#025 Why Would Parents Choose a Selective Gifted School?

by | Jun 11, 2021 | 0 comments

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Why would a parent choose a selective school? That’s what we talk about with Deb Nurton in this week’s podcast.

After reflecting on the intense effort required to navigate the education system for her academically gifted children, Deb returned to university to explore the current thinking in this field. Her research investigated the reasons why parents chose to enrol their gifted children in a selective school.

Deb now runs Nurture Connect, a service offering support and practical advice to gain positive outcomes for students and families.

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Memorable Quote

“They had all started out their children at mainstream, so they did know how mainstream worked for their child and each one of them had decided that they needed something different.

They all found that their child was actually underperforming. There were school absences. One parent couldn’t get her child to school previously. One child was made to repeat year one which is crazy. There was disruptive behaviour. One child would do their work in the morning and then nap in the afternoon. And children were disengaged. When they chose, so they were really looking for something, they had really unhappy children and they were feeling quite traumatized themselves.” – Deb Nurton

“I was surprised at the lengths that parents had gone to. I don’t know that school is the local school for any of the parents that I interviewed. Obviously, it’s closer for some parents than others. The one thing that did surprise me was that parents were traumatized by their experiences. And in fact, what that did for me was made me remember my traumatic experiences.” – Deb Nurton

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Transcript

Sophia Elliott: Good morning, Deb. It’s wonderful to have you on the podcast this morning. 

[00:00:04] Deb Nurton: It’s very lovely to be here.

[00:00:06]Sophia Elliott:  I’m really excited to be talking about your research this morning. So perhaps we can dive on in there and you can tell us what motivated you to conduct research within the sort of gifted education and what was your research about.

[00:00:24] Deb Nurton: Okay. I am the parent of two highly gifted children and so I went through their schooling experiences and I found that my experiences were quite different to my friends’ experiences. And the parents of my children’s friends they were a lot more laid back and I tended to be a lot more questioning of why they were underperforming or why they were unhappy or why the teachers didn’t understand.

[00:00:53]And so I had done my own research over the years. And then I decided that I would like to go back once I had got them a fair way through school. And and just have a look at, , what were the main policies and methods of.  Gifted education. And and our best experiences were teachers that ran respectful classrooms and that differentiated the work, but that everybody in the classroom felt that they were important.

[00:01:22]And , once we got to the selective high school things got a lot more manageable at that stage, but there was a lot of teachers not actually understanding what was going on for my children. So I looked into doing honors in giftedness and I was offered a research project looking into why parents chose a a selective school for gifted children.

[00:01:45] So a selective school is one where children are selected on the basis of. Of of their giftedness in this instance. And yeah, so that really interested me. And so that’s where I did my research.

[00:02:00] Sophia Elliott: Very interesting. And it was lovely to read your paper and I noted as well. I’ll just I’ve got a few bits to read if you don’t mind.

[00:02:12] And the first bit that really took me, not by surprise, because I think, I feel like I’m living this experience, but nonetheless is a bit shocking. And I’ll just read this bit out. You talk about. A review undertaken by a national Senate inquiry in 2000. So this is here in Australia, echoed the results of a similar inquiry in 1988, by the parliament of Australia, affirming that gifted children have a special needs at school that many are not having those needs met that many experience, underachievement boredom  and frustration and psychological distress as a result, an action was required.

[00:02:53] And then 10 years later, we have some researchers, Jarvis and Henderson saying that schools and they’re talking about south Australia in particular are not mandated to identify or provide specific educational provisions for gifted students. And teachers are not required to undertake specific preparation in this area.

[00:03:13] So that says to me, we’ve known at the highest levels of government for a long time, that gifted kids require. And in their words, special needs at school. And the sort of acknowledgement that we’ve really failed to do that, which it’s kind of

[00:03:29] Deb Nurton: sad, isn’t it?

[00:03:30]Sophia Elliott: it’s incredibly sad and it’s a shock to see it in black and white, in a national Senate’s, report time.

[00:03:38] And again not even like just once, but repeatedly to think that we haven’t managed to lift our game in all those years. So thank you for doing some research, and contributing to our knowledge around this area. And and so you, your research was around why parents chose a selective school for their children 

[00:04:00] Deb Nurton: if I can just go back a moment and say that I think it being the parent of a gifted child, especially if we’re talking about somebody who’s highly gifted then it’s it’s quite an isolating experience.

[00:04:15] So if that, if your child is on the 95th, 96, 97, 99th percentile what that means is there’s not very many of them around. And we go through parenting our children through school thinking thinking. What’s wrong here. What’s why aren’t the teachers taking any notice of what I’m saying?

[00:04:38]Why is that child picking on my child? And I think that it’s very isolating and like you, when I started to see this sort of thing in black and white, that there had been a Senate inquiry in 2000 and that had, that came after the 1988 one.

[00:04:57]I felt I became quite distressed about that because what I felt was I was expending a lot of effort as a parent, trying to fix something that they had known about. For decades. And and so I think that it’s, it is very isolating being a parent. And there’s not really if your children need a  selective school and there is not one available, then you’re always always doing half measures.

[00:05:28]Then you’re always running the roulette of, what happens this year? Will my child have a teacher who understands this year? And then, so you get through that year and you’ve got a great teacher and then what happens the next year, so that there’s not a great deal of like gift gifted giftedness is not a mandatory pat of of a teaching degree.

[00:05:49] Sometimes it there’s an elective where you can do an elective on giftedness or sometimes giftedness is it might be, two weeks or four weeks in, in another bigger module, which, might be about differentiation or it might be about inclusive classrooms   .

[00:06:05]Some teachers and especially there was one parent in my research who reported that the teacher had tried really hard to help her child, but the child was so far advanced that there was no help. For that child  even with early entry into our reception classroom, because reception is supposed to be you get children used to school and used to the, the work and the structure of the day and you teach them the alphabet.

[00:06:35] You make sure they know the alphabet. You make sure that they know their numbers. And if a child intersts school reading. Now I know also reception does teach reading as well, the basics of reading, but if your child is already reading well ahead and already knows their numbers, and is actually manipulating numbers, if they’re doing, plus and minus and division if they know Roman numerals if they are really interested in that or in science, then, if they’re talking about, w number of what the parents in my research talked about, their children being interested in high level science already beyond what most adults are even able to conceptualize.

[00:07:15] So if you have a child like that, entering reception, even if they have been given early entry, which is up to a year then you’re gone to be. Struggling that child is going to be wondering what’s going on. They’ve been doing a lot of independent learning and suddenly they’re in an environment which often they’ve been promised is going to be exciting because we all think that about our children, when they start school, that it’s going to be exciting.

[00:07:41] It’s going to be other children to play with. You’re going to learn some great stuff. And the children are suddenly, wondering what’s going on in their life. Now at the selective school, what they do is they do offer early entry, but it’s early entry into grade one.

[00:07:58] So it’s not early entry into reception where you’re covering the basics. It’s early entry into grade one where there’s a little bit of work. And then what they do is they look individually at the child and they decide where that level of that child is in every particular subject. And then in every subject that child is actually given work at their at their level.

[00:08:21] And I know many of the parents expressed their sheer delight is what I would call it. This was this was many parents said this to me that, oh my child my child is in, might go up for maths. And then they might go, they might stay in their level or even go down a grade for English or they might go up in English and all that down in maths and science.

[00:08:41] So the curriculum is actually differentiated to that. Child’s actual specific needs. And I think that’s. I’d done a little bit in in mainstream where you might have your reading groups, your literacy groups people might have a different textbook, you might have somebody on the textbook ahead of the year or the textbook below of the year.

[00:09:02]But but it’s only a very small range that, that are actually able to adjust for any particular child.  There’s the school that the parents I interviewed are at is is the only one in Australia, and if you’d think I think there’s about I think I was looking at the number of children who are in primary school at the moment.  I think it was about a thousand children who are on the first percentile in south Australia. And so obviously the selective school that the parents were at do not have a thousand children. And so I wonder how those other children are managing. Yeah. And parents choose a school because well, regular parents choose the school because, sometimes it might be convenient.

[00:09:52] It might be, the one that’s the, one of the local ones or it might be that, that’s the school I went to. So it, my children are going to go to that school. And but when you are looking at specific needs for your child, then you might need to let those things go out the window.

[00:10:08] You don’t actually think, oh there’s a school, half an hour away that I could take my child to or I could take them, three minutes down the road, that is actually an issue for parents. What we need is we need to be able to manage every gifted child in whatever school I actually attend.

More Transcript Here

[00:10:29] Yeah,

[00:10:29] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. Absolutely. So like you were saying, they’re typically parents of typical children choose a school for a bunch of different reasons.

[00:10:40]It’s

[00:10:40] it’s down the road, it’s conveniently located,

[00:10:44]Deb Nurton: Children that’s

[00:10:45] Sophia Elliott: right. Might be religious beliefs. We have a strong Catholic sector here in Australia, so there’s a whole bunch of reasons why you might choose a school,

[00:10:56]If you have a typical child, but that shifts is what you’re saying when you’ve got a gifted

[00:11:01] child and you were looking into the reasons, particularly why these parents chose

[00:11:08] this selective school.

[00:11:09] Deb Nurton: Yeah.

[00:11:10] Sophia Elliott: And so what was, what are the factors then that the parents considered when they were looking at the selective school?

[00:11:18]Deb Nurton:  They had all started out their children at mainstream, so they they did know how mainstream worked for their child. And each one of them had decided that they needed something different.

[00:11:31] And many of them didn’t know of this selective school because, it has opened only recently in the last five years. And what what they, most people will look at things like, is, yeah, is it close by one parent drove over an hour every day to get their child to to the school.

[00:11:52] Sophia Elliott: That’s a big commitment. Isn’t it?

[00:11:54] Deb Nurton: One child, one parent moved from interstate. So these are huge commitments that you would make. This is not going to the school down the road. Some parents chose a different. It wasn’t so the children went to mainstream schools that were a number of different ways.

[00:12:11] So it might’ve been the local primary school. Or it might’ve been a specialist a specialist stylist school, but they all found that, their child was actually underperforming. In fact, I’ve got here, there were school absences. One parent couldn’t get her child to school previously.

[00:12:27]One child was made to repeat year one which is crazy. There was disruptive behavior. One child would do their work in the morning and then nap in the afternoon. And children were disengaged. When they chose, so they were really looking for something, they had really unhappy children and they were feeling quite traumatized themselves.

[00:12:48] And when they looked at the selective school selective schools are still quite controversial because people think, oh you’re, you’re separating them from society or it’s elitist. And in fact this is a real issue, I think. And, but what they found when they found out about this school by a number of means  was they went to their pre entry interview and they were all, they all felt that the weight  being lifted from their shoulders.

[00:13:20]One parent talked about the sensory needs of their child and the the the staff explained that, that the school manages that and that really reassured that parent the the and there was reassurance for the parents too, about their child might stop feeling so different and might actually find people like them.

[00:13:42] And that certainly wasn’t outcome of their choice of what the selective school was that, they were actually they had friends and they had close friends for the first time. And they also they also really liked the fact that the whole program was differentiated for every child.

[00:13:58]I know that a couple of the parents talked about their children not wanting to do different things to the rest of their class in mainstream. And so they really stood out whereas. At the selective school, every child is like that. The normal is that you go up for this subject and you go down for this subject and, this term you might be doing, year four maths because it’s it’s, algebra and then next semester you, next term, you might be going up to grade five maths because it’s it’s I don’t know area and then the next the next time you might go down to a grade three maths because that’s that’s something that you find difficult.

[00:14:34]So there’s a normalness, I think that that happens at a selective school. Yeah. So the parents, when they were choosing, they liked the look of the school. But they, some of them were quite cautious. However, once they went to the pre-interview and they spoke with  spoke with the staff, it was, it was very much a feeling that things were that was the right place for their child.

[00:15:00] And also one parent reported that her child corrected one of the teachers at the pre-interview and the teacher dealt with that really respectfully. And and the parents said that’s when they knew that, that was where the child should go.

[00:15:15] Sophia Elliott: Yeah.

[00:15:15] And that I can imagine that would have been a beautiful moment because gifted kids, they don’t see that as anything.

[00:15:22]They didn’t mean anything by that, but they’ll readily correct an adult if they’re factually incorrect because they’re factually incorrect and quite frankly, the gifted child. Often know more about particular subject then as an adult, that’s the whole kind of depth of it. Isn’t it? So the point of difference for this school, as you said, is that it’s a selective school for primary of which there

[00:15:44] are no other here in Australia,

[00:15:45] and generally you get that selectiveness in high school and you touched on there this this view of selective schools.

[00:15:56] And I just wanted to read a little bit out of your thesis here, because it’s quite scathing, but this is the honest truth of what people feel about selective schools. And so you say. Arguments against them. That is selective schools include that they are elitist and bestow further advantage to the already advantaged take funding from children’s struggling to meet basic standards and provide an unnatural environment.

[00:16:25] They may damage self-esteem and diminish educational experience of children in mainstream. And will you even go on to quote the Queensland child and family commission? Yeah. Say they called them institutionalized separation. Yeah. Wow. There’s some really strong views there around selective school.

[00:16:50] And that makes me feel incredibly sad at the depth of the misunderstanding, because what you have said there is actually, we’ve already acknowledged that gifted kids, The Senate has acknowledged that they have special needs in education. And these parents are being very cautious about this choice.

[00:17:12] Some of them driving an hour, moving interstate, huge decisions around going to this selective school. And they’re making that decision on the basis that their kids don’t have friends. They’re not learning they’re in. I think you said get either traumatized by their experience in mainstream. And we can acknowledge that in the main stream, teachers are not being educated.

[00:17:36] You said earlier that might be two weeks in a differentiation unit. You might do an elective, like for 10% of the student population. That’s completely outrageous. I could you imagine that was the case for any other cohort of students? Yeah, there would be outcry, but it’s this idea that gifted kids, and as you say, here are already advantaged.

[00:17:59]And somehow, yeah, there’s that? And it’s oh, that makes me angry. It does, because there’s this misunderstanding that because one of the traits of giftedness is learning quickly and being, like you said, not just outside of the box in terms of, and you gave the example of being in reception is all about learning your numbers near letters, but actually already being able to read a few years ahead so that gifted kid is completely outside of that box, but there’s so much more to it than that.

[00:18:35] Isn’t it like? Yeah.

[00:18:37] Deb Nurton: To

[00:18:37] Sophia Elliott: giftedness and we’ve  yeah, we certainly talk at length about that here at our gifted kids, but those kinds of statements show an incredible lack of awareness of what giftedness is all about in my opinion. Yeah. And can

[00:18:55] Deb Nurton: I, can I just duck in and say that is there’s a thing called the Alice Springs?

[00:19:01]I’m not quite sure how to say this, but I think it’s

[00:19:03] Is it

[00:19:05] Sophia Elliott: the Mparntwe?

[00:19:06] Deb Nurton: Mparntwe  , my apologies to our indigenous people, , you probably said that better than people. But yeah, it’s a declaration. So every now and then the education declaration comes out, my latest one was 2019. And it says that our education system should create confident and creative individuals successful lifelong learners and active and informed members of the community. And if you’re going to make sure that everybody gets that everybody that includes everybody along that spectrum, regardless of their economic status, regardless of their home life, regardless of their capability and I know, and this is just a personal personal vignette, but at one of our schools my, my children went to three primary schools try and trying to find a school that would work.

[00:20:01] There was one teacher who was able to teach my child who, was years ahead in a number of. Topics, but extremely shy extremely shy. And that teacher was also able to support children who had a number of learning disabilities. And and in fact, she was able to meld children together who might’ve had arguments in the past, they’d be working together.

[00:20:31]And I think this is part of being in a respectful classroom where everybody is an individual. Everybody is a learner. And really that teacher, to me personifies this where she’s trying to create confident and creative individuals, successful lifelong learners and active and informed members of the community she was doing that.

[00:20:54]But she’s one teacher. And and teachers if they don’t have this training, it’s very difficult for them to understand. What they’re supposed to do. And I suspect that it’s quite challenging for some teachers who are used to being the point of authority in the classroom to suddenly have a child who might correct them.

[00:21:15]Or we’re going to do dinosaurs this week, and then the child says we talk about the Parasaurolophus and, when we talk about the the Paki cephalgia Saurus, and the teacher goes, hang on, back on,  apatosaurus or T-Rex,  so it, it can be quite terrifying I’m sure for teachers when you have a student.

[00:21:34] Who is so far as you say, out of the box and, so the children who were at at the selective school tended to be children who were quite advanced. They were probably more that the difference between their functioning and the functioning of a regular child, even a regular bright child was so far in advance that, the, and the teacher might only, I did see some research that said part of the problem is that teachers might only get one or two of these highly gifted children in their teaching career.

[00:22:08] And they might not have the time or, they might not have the experience or that’s what I did with the last person, the last child I had like this, suddenly they’ve got a child that’s like nothing made had before. And how do you manage those in a mainstream? How do you

[00:22:23] Sophia Elliott: recognize them?

[00:22:24] And, there is a whole other podcast, isn’t it? Like it is we’re woefully under preparing our teachers.

[00:22:31]Deb Nurton: There was a very much, a lot of research already about as something that one of the researchers Coleman in 2015 said that it was ready child unprepared school. So the child would go to school, be ready to learn everything. And the school had no idea how to manage them because it hadn’t been in their experience before.

[00:22:53]And and you could have a principal who is running a great school and suddenly they have a child that they don’t have any experience of, might actually try to see what’s going on for that child. If the system itself starts to fail that child, then suddenly, the parent becomes.

[00:23:10]Traumatized, the child is traumatized is underachievement. And then, then suddenly the principal, I has a problem.  you were talking about the elitist, the feeling that you’re that the selective school is as an elitist is an elitist school.

[00:23:26]And it’s taking the best out of, so there was a definitely a thread of, if you take all the gifted children out of regular mainstream school and put them in a special school, all on their own, then, what does that do to the to the children of the mainstream school? And then I’m thinking then you’re putting responsibility on those highly gifted children.

[00:23:50] You’re giving them a responsibility in the school of. Being part of the cohort to help the other children, when really they need the help. They need to be able to be looked after. Yes. And I have read research, which,

[00:24:05]Sophia Elliott: Argued or demonstrated that there was an advantage to the student body of having gifted kids in the classroom that kind of bringing up.

[00:24:16]And so there’s, there is research around that, but like you say, that’s not really the gifted child’s responsibility and of course there’s levels of giftedness as well. And we’re very much talking about, as you mentioned earlier, that top 1% that 99th percentile, particularly because there’s so extreme that our teachers, our schools who are catering for the mainstream, like you say, they’re unprepared for that.

[00:24:45] And. And it, and they don’t come along very often to not necessarily have had that experience because they’re so far out of that box. And yeah, and that experience of going to multiple schools in primary years, especially is very common amongst those highly gifted kids because of that lack of awareness and fit.

[00:25:08] So it’s not like it’s a problem just to one or two schools. This is a pretty broad challenge for schools. And it’s not saying that the school isn’t great for typical

[00:25:19] children

[00:25:20] and doing a great job but for gifted, this is a, this is why we have teachers who do masters in gifted education and specialized and give to that because it’s a very specific skill set required to understand a gifted child and the way they learn.

[00:25:36] And so when you’re doing your research, you were obviously asking parents. Why they were choosing a selective school, given everything we’ve said about what, some people think of selective schools and the challenges parents have had. Were there any surprises in what parents said about that making that choice or in, in the research?

[00:26:02]Deb Nurton: I was surprised at the lengths that parents had gone to. I don’t know that school is the local school for any of the parents that I interviewed. Obviously it’s closer for some parents than others. I would say ah, the one thing that did surprise me was that parents were traumatized by their.

[00:26:26]Or their experiences. And in fact, what that did for me was made me remember my traumatic experiences. When you have a child, you want to do your best for that child. And if your child is great at kicking a footie, you want to encourage that. And if your kid is good at doing maths, you want to encourage that.

[00:26:47] And to for anybody who’s got a child with an intense interest and that’s probably everybody to see that interest being treated poorly and And not be encouraged and nurtured. It’s very difficult. And so when these when you’re asking the school to do something and the school is refusing to do it there was there were a number of instances where the parents had actually provided the school with reports and the and the school had taken no notice.

[00:27:21]And that, that was a surprise to me because that is what happened to us. But I thought that must have been an isolated incident. One, in one instance, the teacher hadn’t realized that the child was gifted and this was a highly gifted child. And wasn’t given the reports. Hadn’t given the report being given the reports all year about this child.

[00:27:43]And in another instance, the school it wasn’t part of the school philosophy. The school philosophy was that the child needed to experience the world rather than, theorize about the world. And and that, that school actually had had reports as well and didn’t act upon them.

[00:28:03] And to me, that’s such a simple remedy. If if a parent has already gone to the trouble of finding out more about their child and has then provided that information to the school, Yeah, the school is lucky. The school has actually had the parents doing some of the work for them, and it’s not unreasonable for the parents to ask that the school try to create lifelong learners.

[00:28:29]And because that’s what the, that’s what that declaration says. And and so I think the trauma that was still being experienced, especially as you say against the fact that in 2000 there was a Senate inquiry. And before that there had been a Senate inquiry. And so it was a surprise to me how bad it was for everybody with a gifted child, how much there had been already researched into giftedness and how much was not being applied.

[00:29:00]Th there were, there was still a lot of issues that weren’t being covered and that. I’m sorry, but that’s not good enough for me. That is absolutely unacceptable. No. And these children Competent beings there. They’re able to think outside of the square and, as a society, why are we not encouraging these children as much as we can because regardless of the wellbeing of the child, which of course is very important there’s the ability to it’s the ability to actually help us as a society.

[00:29:37] And in fact, that’s part of the research talks about those, what are you doing? Why are you doing gifted education? Is it too, because they have the potential to help society or is it because the child the re requires the benefit of a specialized program.

[00:29:51] And I would say it’s both because if you when we met children are little  we want them to be happy. But as they grow older and they get into, the later years of high school and they get into university, what we want for them is we want them to actually feel like they are doing something that they are achieving  in an area that they love.

[00:30:14] That’s, that’s what we want. And if we have people doing that, then, it’s for the betterment of society. So providing for the wellbeing of the child is going to provide for the betterment of society in any case. What why would we not, why would we not, when the declaration says that we should be looking after everybody?

[00:30:33] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And what you say there certainly resonates with my lived experience and quite frankly, most of the parents, I talk to that challenge of Advocating within a school, even when you have a report and experts in black and white saying, this child is gifted and here  is a whole bunch of things that you can do to support them.

[00:30:55] And that trauma is very real. And I think as a parent, and I’m a parent, who’s not a teacher. So my expectation when I was, fronting up to school with my first child, is that they would teach them that they knew kids and whatever my child needed, they would be able to accommodate.

[00:31:19] Of course at the time I had no idea that they had gifted, but there was a huge for me, a huge sense of betrayal and disappointment and being let down, not just because they couldn’t help my kid. That would be one thing, but they refuse to. So I really get and resonate with what you’re saying there about that sense of trauma from parents, because that, yeah, that’s real, that’s hard.

[00:31:47] Yeah, absolutely.

[00:31:48] Deb Nurton: You can’t believe it. It’s actually incredible. But educators who I agree with you that we believe are the authority. We deliver our children to their school and we think they are the trained people who will lead them on their journey. And it’s an awful feeling of being let down.

[00:32:07] Sophia Elliott: It is awful. And look, I don’t in any way say that it’s malicious. But we really, as adults need to overcome our own sense of. I don’t know self-esteem of who we are and just sometimes be able to say, actually, I don’t know enough about this. I’m going to find out more or, what is it about that scenario that rubs teachers and schools so readily the wrong way that there’s this impasse that we’ve not yet been able to obviously across the board be able to move on from, and we, it’s almost like we just need that collective understanding that it is, it’s outside the box.

[00:32:49] Teachers schools do not have the adequate training understanding. That’s it’s not anyone’s fault. It’s where we’re at. Let’s just acknowledge that and be open to what it is we need to do. Because like you said earlier, if there’s a thousand highly gifted kids here just in our town, like where are the rest?

[00:33:10] What are they doing? Do we even know, do the other even identified because the reality is, and the research shows as well, gifted. Those there’s a good chance. A lot of those gifted kids are underachieving and hiding and masking and trying to fit in. They know that they’re different. And I noticed that you’re also acknowledged that sense of difference.

[00:33:34] And there’s a couple of quotes there and I’ll just read them a couple quickly if that’s okay. And you said one reported, her son knew he was different from a young age and this caused distress. When he was three, he kept asking me, why am I different? Why am I different? And he burst into tears and he knew he was different.

[00:33:55] He said to me,

[00:33:58] yeah, I know I’m only

[00:33:59] ever going to make your friends. I’m like, I’m trying to read that without crying. I’m like, oh, that’s devastating. And the participant or two participants talked about feeling broken as a reason for withdrawing their children from their first chosen school. One stated that she enrolled her child at the selective school because I wanted her to feel like she fit in because I didn’t want her to feel as like she was broken.

[00:34:27] And I don’t want her to grow up thinking that these things that are wrong with her, that she needs to change. That they’re just part of how her brain is wired. Yeah. Just devastating to me that we’ve got all these young kids at primary school thinking there’s something wrong with them. They’re broken because they know they don’t fit in.

[00:34:45]There’s no yeah. We’re deluding ourselves. If we think gifted kids don’t know that they don’t fit.

[00:34:50]Deb Nurton: And some of them do try to fit in. And there was that was in the research as well that that the, there, they looked at a number of those researchers looked at a number of ways that gifted children try to fit into a  regular school.

[00:35:04] And I think the, if I remember right the main way was they would plicate their their fellow students. So there was the example given that, if there had been a, this was with high school children, if there had been a hard test and, the group of friends were talking about how hard the test was, but the gifted child found it fairly straightforward.

[00:35:28]And then they said, how did you find it? What the what the gifted child would do is, just. Try to brush it off, placate them and go, oh yeah, it was, yeah. It was hard. Wasn’t it? And and so there’s that constant feeling that your different to the other people.

[00:35:49]Not only that, but it, the gifted child is often very aware. So they they’re often great observers and they watch other children and they feel different and they are really astutely aware that they are different.

[00:36:05]And so those kinds of quotes that you’ve just read out then Sophia,  heartbreaking

[00:36:11] Sophia Elliott: and devastating.

[00:36:13] Deb Nurton: I got quite distressed when I was interviewing. And when I was putting the thesis together and I got quite angry that it has to be this way. And w w. There, there are simple fixes and you

[00:36:27] know,

[00:36:28] Sophia Elliott: providing reports

[00:36:29] Deb Nurton: to the next teacher is just such a simple fix, perhaps having if you’ve got a highly gifted child at your school, you probably need not just to have every individual teaching.

[00:36:40] You probably need to have a whole of school. Policy about what to do. I know that one of my children’s primary schools, they were actually running a ship program and that’s the students of high intellectual potential here in south Australia. And there was schools who ran ship programs, but it was really at the determination of a particular teacher.

[00:37:02] And so the once we started having trouble with teachers not understanding, but the deputy principal of our school actually started running a ship program. So she started running it because I actually put my hand up and said, we need to do something about this. And so while that Deputy principal was there, those children at least got to get together with kids who were like them and they would do problem solving exercises.

[00:37:29]And so the child actually felt that they weren’t so isolated. They actually got something, even though it was once a month or once a fortnight or once a week or whatever it was. And that was the best part of their, of my child’s week or fortnight or whatever it was. And then that person left.

[00:37:46] And then somebody tried to take over the program, but they really didn’t have, they didn’t have any training. And so the problem I’m sure, after we left the program, would have just gone by the, by. There are some people who do a really good job. There are some people who are trained, but there are a lot of highly gifted children.

[00:38:07]And so there, there needs to be some determination from the from the declaration  to look after these children. Otherwise, what happens to that child who at three understands that they are friendless and understands that they are different that child at three, what happens to that child?

[00:38:27] If they aren’t actually accommodated at school. And to me, that’s terrifying, Yeah,

[00:38:32] Sophia Elliott: absolutely. It is terrifying. And that’s the thing. People can get on their high horse and have their opinions about selective schools and giftedness and the rest of it. But what they’re not acknowledging is the very real impact on these students of not having their needs met in terms of their mental health their quality of life, you know, their capacity to reach any sense of potential, let alone the high potential that they might be able to reach with the appropriate education and support.

[00:39:07] And that’s an absolute travesty is simply not good enough. We might end on the actual, the final quote in your thesis. Cause I don’t think we’ve quite touched on this either and all I’ll read this out and then I’ll ask you to comment on this aspect of your findings. So the quote is from this parent and I’ll try, read it without crying, but I can’t guarantee anything.

[00:39:33]The parent says, that’s the thing. I talk up the most to people. Yes. I know at the moment you’re really focused on the academic needs of your kids and that’s going to get taken care of, but once you’re comfortable with that, there’s more, there’s a place where we’re going to understand this has been hard for you as well.

[00:39:53] Keep it together. Sophia. It’s not just about the kids. There’s a place for everyone within the community. I think that’s the greatest thing about the school. It’s the cherry on top. Really? So tell us about that.

[00:40:05] Deb Nurton: Yeah, there were a few quotes. I found it quite difficult to decide which quote to put at the end.

[00:40:11]The parents were so grateful for the school running. And they th there were many times that the parents would say to me, something like, I turn up at the end of the school day and it doesn’t matter to anybody what reader group my child is in, because we all know that they’re all at different levels.

[00:40:30]So nobody cares. And everybody knows that there, the children are different to regular children and, nobody cares. And so you can turn up and there’s not the teacher making the beeline for you because your child has done something that day.

[00:40:46] It’s funny if one of the teachers is coming over to talk to one of us and we make a joke about it. And so there was a camaraderie that made me made me just wish that school had been there earlier. And , the parents at the school. Want the best for their child, but have always wanted the best for their child once the child was not being looked after they sought somewhere different for their child somewhere that would successfully nurture their child.

[00:41:17]And then once they were there, there was the shared experience of the journey that they had tried to come to the selective school. And there, there is a camaraderie in that I think, and, once your children are being looked after and your children are happy, your children, have friends and they don’t feel different, they feel different is good, and then you can actually relax and you can actually enjoy the community of the other parents without having to filter. All the time. Because I think I say in my thesis that the, parents of gifted children are just trying to do what what they think what all parents do, which is, to delight when their child has done something great.

[00:41:58] And, to be worried when their child, is underachieving. But other parents can see that, that see that as bragging. But if you’re at a school where all the children are similar, then there’s no. These that, that just isn’t a thing . Yeah.

[00:42:15] Sophia Elliott: Cause it’s not about bragging. We just want to celebrate our kids’ strengths wherever they are and have someone who we can talk to and understand the struggles of which there are many parenting, any kid is not easy.

[00:42:28]And so I think that’s a wonderful note to end on. Thank you so much for first of all, doing the research, because I think as those comments about selective schools showed us earlier we certainly need to be putting a spotlight on why parents choose it and out of the mouths of parents, why it is so great.

[00:42:50]And hopefully see more in the future for, this very out of the box cohorts of students and thank you for coming on  it’s been a real delight to, to have a chat about it and then talk to you. Thank you.

[00:43:04] Deb Nurton: Thank you, Sophia. Thank you for the work that you do, because I think, we are all in this together and we’re all looking after our children and this is something that really needs some attention.

[00:43:15] We need

[00:43:15] Sophia Elliott: the village, you’re absolutely welcome. We need the village, so

[00:43:18] Deb Nurton: we do need the village.

[00:43:19] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely.

Written By Sophia Elliott

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