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.
Advocating for your
Gifted Child at School
Strategies for Effective Advocacy
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Reschedule for More Time
If you require more time, reschedule for
another day to meet and continue the
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
• the Special Education Needs Co-
• a Dean, syndicate leader or senior
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.
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.
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
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.
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
ring on 04 471 0852, or email
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.
Children’s Commissioner. (n.d.). Our work. Retrieved from http://www.occ.org.nz/childrens-rights-
HighAbilityParent's Channel. (2012). Important A's for parents – Advocacy [Video File].
Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C0r0WNhu-Ak
Kelly Bernish, J. (2008). Advocacy for gifted students. Retrieved
Ministry of Education. (2014). Parents and whanau. Retrieved from
New Zealand Ministry of Education. (n.d.). Managing complaints. Retrieved from
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
Advocate Successfully for
Your Gifted Child at School