what you do but not how you do it (that comes in a later section or under procedures). It is the principle of plan that guides anything to do with gifted in your context.
  5. Procedures
    This is going to be the longest part of the policy and will be discussed in the second half of this blog.
  6. Further information
    Where can the reader go to get more information about giftedness? Useful links would include sections on the TKI Gifted site or the Conscious Inclusion Bundle in Potential to Performance’s Teachable Courses.
  7. References
    What research underpins your policy? Yes, your policy needs to be easy to read but it should link back to effective research based practice for gifted learners.

Looking deeper at procedures

This is the most useful part of the policy for teachers and whānau. It tells teacher what they need to be doing and whānau what the expectations of the school are. Many parents now ask to see a copy of the Gifted Policy when they are looking at whether to enrol in a school.

This is the longest section of the policy and the most practical. It tells teachers (especially new teachers) what is expected with regard to providing for gifted students. It is recommended that it be divided into the subsections that are outlined below. Please note that the bullet points are a guide as to what could be included in each sub-section.

5.1 Identification of gifted students

  • The model you are basing your identification process upon (Renzullio, Gagné etc.)
  • Your identification process flowchart
  • The factors that can signal an identification process
  • The key stakeholders who are consulted in the identification process
  • The data that is collected to inform the process

The Ministry of Education publications Gifted and talented students: meeting their needs in New Zealand schools”, give the following identification process guidelines:

  • Be inclusive
  • Be a flexible and continuous process to allow for recognition a “need for something different” which may emerge or be recognisable at any stage of a student’s education
  • Utilise a cumulative data base so that identification is on-going and dynamic
  • Utilise information from a variety of sources, including classroom teacher observation and assessment as well as knowledge gained from others – e.g., parents, whānau, peers, other teacher or tutors etc.
  • Involve open communication between whānau, students, teachers, the Principal and the Board of Trustees
  • Be as unobtrusive as possible and a natural part of the students’ learning environment
  • Use a team approach to coordinate the identification processes
  • Be alert to the hidden gifted or underrepresented groups.  These may include: minority groups; different ethnic groups; underachievers; those with learning, sensory and physical difficulties and those from lower socio-economic groups.

5.2 Role of the Gifted Coordinator and/or Gifted Team (or SENCO/ Learning Support Coordinator)

  • An outline of the job description for the gifted team and/or SENCO/Learning Support Coordinator. Explain who are responsible for which actions.
  • Budget (if applicable)

5.3 Provision for gifted learners

  • Outline of a pull-out or withdrawal group (if applicable)
  • Explanation of entry requirements for Mindplus (if you have students attending or wishing to attend)
  • In-class provision responsibilities of teachers
  • Out of class provision opportunities (both at school and within the community)
  • An outline of ongoing, needs based professional learning and development (PLD) for staff
  • A outline of possible qualitative differentiation beyond the classroom (e.g., IEPs; cluster groups; specialists/mentors; akp; dual enrolment…)
  • An outline of schoolwide provisions (e.g., passion projects; acceleration – subject or whole year level; cross-year grouping…)
  • An outline of in-class provisions (e.g., pre-assessment; complex thinking tasks; P4C; learning centres; competitions; choice; integrated learning/connected curriculum; online resources; field trips; independent learning/Google days; curriculum compacting…)

5.3 Tracking of gifted students

  • An outline of the tracking procedures for gifted students. How do you know they are getting value from you are providing?
  • An outline of the reflection procedures for key stakeholders on provision

The above are some ideas of what could be included as provision for gifted learners. To understand what gifted learners really need in your school, ask them. You can read several blogs on my page about how to collect and use student voice.

A school’s gifted policy needs to be a living document. It should be easily accessible and help guide teachers to make the best decision for the gifted learners. It should provide reassurance to whānau that the school understands that gifted learners need something different and they are trying to provide this.

Policies should be updated regularly to respond to the school’s unique context and provide support to parents and whānau to help advocate for their child.