Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) presented report, including appendices, together with transcripts of evidence.
Laid on table.
Ordered that report be printed.
Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — I move:
That the Council take note of the report.
I am pleased to rise this morning to make some comments on the joint parliamentary Education and Training Committee’s inquiry into the education of gifted and talented students. One of the common myths around gifted and talented children is that because of their gifts and talents they will be all right, they will survive and they will not require assistance.
Another myth is that gifted and talented children have an evenness in their giftedness and talents. These myths enable the perpetuation of a school of thought that says that education policy and programs should simply cater for the majority in the classroom and, hopefully, provide a leg-up for those students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. I believe we need to aspire to a higher objective that enables children of all abilities the opportunity to excel.
For many who have worked in the sector this may seem to be pie in the sky, and it could be, but there needs to be leadership to change the current approach and of course the physical and financial resources to ensure that what is required is actually delivered.
That will be the challenge for this government, as resources are needed and need to be allocated for things like early identification of gifted and talented students, proper and regular evaluations of gifted programs and other provisions, developing a comprehensive gifted education policy and providing teachers with support and specialist training, particularly in differential curriculums. Teachers and schools need to be provided with information on strategies for educating gifted and talented children, including individual learning plans; curriculum differentiation; acceleration; ability groups, including vertical timetabling; and enrichment and enhancement programs.
Also, we have recommended the establishment of a unit within the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development to lead the development of a new way forward, the details of which are outlined in recommendation 8, which is referenced and interlinked with some 24 other recommendations. This unit would provide the support which is so badly needed by teachers, parents and students.
I am also well aware of the pressure and strains teachers face in the classroom and all the work that is done outside of the classroom. It was never the intention of the committee to add further work to the shoulders of our teachers; rather, we suggest a different approach. I believe this approach can only be successful if there are significant additional resources in teacher training and education, teacher development programs and backup teacher replacement so that teachers can attend programs, forums and networks and know where they can access information and how they can deliver differential curriculum. Real support for teachers is imperative.
I wish to reaffirm my position that the monitoring of all programs for gifted and talented students is critical. We need to know what works and what needs adjustment whilst maintaining an understanding that there is no single strategy that can be employed to meet the learning needs of all gifted and talented students. We also need to be vigilant in ensuring that no one grouping within our community dominates access to programs and that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, indigenous students and rural and regional students are seriously represented in what our education department will offer to gifted and talented students. Giftedness and talent are not owned or handed out by those who have comfortable lives and significant opportunities. I hope the recommendations in this report will encourage the government to deal with identification and access issues as soon as possible.
I would like to thank the schools we visited, the many academics who presented to us and the teachers, the students and the parents who provided insightful evidence. Everyone who presented brought to the table their passion for educating gifted and talented students in an appropriate and meaningful way. I thank the committee members — the chair, the member for Caulfield in the other place, David Southwick; the member for Mildura in the other place, Peter Crisp; Nazih Elasmar; and the member for Bentleigh in the other place, Elizabeth Miller — for their work throughout this inquiry.
I also thank the committee staff, including Kerryn Riseley, the executive officer, who oversaw the research program and wrote the final report; Natalie Tyler, the committee administrative officer, who provided high-quality administrative assistance and support to the committee; Anita Madden, the research officer, who provided assistance with editing and report finalisation while working on the committee’s second inquiry into agricultural education and training; and Maria Scott, the former research officer, who undertook the preliminary research on this report. I believe everyone on this committee and everyone associated with the committee found this inquiry to be a rewarding experience — —
The PRESIDENT — Order! Thank you, Ms Tierney.