How do I go about choosing a school for my CHIP?

Sandra Lea-Wood PhD
Manager CHIP Centre Geelong

Schools vary enormously in the quality and quantity of the gifted programs they offer. The Bright Futures Policy Document from the Education Department of Victoria advised parents to contact local schools to ascertain their gifted policy and whether it is a charter priority. Parents interested in Secondary Accelerated Learning Programs need to appreciate that testing is conducted in the March/April of the year prior to entry.

Some questions to ask the school:

  • What is the philosophy/mission statement of the school?
  • Does the school have specialist programs such as music, computers etc.
  • Does the school allow children to progress at their own rate? How does the school do this?
  • Does the school have interest clubs e.g., chess/debating?
  • How does the school perceive the role of the parent in the child‘s education?
  • Do they have a policy on gifted children? If yes, ask for a copy.
  • What forms of enrichment/extension are used with high-ability children?
  • Are there forms of acceleration at the school? Eg. Grade, subject?
  • Is there a specialist teacher who works with gifted children?
  • Are gifted children given the opportunity to interact with intellectual peers?
  • Does the school enter academic competitions as well as sporting?

Now you wish to approach the school and would like to know how to do this?

  • Be aware of the importance of building a very positive partnership between you and the school. Even though you may be frustrated try not to cause the teacher (school) to feel that you are criticising their teaching or them personally. You are there as an advocate for your child and you need the co-operation of the school to ensure this happens. Use phrases such as ? “How can we work together to…”
  • Be aware that the school administration (principal) must be involved in any planning for your child even if only initially or you will be faced with having to repeat yourself year after year. Change does not happen without the approval and subsequent co-operation of the school
  • Be prepared to negotiate – give and take-small steps at a time.
  • Make the school a partner in the process by showing them that by providing/catering for your child they will be helping other CHIP children in the school and there will be a few.
  • Be reasonable in what you ask the school to do. Try to determine how willing the school is to go beyond programs that already exist. The school has to justify any curriculum change which incurs financial adjustment. They must be satisfied that they can rationalise change and get school council/education department approval and/or funding.

When your child has been formally assessed.

  • When your child has been assessed formally or you have some evidence that your child has needs that are not being addressed do have some objective material with you, for example psychometric test results.
  • Make copies for the teacher and principal to read and ask if you could make an appointment to speak with them about your concerns/needs after they have read the report.
  • At the meetings take minutes. The school will too but you may not get a copy.
  • That night send a copy of your minutes to the principal with the words ? “I understand from our meeting today that ———————-will be trialed /initiated.”. Make a date for a follow up meeting to review progress/action.
  • Most schools will be delighted to have a CHIP but may not know how to go about catering for them.
  • Ask if they would like to speak with the tester or organisation regarding the assessment.
  • When looking for a suitable teacher for CHIP steer clear of teachers (and schools) who tell you that “all our students are gifted” or “I‘ve never seen a gifted child”. Karen Rogers in ‘Re-forming gifted education’ advises parents to look for a teacher who has:
    • a high degree of intelligence and intellectual honesty.
    • expertise in a specific academic area recognition of the importance of intellectual development
    • strong belief in individual differences and individualization
    • genuine interest in, and liking for, gifted learners
    • highly developed teaching skill and knowledge
    • self-directed in their own learning, with a love for new advanced knowledge