Education of rural children with special abilities : a study conducted on the West Coast of the South Island.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
This study set out to investigate the quality of educational provisions for Children with Special Abilities in a rural area of New Zealand. The West Coast of the South Island is a relatively isolated area characterized by small rural communities separated by long distances. Difficulties are experienced in travel and communication with some parts of the area receiving limited radio and television reception. Schools are predominantly small, 50% being one-two teacher schools. The area is administered by two different education boards. Staff turnover is high and teacher qualifications are lower than the national average. A survey was carried out asking principals of West Coast schools catering for primary levels to nominate children with special abilities in their schools. Questionnaires were then sent to the parents and to the children themselves. A small group of experienced teachers was interviewed in order to gain further in-depth information on teachers' knowledge of and attitudes to children with special abilities. It was found that children with Special Abilities were taught almost exclusively within their own schools. There were no withdrawal programmes available, transport costs limited schools' ability to travel or to obtain resources, mentors were not used to help cater for Children with Special Abilities and the resources of the Correspondence School Individual Programming Section were used by few schools. Teachers demonstrated a lack of confidence in their ability to identify and cater for Children with Special Abilities. Very few had received either preservice or inservice training in this area. They were further unfamiliar with the range of suggested identification procedures currently espoused by the Department of Education. Children who were identified from the survey were predominantly those demonstrating one or more areas of high achievement at school. The majority were also well-adjusted children who enjoyed school. Data from teachers and parents showed that there was a high level of agreement that children nominated were of high ability. However, while parents were very involved in assisting in their children's schools, their contribution was at an organisational level and none had been asked to assist in programmes to cater for children with special abilities. The difficulties experienced by West Coast teachers in catering for their Children with Special Abilities are discussed in relation to the present 'mainstreaming' emphasis followed by the Department of Education and the paucity of resources provided. Implications for educational policy and for further research are examined.