Universal screening of all children between the ages of 6 and 8 for giftedness, dyslexia (reading problems), and dyspraxia (clumsy movement) looks likely to be introduced by the Ministry of Education.
A national database on children's learning needs would record diagnosis. Other information in the database would include the results of a universal health check at Age 3, school entry test results and whether a child is an Oranga Tamariki child. This is a proposal within the Disability and Learning Support Action Plan open for consultation until the end of this month (31 Oct 2018).
Some educationalists argue that diagnosis for giftedness should occur in early childhood education and 6 to 8 years old is too late.
But there is a question as to whether screening of every child in early childhood education would be backed by sufficient resources and funding? And, could early formal categorisation of a child have negative unintended consequences for the child?
Under the previous government, the Ministry of Education opposed creating a central register of students with learning differences, saying it "could encourage reliance on diagnosis or categorisation of learning difference, which is inconsistent with the way learning support is provided based on need rather than diagnosis.". There would also be costs in individually identifying children "many of whom may have low or temporary needs; establishing the definitions or categories of learning difference; and keeping a register up to date, monitoring and auditing."
giftEDnz co-chair Dr Nadine Ballam believes diagnosis should occur before children start school and be ongoing during the school years
“The draft plan is yet another Ministry initiative that aims for a fully inclusive education system, yet excludes full participation in learning for young gifted children."
She adds that “identification of learners’ gifts and talents must be ongoing, as these develop over time, with experiences and factors like chance - getting the right teacher who sees potential others haven’t, for example.”
giftEDnz Board member Associate Professor Tracy Riley, expresses caution in relying on teachers alone to asses whether a child is gifted.
“Screening needs to be against local norms, developed from already existing observational scales of behaviours, and inclusive of the ways in which giftedness is represented in diverse cultural and social groups. It should not be reliant on teachers who are often biased, with low expectations for some children.”
In 2011 a ChildForum - Massey University survey on policy and resources for gifted children in early childhood education found that while there were wide ranging views on what giftedness was there was also strong support for early childhood services to make an effort to identify if a child was gifted. The methods preferred by the largest numbers of respondents for identification of giftedness were talking with parents, narrative assessment and informal observation.
To provide your views to the Ministry of Education go to Disability and Learning Support Action Plan page for consultation.
Comment below to share your view with others in early childhood education.