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Community engagement - a critical factor for success

Kate NiedererCommunity engagement - a critical factor for success in gifted education: Dr Kate Niederer and Vivienne Russell

"It was a real affirmation for Pasifika and Māori parents of their own child’s identity." - Amy Shanks, GATE Coordinator, Mangere Bridge School

Front of school

This impact story illustrates how schoolwide capability for gifted and talented education (GATE) was developed, using a culturally responsive and inclusive approach to change. Integral to this approach was the identification of needs, and the co-construction of learning to best meet these needs within the local school community.  

Mangere Bridge School, a decile 4 primary school in South Auckland, was allocated to the GATE PLD programme in 2012. A strengths and needs analysis identified that the school’s understanding of giftedness did not reflect their school community, 70 per cent of whom identified as Māori or Pasifika. As a result, the school’s provision for gifted education did not recognise and nurture the potential of gifted students from these cultural perspectives. 


After discussion with the GATE facilitator, Viv Russell, the school realised that they needed the expertise of parents/whānau to develop a culturally responsive identification process, including the identification of gifted Māori and Pasifika students, and provision to meet those students’ needs. 

The principal, Judy Hanna, noted that, "having a good relationship with our Māori and Pasifika parents enabled us to go to this group and ask for help."

Through the process, the school believes that it has moved from a consultation model to a true partnership model.

Principal quote

Community engagement – a critical factor for success…

A series of community meetings was held throughout the year to develop shared understandings of giftedness and talent, from both Māori and Pasifika perspectives, to inform the school’s definition, identification and provision. Participants identified that building relationships and creating a safe learning environment were crucial to this process. 

Over the course of these meetings, parents came to understand that the school was genuinely seeking their support and advice, and became more enthusiastic about the process. Regular communication occurred between meetings, where readings and ideas were shared and discussed further. 

School grounds

The shift from a consultation model to the partnership model was the key factor for successful community engagement, in the development of a definition and schoolwide identification system of gifted and talented students. Parents continue to be involved in both identifying and providing for the school’s gifted students. The process has deepened the relationship between the school and its parents and whānau, and modelled a way to work with parents and whānau for the benefit of their students. Viv’s role was to support the school to manage the process, which entailed mobilising the cultural capital of parents and whānau to effect positive change.  A critical factor was building relationships of  trust between all parties. The GATE Coordinator believed that, "it was a real affirmation for Pasifika and Māori parents of their own child’s identity."   

Article contributed by Viv Russell and Kate Niederer, Te Toi Tupu GATE PLD Project team. Further information about the Gifted and Talented Education PLD Programme is available on our website or contact Ann Easter.

Te Toi Tupu gifted and talented developments at Mangere Bridge School from Te Toi Tupu on Vimeo.