TAG has contacted candidates for the Tasmanian 2024 state election, to understand their position on the education of gifted students in Tasmania.

Dear Candidate

As you are a candidate for the Tasmanian 2024 House of Assembly election, we seek to understand your position on the education of gifted students in Tasmania on behalf of our members and stakeholders.

The Tasmanian Association for the Gifted Inc (TAG) is a non-profit organisation whose primary objective is providing much needed support to gifted children, their families, and teachers, including hosting monthly seminars from gifted experts around the world. In Tasmania, there are approximately 8,000 primary and secondary students found across all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.

Gifted students have aptitude that places them in the top 10% of their age peers but are not necessarily ‘top of the class’: realisation of their potential is influenced by accurate identification and appropriate educational provisions, and underachievement often remains until talent evolves. The learning needs of gifted students are as different from the norm as children with learning disabilities at the other end of the spectrum, and disengagement for gifted students becomes exponential without appropriate provisions.

Unfortunately, up to 75% of identified gifted students in Australia underachieve and up to 40% leave school before completing Year 12. In Tasmania most gifted children remain unidentified and are at high risk of behavioural and emotional problems, which in turn places further pressure on Tasmanian teachers. Our members report deleterious issues when the needs of their gifted children are not met by schools, including psychological distress and school refusal. Some are driven to home-schooling after numerous failed attempts to stay in the school system, and most members are forced to advocate on behalf of their children due to widespread lack of understanding of the needs of gifted students.

Research continues to indicate that the majority of teachers and school psychologists in Australia lack the essential knowledge, skills, and confidence to identify and meet the needs of gifted children. The Senate inquiry into the Education of Gifted and Talented Children (2001) recommended all newly graduated teachers should have at least a semester unit on the special needs of gifted children in their degrees. This has not happened; such a unit is not even available at the University of Tasmania nor in most Australian universities.

This lack of knowledge has severe effects for our Tasmanian gifted students. Whilst the DECYP do have policies for effective interventions, including subject and grade acceleration, our members indicate these rarely translate into action. Research shows many educators commonly oppose these interventions due to unwarranted belief in pervasive myths (e.g. that such interventions are harmful to social adjustment, or that gifted students will achieve even without intervention). Apart from the process for Early Entry, which is undertaken by an independent committee, most DECYP interventions for gifted children are at the discretion of Principals, the majority of whom lack expert training in the needs of gifted children.

TAG particularly wants to understand your views on issues such as:

  • A consistent approach to the identification of gifted students in our State.
  • Appropriate education of educators and decision-makers such as Principals, delivered by an expert with higher qualifications in Gifted Education (the requirement, as recommended by the Senate inquiry into the Education of Gifted and Talented Children (2001), is of at least a full semester unit in gifted education, including training in identification of gifted students and the pedagogy of teaching them).
  • Appropriate training of school psychologists who may not have sufficient skills to confidently provide for gifted students (Australian research has found that, like teachers, school psychologists need specialist training in gifted education, and here in Tasmania one of our members was told by a school psychologist that they did not believe gifted children existed).
  • Timely access to school psychologists. Where students have been referred to school psychologists for identification, our members report long wait times of up to 2 to 3 years, being told they are low priority.
  • Access to, and transparency in the decision-making process, relating to interventions such as acceleration, ability grouping, etc. for gifted students. (e.g. there are international frameworks available for decision-making in relation to acceleration that can be used to inform this practice so that the decisions are evidence-based.)
  • Selective schools or selective streams within schools for gifted students

TAG looks forward to receiving your prompt reply so that we may share the information provided with our members and stakeholders.

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require further information or reference to the research supporting the statements we have made.

Your sincerely,

TAG Committee

On 20th February, before the election was declared, we emailed all the sitting members Housemembers 19 feb 24

Once the election was declared, we emailed all candidates for whom we could find a contact email 2024-ha-rpt-candidate-contact

Candidate responses, if received, are listed below, alphabetically by surname

Dear TAG Committe,
Thank you for your informative email.
I give in-principal support to your recommendations regarding gifted children.
It is a tragedy their potentials are not being reached and that so many are leaving school without even a Year 12 education.
I believe individual schools are the best place to identify and nurture gifted students. This starts with educating principals and teachers and having a whole of school approach in supporting such.
If elected I would like to support change in this arena.
All the best.
Blessings,
Mark Brown
Independent candidate for Bass.

Dear TAG Committee 

 
I do support your suggestions.
Unfortunately Tasmania is behind other states in education and this means that many of our gifted student do not get the opportunity to foster a love of learning. 
 
Please send some details if they are available: 
– how will TAG identify gifted students
– will opportunities be uniform across the state
– what is the suggested age of early identification 
– what is the suggested age of TAG program recipients 
– any additional information about TAG that you can provide, this might be annual reports or published reports, program curriculum offered, advocacy documents or materials etc.
 
In response to your positions: 
  • YES, to a consistent approach to the identification of gifted students in our State.
  • YES to appropriate education of educators and decision-makers such as Principals, delivered by an expert as described
  • YES to Appropriate training of school psychologists 
  • YES to timely access to school psychologists – current mental health supports in Tasmanian are under resourced and this is an issue I would prioritised for being addressed
  • YES to access to, and transparency in the decision-making process relating to interventions etc.
  • YES, Tasmanian required improved education outcomes including greater opportunities for schools that meets students individual needs 
  • YES to selective streams within all Tasmanian schools for gifted students
 
Please see attached a summary document of my policy positions, formulated in consultation with the community.
Please share this document within your networks and let me know if you require an accessible word version.
 
Thank you for being in touch.
I represent social, environmental and values driven politics, accountable to the community. 

I will work to embed transparency, sustainability and inclusion into governance. 

 
Connect with me on social media and share my policy positions with your friends.
 
 
Warmly,
Tamar Cordover
Independent for Franklin 

Hello,

Thank you for getting in contact with me.
The Animal Justice Party was created to give a political voice to non-human animals to improve their livelihoods. As such, our position statement on education is focused mostly on animals and does not include a position related to gifted students.
Although we do not have a specific stance on this issue, I would like to state that personally I successfully got into a selective school as a child and was considered ‘gifted’. I have been through some difficult times as a result of this, and would be happy to discuss further with you, however it would not be related to my position as a candidate.
I appreciate your time reaching out to me.
Casey Davies (they/them)

consideration on her return.

Many thanks

On behalf of Janie Finlay 

Beck BeaumontExecutive Assistant  

Hello TAG Committee

To be honest I have not had sufficient time to completely understand your positions. I’d elected I commit to meeting with you to better understand.
Kind regards
Clare Glade-Wright

Thank you very much for your email.

I have passed it onto the Shadow Minister for his consideration and will make sure all such requests are looked at as part of the election process.

Thanks again

Ella

Ella Haddad MP (She/Her)Labor Member for Clark

Dear TAG Committee,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment on the issues facing gifted students and their families.

In short, I agree that gifted students need much more support and recognition from governments than is currently the case. I am more than happy to endorse all the issues you have asked me to consider in your email. All the matters you raise are important, but central is the lack of suitably trained psychologists, teachers and other school decision makers with sufficient knowledge of contemporary gifted student pedagogy.

Another matter which has been raised with me is the absence of funding for home-schooled students. I understand that many gifted students are home-schooled because parents can see that their children do not receive the teaching they need to reach their full potential, at a conventional school. But it a grossly unfair arrangement: the government saves money by not having to educate a student through the school system, while the parents receive no support. This is manifestly unjust.

If I am re-elected I will continue to advocate on your behalf. Thank you again and I look forward to working with the Tasmanian Association for the gifted.

Yours sincerely

Kristie Johnston MP

 

Kristie Johnston

Independent Member for Clark

I believe gifted students should be supplied with everything they need to reach their full potential. This makes sense because such people have the ability to do great things for our community and country as a whole. They should not be wasted. Societies that exclude certain groups forgo the power and contributions they possess so are poorer for the neglect or exclusion. The best societies are ones that benefit from their whole population.

Brenton Jones
Braddon

Dear TAG Committee,

I am of the opinion that our entire education system is in dire need of help and all students would benefit from far more support. The Tasmanian Government has had record spending on education; however, I believe throwing money at a broken system doesn’t fix the issues that we are seeing.

I absolutely agree that students should have easy and quick access to school psychologists, whether that be for fostering and harnessing talents or for antisocial behavioural issues. However, the problem there is that we simply do not have enough psychologists in the state. One solution for that issue wouldn’t be to throw money at the education system but rather to try and incentivise school graduates to pursue careers in psychology and to better support them throughout their university studies. It would also be paramount to ensure graduating psychology students who want to pursue careers in schools have undertaken units of study that allow them to identify and support gifted students. Graduating teachers should also be made to take such units of study.

I absolutely agree that there should be streamlined classes for students with different abilities. Teachers shouldn’t be expected to try and teach multiple classes that cater to various student abilities at once, I believe this expectation is part of the reason we are seeing so many teachers burn out. Not only is it unfair to our teachers, but it is also unfair to the students. I have spoken to multiple teachers who have said they struggle catering their classes to suit the various abilities of their students. They did say it is possible with small class sizes, however we are just not seeing that. One teacher said the difficulty of having children with various abilities in the same class is that they’re focused on getting the children who are falling behind up to the baseline level, rather than excelling the children who are already there. This is why I agree we need streamlined classes. In saying that, I understand the problem in having streamlined classes is that we need teachers to teach them and we simply do not have the numbers at the moment. Such as the problem with the lack of psychologists, we need to be incentivising school graduates to pursue careers in teaching.

How to better support and identify gifted students is a new subject to me so I would most certainly appreciate the opportunity to work with you in order to identify the steps the government needs to take to help support gifted students in our State.

I believe in streaming based on ability, not age based classrooms.

Dear TAG,

Thank you for your email of February 20 and the accompanying information and enquiry about policy issues related to gifted children.

I am seeking re-election as an independent, and if successful, will work to ensure that the State Parliament is guided by good policy and the needs and interests of all Tasmanians.

My primary focus throughout my time in politics has been on the need to support equal opportunities for all, particularly those from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds. But this does not mean I am unaware of the special needs of gifted children. Those blessed with special gifts, whether by dint of heredity and/or environment, are an important resource for the whole community and their particular needs are often overlooked. It is well documented that lack of recognition and support for such children can ironically lead to underachievement, often accompanied by mental health and behavioural issues, which in turn means wasted opportunity and talents.

I was surprised to learn from your email that there are as many as 8000 of these children from all socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds in Tasmania – this underlines that this is a significant cohort.

I support common and better processes for the early identification of gifted children throughout the Tasmanian school system, acknowledgement of the importance of, and training in, the management and support of gifted children and clearer options for accelerated learning and guidance for such children. This clearly has implications for teacher education curricula, and the skillset of school-based counsellors and psychologists.

If I have the privilege of being re-elected I would welcome further policy advice from TAG on this important issue.

Kind regards,

David O’Byrne

Dear TAG,

Many thanks for your email and for letting me know about TAG’s priority issues for your members in the 2024 State Election.

Please be assured that your key priority areas, issues and concerns have been noted, and I have raised the importance of these directly with the Liberal Party.

Warmest regards,

Jacquie Petrusma

Hi
This sounds like a commonsense approach.
I would fully support all the 2001 recommendations mentioned.
Tasmania has always had very smart individuals that deliver so much for so many and to invest in this to build on.
I’m all for it.
Kind regards
James H Redgrave

Thank you for your email.

I do support the dot points you emailed to me.
Kindest Regards
Loueen