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                                         to the

                          The Secretary
    Senate Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and
                 Education References Committee

                                         on the

        The Education of Gifted and Talented Children


                            Federal Council
                                 of the
        Isolated Children‟s Parents‟ Association of Australia Inc
                             ICPA (AUST)

                                      Prepared by
                                     Jan Wagstaff,
                                Federal Councillor, ICPA

                                    31st March 2001

Mrs Carina Kopke
Federal Secretary ICPA (Aust)
Minara Station, PO Box 91
The Isolated Children‟s Parents‟ Association of Australia, ICPA (Aust), welcomes the
opportunity to lodge a submission to the Senate Employment, Workplace Relations, Small
Business and Education References Committee Inquiry into the Education of Gifted and
Talented Children.

ICPA (Aust) is a voluntary parent body dedicated to ensuring that geographically isolated
students have equality of access to a continuing and appropriate education. Their children are
educated in both the government and non-government systems of education in all states and

The comments in this submission reflect the thinking in rural and remote communities and the
vital importance of being able to identify and offer our isolated gifted and talented children
access to appropriate programs. Taking into consideration the average student population 10%
generally fall into the learning disability category and 10% into the gifted and talented category.
Funding and support programs for the learning disability sector are common-place in schools
yet similar support for the gifted and talented students is very much lagging. We strongly
believe that provision for the gifted and talented children should be as normal procedure in any
school as it is for children with learning disabilities.

The gifted and talented isolated student faces enormous odds of isolation through the sheer fact
of his/her remoteness. ICPA (Aust) strongly believes it is of vital importance to consider these
students to encourage families to remain in the rural and remote areas, rather than joining the
ever- increasing flow of rural families to the urban areas seeking better educational
opportunities for their children. The rural and remote areas need these people, they must have
incentive to remain here.

Regardless of their geographic location, academically and creatively gifted children must be
recognised. These children have a right to be identified at the earliest possible age; they have a
right to be nurtured in a school program, not just through school provisions; they have a right to
a differentiated education that is especially appropriate to them, by qualified teachers, without
being seen to be separate and elitist; they have a right to social equality and freedom from
harassment; and a right to be regarded as precious human resources. They are a very valuable
part of our community and their needs must not be overlooked.

Proposals that ICPA (Aust) strongly believe should be considered in addressing this very
important issue are as follows: -

1. Recommendations made by the Senate should be introduced by the
   Federal Government or tied to State funding.

     The 1988 Senate Select Committee made some excellent recommendations in 1988 and
      had unanimous bi-partisan support for all the recommendations. To our knowledge not
      one of these recommendations has been implemented because they were (a) not funded or
      (b) not tied to existing Federal funding and were therefore left up to the State Education
      Departments to implement.

   It would seem therefore that any recommendations made by the Senate should be able to
    be introduced by the Federal Government itself (ie. funded and implemented) or tied to
    Federal funding to the states to ensure that the recommendations are implemented.
ICPA (Aust)                               2                               April 2001
    ICPA (Aust) strongly recommends that the structure of the National Mental Health Plan
     (NMHP) be viewed as a successful guideline on which to base plans for the education of
     Gifted and Talented students. The NMHP has been extremely well received because it
     has been able to successfully incorporate Federal and State ideas, funds and projects.

2. Fund research to identify the needs of gifted and talented students in rural
   and remote communities.

    The Gifted Education, Research, Resource, Information Centre (GERRIC) from the
     University of NSW should be contracted to conduct wide-ranging research into the needs
     of gifted rural students, their parents and teachers so that these needs may be most
     appropriately addressed.

3. Develop early identification strategies.

   Provide information about developmental milestones to parents of all newborn babies
    in rural and remote areas by mail or through maternity hospitals and doctor‟s surgeries
    so that parents who may have limited contact with other children of similar ages have a
    reference point to make early identification of advanced (or delayed) development and
    then access appropriate support services or groups outlined in the same material.

   Establishment of a multidisciplinary team who travel throughout rural areas (a
    brain-train) to screen, identify and provide early intervention for students who fall outside
    the range of average developmental patterns, assisting families whose children are
    advanced or delayed in their development.

4. Teacher training in Gifted and Talented Education.

    At pre-service level so that all new teachers have a comprehensive understanding of
     gifted education, especially as it relates to children in rural and isolated communities.
     There are currently some courses with a few lectures, a few with elective units or
     subjects, but most have little or no coverage of the area.

    At post-graduate level there are a few universities that provide post-graduate courses,
     (especially UNSW Certificate of Gifted Education) but costs and access issues make it
     more difficult for teachers in remote areas, so the Government could assist by providing
     financial assistance for the training of teachers in remote areas.

    In-service training - access to presenters and to seminars held in cities significantly
     restrict teachers in rural areas from developing their knowledge and practice, so funding
     of seminar presenters to travel through rural areas, or video-conferences would assist.
ICPA (Aust)                               3                                  April 2001
    Provide Gifted and Talented Information Kits to all schools, similar to the “Teaching
     Students With Disabilities” Kits that have already been provided so that teachers in small
     rural schools have immediate access to some information to enable them to implement
     appropriate intervention strategies for students.

    Train guidance officers and school counsellors in the particular socio-affective and
     career needs and intervention strategies for gifted and talented students.

5.   Build Networks.

    Teacher networks should be established using technology, to promote collegial support,
     the sharing of information and the development of appropriate curriculum among
     teachers who may otherwise be isolated when teaching low-incidence students.

    Student networks among students of similar abilities and interests, facilitated through the
     use of technology, would enable the most effective use of teacher resources as well as the
     development of social networks so that gifted and talented rural students are less isolated;
     this may be possible through existing Distance Education resources.

    Regional “Days of Excellence” could be run by rural schools to enable students with
     similar interests to come together for a seminar conducted over a few days, thus enabling
     students to build regional contacts and friendships through billeting and an extended
     learning experience.

    Residential courses such as the Australian Primary Talent Search (APTS) Residentials
     and the Scientia Residentials run by GERRIC at UNSW should be promoted among rural
     and isolated communities and financial assistance provided to enable students from these
     communities to register and travel to the Residential Programmes where they can learn
     and socialise with other students of similar ability. Without additional financial
     assistance, rural students may not be able to access these programmes which are
     conducted only in Brisbane (APTS) and Sydney (APTS and Scientia).

    Parent networks should be established and promoted to enable parents of the gifted and
     talented in rural areas to feel less isolated as there are limited opportunities to obtain
     information and discuss issues associated with parenting and advocacy of the gifted and

    Utilise existing communication technology, such as video-conferencing facilities (as
     used in Queensland hospitals), Distance Education resources and radio satellite
     transmission facilities to build these communication networks throughout rural Australia
     as the opportunities for contact among gifted and talented students and their families in
     isolated and rural communities is greatly reduced because of the relatively low numbers,
     especially among the highly gifted, the lower population density and the enormous
     distances involved.

ICPA (Aust)                                4                                 April 2001
    Establishment of a gifted resources library and distribution of books, audio-tapes,
     videos and curriculum resources which cater specifically to the needs of the gifted and
     talented students, their parents and teachers so that cost effective resources are provided
     to rural areas where low incidence results in resources for these students being of low

    6. Fund and promote rural outreach services.

    Encourage urban education centres (schools and tertiary institutions) to establish rural
     outreach programs to provide educational opportunities for gifted and talented students of
     all ages, through distance education and short-term residential provision.

    Establish travelling education units based on a particular subject, area or interest, like
     the Flying Art School, to provide a broad range of high level educational opportunities.
     Museums and Science Centres could participate.

    Develop a range of rural scholarships, perhaps in conjunction with companies, who are
     located in or rely upon rural communities, to enable highly gifted rural students to access
     tertiary or post-graduate studies.

    Promote rural studies, such as the rural medicine course which enable gifted rural
     students to utilise their abilities in a rural environment.

    Establish rural rotation programs so there are a range of professional groups servicing
     the needs of rural communities, while at the same time exposing gifted and talented
     students to a broader range of role models and work experiences.

    Mentor gifted and talented young people involved in rural based industries to develop
     skills and maintain them in the community.

ICPA (Aust)                               5                                 April 2001
                        CASE STUDIES OF ISOLATED
                      GIFTED & TALENTED CHILDREN:

                                           CASE A
“ As a mother of gifted and talented children living on the land I have had to battle hitting brick
walls all through the twelve years of teaching my own three children. School Of The Air was
the only means of education and an excellent way to educate children in the outback, but the
curriculum had very few challenges and no extra help for gifted and talented children. This may
I add is no fault of the school, there is just no program or package in the system to cater for these
children, so most of the time one just accepted the norm.
Watching your children grow you get to know their capabilities so when my first child started
school she produced some amazing work, which I thought was of normal standard. At the same
time my second child (then only three) was physically writing on paper, unassisted, the
alphabet in order and odd little words. I often wondered how clever he was, he always sang the
complicated songs which most kids couldn‟t even say, he always put words into long sentences
as he had a very wide vocabulary from an early age. Even before starting school he loved
reading books, so reception was a breeze. To extend him I bought heaps of simple novels and
encouraged all three of my children to play an instrument and to read heaps. As time moved
along I felt my child needed extra work or acceleration. I approached different teachers but my
impression was that “this parent thinks her child is smart”, so nothing much happened.

As a non qualified teaching mother I had no yard stick by which I could measure my child‟s
attainments but having an older sister in the classroom, the second child was forever answering
her problems, so I felt that this was some indication that he was gifted or thinking at a higher
level. I did hear about The Gifted & Talented Group in Adelaide (1000 km away) and joined
just for the newsletters but because of the distance found it quite valueless in my situation.

Then when my third child started school, he too was above the normal child‟s intelligence. One
teacher at the school did think the same as me and organized for him to go into an advanced
group, which he did. When the time came for him to be promoted to the next level we had a
change of teachers and it was discovered that he was too young so was made to „hover‟ for two
terms, a very frustrating situation.

To try and challenge my children I bought them musical instruments and lots of musical books
myself and encouraged music, took them to all the music competitions in the area, which I may
add they won or were placed in every category. They competed in Solar Boat, art, poetry and
essay competitions and always won something. Most of these events that they went to I just
happened to stumble onto by keeping my ear to the ground. Being successful in competitions
still wasn‟t enough to accelerate the children, they were wanting extra challenges.

One thing I found annoying was no one seemed to be listening and when someone did and
something was done to help the child it only happened in fourth term and nothing flowed on
into the next year because of the staff changes or we went up a level to a different teacher. It was
always an uphill battle. I was never advised on how to teach „gifted‟ children, so I guess it was
never thought that my children were.

My next step was to take my children to Adelaide for assessments for my own interest, which
found that all three were gifted, but each one was more than the other, the youngest having the
very highest IQ. I took the two younger children‟s reports to school, hoping some attention may
be given to them. I guess the reports were read but nothing constructive eventuated. I then went
out and bought extra activity books for them to work with and tried to extend them myself. Not
ICPA (Aust)                                 6                                 April 2001
having qualifications I did the best I could. I have had to sacrifice time, effort and lots of dollars
to encourage and give my children the opportunities I thought that they deserved.

The feedback from School Of The Air was not supportive generally but the odd teacher did
direct me and photo copy odd sheets for the children to work on. At times I was pretty frustrated
with the distance to a Gifted and Talented school. Any support and the changing of staff made it
difficult to continue with any organized program that may have briefly been put in place then

One year I recall my youngest did heaps of extended work from various books that went with
topics in his set work and sent them off. The work was returned with a comment – „this is great
work but get mummy to mark it for you‟. I guess because the work wasn‟t the standard set work
it was like, too hard to mark!! So I gave up that year and just extended my son at home for his

In 1999 a friend sent me some information about a group called GERRIC, (for the gifted.) I
accessed some information that led me to Gifted &
Talented research. Testing at a Year 8 level was being conducted on Year three to five students
at a private school in Adelaide for the first time. The fee was $70.00 plus and a 2000 km round
trip. I registered my youngest who was in Year 5 and he sat the test which took a couple of
hours. Months later we received the basic report which didn‟t explain that much except that he
scored around the 85% and above the Year 8 level for the science section. This resulted in
nothing and the school never even recognized the test.

I personally would like to see programs tailor-made to suit each individual student with their
personal needs. My older two children have gone off to college, (both winning scholarships) so
I guess it‟s too late for them now but maybe my case may help any other families. This is the
last year for my youngest son as a School Of The Air student and it‟s the first year that he has
been accepted as a “Gifted child”, with a personal program set up for him. I think this has a lot
to do with the teacher he was lucky enough to score this year because the system still does not
cater for gifted children.

I am lucky my children did not have behaviour problems and because I encouraged them as
much as possible in all areas of interest I feel this helped them through their primary years in an
isolated situation. Some mothers may not have the energy, patience, time or abilities. I did feel
it was definitely disappointing at times, especially since even the Education Department
assessed the youngest child and he had two reports stating he was gifted and talented and both
reports were ignored to a certain extent.

I trust that this scenario is of assistance. I have recorded my experiences as they have affected
my children and me. It is to be hoped that my input may help others who encounter similar

                                           CASE B
“My son is currently aged nine and a School Of The Air student. Some time ago we requested
he be assessed and after about ten months and a lot of jumping up and down on my part it
ICPA (Aust)                              7                              April 2001
eventually happened. We were advised to go through DETE (Department of Education,
Training and Employment) rather than have him tested privately, as the school would then be
bound to follow through the recommendations. The woman was quite unhelpful, my son was
uncomfortable and none of us really understood her report.

The school has done nothing to address my concerns in this area, although his teacher has
provided extra resources for spelling and hand-writing (of which he is not great, especially
hand-writing.) She has stated, yes, he is definitely gifted and talented, but that is as far as it‟s
gone. The school seems most reluctant to deal with students like this though they are happy to
put in place programs for the other end of the spectrum, eg. reading recovery. This in turn leads
to behavioural problems with the bright child being bored silly.

It is very hard out here to access stuff from Gifted and Talented associations in the city,
particularly when you realize that it all must be implemented and taught by mostly untrained
and non-professional supervising mothers and governesses, especially remembering that this is
done largely without support from the school. Quite frankly I am at a loss to know what to do

ICPA (Aust)                                  8                                  April 2001

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