10 Easy Early Learning Activities for Babies and Toddlers
Every child is special, but only a small percentage fall into the category of "gifted and talented". Having an exceptionally bright child is a mixed blessing, particularly if school is unable to provide enough intellectual stimulation. A bright, but bored, child is at risk of developing emotional or behavioural problems.
Robert Randall, the NSW Department of Education's director of professional support and curriculum, champions the policy of nurturing gifted and talented children. Primary school OC classes and selective high schools form part of a "comprehensive strategy", he claims, in which all schools are encouraged to identify and meet the needs of their students.
Outside of those OC and selective options, much is happening. Some schools have a separate "scholars" stream. Others run weekly classes for gifted and talented children of all ages, with exercises designed to stimulate imagination, team-working and problem-solving. Students are able to start school early (provided they have turned four by the start of the school year), and leapfrog into higher curriculum levels.
Some high schools work in collaboration with primary schools, encouraging leadership and mentoring among older students.
The schools report huge enthusiasm by students for such programs, and often better behaviour among bright children who had previously hidden their talents because they were unwilling to be identified as "nerds".
However, Helen Dudeney, president of the NSW Association for Gifted and Talented Children, says the provision of gifted and talented programs in NSW schools is 'hugely varied and inconsistent and unpredictable'.
"There are definitely some schools that are doing some interesting things," she says, "but there aren't many where it [the program] is so strongly part of the school structure that, if particular personnel were to leave or funding provisions were to change, that I would be confident the programs could survive."
Mr Randall says the variety of gifted and talented courses is not a bad thing. "Schools, knowing the students and the intake and the like, are best placed to tailor and modify programs that meet their needs," he says.
At least now there is consensus that very clever children have special needs. In the old days, parents had to fight the notion that such children did not merit attention because they were destined to do well anyway.
"That's not based on research and it's not based on reality," Mrs Dudeney says, adding that "a very high level" of gifted and talented students underachieve, or even drop out. The association, which has about 1800 members, averages about 300 calls a month from people ringing about their gifted and talented children. Most of those are not from parents anxious for their children to be identified as gifted and talented, or seeking greater maths challenges, Mrs Dudeney says.
"Most of those calls are about the child's social and emotional needs: they are not happy, or parents have seen `the spark' go away, or the children are having trouble finding friends within their age cohorts, or are having behavioural problems." In recent months, St John's College, Woodlawn, near Lismore, has twice played host to the first Gifted and Talented Camps for students from North Coast Catholic schools.
The regional camp, run with the assistance of the Catholic Education Office in Lismore, saw more than 100 children in years 5 to 8, selected by their schools, get together for three days of brainstorming and mutual support. Another couple of camps will be held later this year.
Glen Roff, principal of St John's College, says the camp's activities are devised by a "brains trust" of gifted and talented program co-ordinators from schools. St John's is the ideal location: being a former boarding school, it is able to accommodate large numbers of children.
Kevin Bell, St John's gifted and talented co-ordinator, says the camp's activities include theatre sports, developing Web sites and a "cranium" competition, in which teams have to answer questions in disciplines such as science, history, art, computers and music. This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/06/13/1023864327231.html