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Advocating for your Gifted Child at School


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Strategies for advocating for your gifted child at school. Tips for effective communication to help build a positive relationship with your child's teacher, for a team approach to supporting your child's needs at school.

Published in: Education
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Advocating for your Gifted Child at School

  1. 1. Advocating for your Gifted Child at School Strategies for Effective Advocacy
  2. 2. Build Positive Relationships Build a positive relationship with your child's teacher - you don't have to wait for Parent-Teacher interviews to introduce yourself, show your gratitude for the teacher's effort in teaching your child, explore the teacher's perspectives and reasons for their approach, or to share your concerns. Drop in to say hi, or send them an email to say thanks. Make a time to meet in person to find out more about what's happening in class and/or to share your concerns and make a plan to address these for moving forward.
  3. 3. Open, Respectful and Tactful Be open and respectful of the teacher's ideas, just as you would like them to be open and respectful of yours. Keep communication open and positive. Accept what they have to say first before responding. Avoid the word 'bored' as it can be seen to be offensive. When working with teachers who have limited understanding of giftedness and talent you may like to try substituting the term 'gifted' with 'high ability', 'accelerated learner', or 'student with a particular profile of qualities and abilities' as these may be received in a more favourable light.
  4. 4. School Policy and Definition Find out what your school's policy on gifted education is and what the school’s definition of gifted is. While giftedness is a broad concept, each school is expected to develop a definition based on their own community’s conceptions of giftedness in conjunction with what the school is realistically able to offer. This will provide you with some guidance around what you can expect from your school. Know however, that it is within your rights to expect that your child has equal opportunities to learn.
  5. 5. Take Focus Questions Before meeting with the teacher put some questions together to give focus to your discussion, such as: • what are your observations of my child, what are my child's strengths and weaknesses? • why are you choosing to teach my child this content or these skills? • how are you teaching my child that is different to meet his or her needs in class? • what opportunities are available for my child at school outside of his or her regular class (such as working with a withdrawal teacher on a gifted programme, competitions, field trips, mentoring, work experience), and what will these look like? • how will I know what my child is learning or has learnt?
  6. 6. Take Evidence If you have concerns over what is being taught, take in some examples of your child's current work to share which demonstrates the area of concern. Ask the teacher to share why they have chosen this work as the focus - it may be for a reason that you have not realised or considered, and which is logical, for example pre-testing. If still concerned, in a non-emotive and neutral manner, explain why. You may like to share examples of your child's work that shows their true abilities and/or qualities, for example work that was completed with a teacher who challenged your child appropriately in class, videos of unprompted exceptional behaviours showing at home, or samples of things that they create or do at home. If you have assessments which relate to your concerns, share these also.
  7. 7. Have a Team Approach It is helpful to show that you are willing to work with the school to implement a solution with a team approach. It can be beneficial to come with ideas of some potential ways to address your concerns; however you need to be mindful that flexibility is needed, as you will need to be prepared to negotiate around possible solutions.
  8. 8. Plan and Document Try to negotiate an agreement and develop an action plan for this. You may like to schedule a second meeting for this aspect so that you have time to reflect on the discussion and to determine what points are most important to you and your family to focus on. Once you have a plan, document this. Follow up with an email or note to the teacher acknowledging your appreciation of their time and support and outlining the agreed plan. You will then both know that you are on the same page and moving forward together. It is good practice to document any communication you have with the school relating to dealing with concerns over your child's education, keeping these records in case you need to refer to them again.
  9. 9. Reschedule for More Time If you require more time, reschedule for another day to meet and continue the conversation.
  10. 10. Go Up the Ladder If, having spoken with the teacher, you are unable to come to a satisfactory agreement, you may need to speak with someone higher up: • the Special Education Needs Co- ordinator (SENCO) • a Dean, syndicate leader or senior manager Failing success at this level you may need to talk with the Principal. Politely ask who the next person to approach will be - It is courteous to let someone know when you are about to go above them.
  11. 11. Talk with Other Families You may find it helpful to talk with other parents about their experiences and what approaches they found successful. Likewise forming a committee or a parent advocacy group may be beneficial in supporting positive change for gifted education at a school-wide and/or regional level.
  12. 12. If you are still unable to find a resolution, the final step at school is to address the Board of Trustees who are part of the leadership team and are responsible for among other things, overseeing the management of school personnel. If you want to make a formal complaint, you will need to follow your school's complaint policy and procedure. This will involve putting your complaint in writing and addressing it to the chairperson. If you are unhappy with the complaint procedure itself, you may raise this complaint with the Board of Trustees, or the Ministry of Education who can be contacted on 04 463 8000. Follow Formal Channels
  13. 13. Advice and Legal Support For advice and information, you might like to contact the Children’s Commissioner on 0800 224 453. Their phones are answered from 9am to 5pm each day, Monday to Friday. If you need an interpreter, just ask for ‘language line’ and the language you want when you call, or alternatively, you can email If you or your child feels that legal advice is required, you can contact the Parents Legal Information Line on 0800 499 488 or the Office of the Ombudsman on 0800 802 602, while your child is able to contact Youth Law on 09 309 6967.
  14. 14. Formal Complaints New Zealand teachers are bound by a Code of Ethics. If you feel that the conduct or competence of a teacher needs to be investigated, you can lay a complaint with the New Zealand Teacher’s Council. To access the Code of Ethics and information and guidelines relating to the complaints process you can visit their website ring on 04 471 0852, or email
  15. 15. But Remember...
  16. 16. Celebrate Success! Celebrate the positive things your teacher and school does and celebrate the success of your advocacy. Express your gratitude and share about positive outcomes with others in the school community to help keep building on success for continued improvement of gifted education at your school.
  17. 17. References Children’s Commissioner. (n.d.). Our work. Retrieved from and-advice/ HighAbilityParent's Channel. (2012). Important A's for parents – Advocacy [Video File]. Retrieved from Kelly Bernish, J. (2008). Advocacy for gifted students. Retrieved from Ministry of Education. (2014). Parents and whanau. Retrieved from New Zealand Ministry of Education. (n.d.). Managing complaints. Retrieved from sionsExpulsions/PartTwo/Section3ActionsOfLastResort/ManagingComplaints.aspx#jump4 New Zealand School Trustees Association. (2010). Board of trustees. Retrieved from New Zealand Teachers Council. (n.d.). New Zealand teachers council. Retrieved from Skinner, W. (2012). Advocating up the ladder. Retrieved from Taibbi, C. (2012). Parent-teacher conferences: Advocating for your gifted child. Retrieved from advocating-your-gifted-child
  18. 18. Advocate Successfully for Your Gifted Child at School