Too many Queenstown kids are accelerated

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Wakatipu High is taking urgent action to see if dozens of “gifted” students are actually as bright as the school first thought. 

A disapproving new report has found some of the secondary school’s pupils are being pushed beyond their ability through the gifted and talented programme. 

The report, released last Friday, says there is a “climate of mistrust based on lack of information and lack of confidence in the current systems” for the programme. 

The findings stem from an independent review undertaken following two Education Review Office reports – in 2011 and in term one of this year – which highlighted concerns about the gifted and talented scheme. 

There are 92 teens across Years 9-12 who are identified as “gifted” and put into academic acceleration programmes in a school roll of about 700. Wakatipu High’s programmes include the Angelo programme for Years 9-10, subject acceleration and controversial multi-level classes, introduced in 2010. 

“Other members of WHS have realised for some time that the numbers being identified as gifted were not credible,” the report says. 

Board of trustees chair Alistair Nicholson agrees. 

“One of the questions asked, in the three years that we’ve been here [as BOT members], is that we have so many gifted and talented kids, why do our external academic results not reflect these high numbers?” 

A special committee discussed the issue at an urgent meeting last night. 

“If the kids are accelerated and it is putting them under stress, we want to know that,” Nicholson says. 

“If we’re putting kids into positions where they’re likely to fail, we want to know about that. 

“We’ve asked the heads of learning areas to go through all these kids and come to us very quickly and then we’ll do some testing and identifying for the wellbeing of these kids.” 

The report sees the school’s “mismanagement of data” as being fundamental to not being able to adequately identify which teens are actually “gifted”. 

“As staff can’t access the data across the subjects, the teachers have no knowledge of students’ abilities in other areas. They have difficulty in identifying who the bright students are in the school, as they only have access to their own department’s data.” 

Principal Steve Hall says the school accepts the report and is already working on the recommendations, which include creating policies and procedures for the programme. It’s expected plans will be in place by the end of this term. 

The gifted and talented scheme will also no longer be run by one staff member, but by a committee.