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Old 19.04.2011, 23:36
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Swiss school - "gifted" program

I wrote a really long post here with all the details and background story but then deleted it all thinking that you're probably not interested in all that . So I'll just come out with my question: does anybody know anything (at all!!) about programs for "gifted" kids at Swiss schools?

We have been told that there aren't any such things (at least in our canton) but one of my sons teachers has asked us to start a campaign (!!) with the canton to try and get them to do something about it.

We had a parent teacher meeting with the teacher in question tonight and she's really worried that Jamie is going to be bored to death at school and is going to "go off in his own world" (in her words) which is apparently quite a common reaction of "gifted" kids who are understimulated. (Gifted was also her word, not mine, and I'm not convinced of the gifted-ness of my son to be honest, but then I don't have the 20 years teaching experience that she has).

I just don't know what to do. Feeling very confused (yet again!) about the whole thing. I know I've been on here before talking about pluses and minuses of swiss school and kids who might be bored etc. but having this teacher say to me out loud things that have been niggling in the back of my mind for a while, well, just put it all out there in the open again.

She said that by law children who "need" extra tuition are entitled to it. This is interpreted by schools as being for kids who are behind in some way to help them get up to the same level as the rest of the class. But she's convinced that the intention of the laws are for all children to get the education that meets their needs - so equally kids who need extra tuition because they are gifted are also entitled to it by law. So she believes we have a good case and she's also willing to back us up in every way.

I know nothing about this topic at all to be honest. I don't know what kind of extra tuition we're talking about - and as I said I'm not even convinced that he really is that smart. OK so he has the reading age of an 11 year old (he's 6, nearly 7) and he can do math and logic puzzles quite easily but that's not everything in life is it?!

[confused.com here! ]
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Old 19.04.2011, 23:55
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

I don't know about the situation in Basel really, but these people could possibly give you some advice:

http://www.hochbegabt.ch/ ("foundation for gifted children") in German

Plus there is (afaik) a Basel section of the "Elternverein für hochbegabte Kinder" ("association for parents with gifted children")

http://www.ehk.ch/ in German
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Old 19.04.2011, 23:56
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

I think that with Swiss schools it is always such an individual thing, and it often comes down to how the school themselves choose to interpret the rules and then handle the situation.

TBH I am surprised that the teacher has identified a need, yet hasn't made any concrete suggestions on how to address it.

My daughters teacher identified some similar issues (my daughter is almost 6), and although 'officially' she informed me she wasn't able to do much, she suggested many things she could do unofficially - informally, and also some things I could do outside of the classroom setting.

These included having a folder of worksheets that my daughter could access when she had finished her regular set tasks, asking the classroom assistant to spend more time doing challenging one on one activities with her, partnering her with a child who needed additional support for some activities, etc.

She also suggested increasing her extra curricular activities to include some more challenging and stimulating things, such as learning a musical instrument (which she then helped to set up through the local music school). She also mentioned the name of a parent who had a child in a similar situation, whom I might like to get in touch with.

I have to be honest and say that, like you, I feel that at such a young age the label 'gifted' is slightly suspect. I think 'early developer' would be a better one, as I think some children just pick up reading/writing/maths a lot earlier than others, but it tends to level out a lot as they grow older.

Right now I am trying not to worry too much (although some possible issues with boredom have been raised). I would step back and take an honest look at your son. Is he happy to go to school (most of the time anyway)? Does he seem reasonably content within himself? Doe she have at least 1 or 2 friends? If so then I think I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about things like him going off into his own world. If he is anything like my daughter he will do this anyway, and no child can be challenged and stimulated 100% of the time.

Good luck sorting something out. I think the resources are there if you are willing to (gently) seek them out.
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Old 19.04.2011, 23:59
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

Around here it is called Begabtenförderung. I know a kid who was in this programme (it started in 1997 in one town) and I know a person who works with the children in another town on the silver coast of Lake Zürich.

I think the idea is that they do ?several sessions a week in groups on some special project which enables them to stretch themselves and use all their capabilites at a speed which suits them, as opposed to suiting the others in the same class at school. Some of it is preparing stuff which can afterwards be used in the normal lessons with the other children.

Not much help to you in Basel though. There is this bit and a couple of other links under Begabtenförderung Basel Stadt. Otherwise, try www.swissgifted.ch

I wish you luck.
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Old 20.04.2011, 00:28
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

Thanks for that - I guess I just don't know where to start really. I will look at those links and I guess a general google will throw up quite a lot of general stuff.

Yes we did have a discussion about the things we can do to help outside of school, and actually we do a lot of those things already - we have a lot of books and puzzles and this kind of stuff that Jamie can do when he feels like it. And actually he's a very social kid - that's something his other teacher comments on that he's always in contact with the other kids at kindergarten and he's well integrated in the class.

Maybe I should just explain - this is not his regular kindergarten teacher I'm talking about, this is actually an ergotherapy teacher (who also happens to be a qualified secondary school teacher).

My son has a problem whereby he is kind of mis-matched in his skills - so he's really smart - intellectually - but his physical development (motor skills - both large and small) are actually behind - and because he's so clever he has this tendency to get around his lack of skill in those areas by avoiding them in "clever" ways. As an example, Jamie hates drawing because he finds it hard to hold a pencil and he's just basically not very good at it. Of course he doesn't like doing things he's not good at. When she first met Jamie the ergotherapy teacher asked him to draw a picture of where he lives and the people in his family. So he draws a rough box for the house and two stick figures. She asks him to add some details to the house and he says "why don't I just bring you a photo next week?", then she asks who the figures are - "Mummy and Daddy" he says. Then she says "but where are you?" and he says "I'm standing behind Daddy and Andrew is standing behind Mummy so you can't see us because we're shorter." It's just a classic I don't want to draw this picture so I'll get out of it by being a smart alec - and he uses this kind of avoidance tactic all the time. And I can see this being a real problem in school - for one thing his teacher might think it's just plain cheek. But on the other hand part of me says - you know what, who gives a stuff if he doesn't like drawing why should he?!
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Old 20.04.2011, 02:58
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

I had a couple classmates that went to such school in my home country....

Most of them had (serious) issues and wished they have had a happy and clueless childhood.

My personal opinion is that if your kid is smart he will do well no matter what. Why would you want to screw him from the start?

Put him in a private school where he won't be bullied if you can, that is as far as I would go.

Although being barely a kid myself I believe I have no right to an opinion...


Good luck!
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Old 20.04.2011, 08:14
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

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I wrote a really long post here with all the details and background story but then deleted it all thinking that you're probably not interested in all that . So I'll just come out with my question: does anybody know anything (at all!!) about programs for "gifted" kids at Swiss schools?

We have been told that there aren't any such things (at least in our canton) but one of my sons teachers has asked us to start a campaign (!!) with the canton to try and get them to do something about it.

We had a parent teacher meeting with the teacher in question tonight and she's really worried that Jamie is going to be bored to death at school and is going to "go off in his own world" (in her words) which is apparently quite a common reaction of "gifted" kids who are understimulated. (Gifted was also her word, not mine, and I'm not convinced of the gifted-ness of my son to be honest, but then I don't have the 20 years teaching experience that she has).

I just don't know what to do. Feeling very confused (yet again!) about the whole thing. I know I've been on here before talking about pluses and minuses of swiss school and kids who might be bored etc. but having this teacher say to me out loud things that have been niggling in the back of my mind for a while, well, just put it all out there in the open again.

She said that by law children who "need" extra tuition are entitled to it. This is interpreted by schools as being for kids who are behind in some way to help them get up to the same level as the rest of the class. But she's convinced that the intention of the laws are for all children to get the education that meets their needs - so equally kids who need extra tuition because they are gifted are also entitled to it by law. So she believes we have a good case and she's also willing to back us up in every way.

I know nothing about this topic at all to be honest. I don't know what kind of extra tuition we're talking about - and as I said I'm not even convinced that he really is that smart. OK so he has the reading age of an 11 year old (he's 6, nearly 7) and he can do math and logic puzzles quite easily but that's not everything in life is it?!

[confused.com here! ]
In Berne, the teacher usually informs the school psychologist or "Erziehungsberatung". The child will be tested by them. If his IQ ist above 130 he is entitled to "Begabtenförderung", usually two to four lessons a week. The subjects taught vary greatly, from Chinese to superior Maths.
I guess it's more or less the same procedure in other cantons.
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Old 20.04.2011, 09:17
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

One of my friends is a Schulheilpädagogin (translation anyone? school healing educator literally I think but I'm not sure what the real English equivalent would be) and she has to give extra lessons both to those who are behind and to those who are ahead. Sometimes those who are ahead would sit in her room with her while the rest of their class does whatever it is they're ahead in - so the extra lessons don't have to be on top of normal school hours. That's in Obwalden for what it's worth. If you've got a SHP in the area perhaps the teacher/you could discuss it with him/her, s/he might have more ideas.

No other ideas though.
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Old 20.04.2011, 10:25
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

I can't provide any help I am affraid. I just want to tell you that I can see what you are going through from my neighbour's same experiences.

The kid is 3 years old and he is already able to do an hundred pieces puzzle faster than his dad. And this is only one exemple.

I can see it coming, they will go through what you are going through now.

I can only imagine what it is when you ask him to do something and he doesn't want to, the kind of answers you must get and leave you speechless... (Oh my God, my kid is smarter than me!)

Best of luck and I really hope you'll find a solution. Back home the very smart ones who are not taking care of at school do develop problems at school out of boredom!
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Old 20.04.2011, 18:32
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

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I had a couple classmates that went to such school in my home country....

Most of them had (serious) issues and wished they have had a happy and clueless childhood.

My personal opinion is that if your kid is smart he will do well no matter what. Why would you want to screw him from the start?
OK, this is not what I'm talking about at all. I don't want to put him in some kind of special school where his love of maths is going to be all consuming - in fact that's exactly the opposite of what we want. And to be honest I don't want to put him in a private school either because I think that will also create different problems.

But, according to the teacher we discussed with the "leave him alone and he'll be fine becuase he's smart" approach can also have disasterous effects. These kids turn out to be the "nerds & geeks" - I don't mean that in a negative sense at all by the way (after all I think I'm also one of them) but I mean, these kids tend to separate themselves from other kids and gravitate towards very introspective specialist subjects (like computer science and pure maths) because there's nothing for them to do in class so they spend their days with their own weird and wonderful thoughts. And to be honest if in the end he turns out to be a geek like his mum at the age of 16 or 18 or 20 I have no problem with that - but at age 6 I want him to have a life full of dirt and bikes and falling out of trees and worms and football and all the other things small boys should do.

We want to prevent that his intellectual abilities take over his life by giving him plenty of opportunities to do other stuff. But at the same time, school is very important for your future life - and the danger is that if he finds it boring (intellectually) then he will just switch off from the whole thing. So he needs to be challenged at school too to keep his interest in learning and school work.

I'm happy to hear that other cantons have something going on for smart kids - I think that'll make things easier for us. Be good to know if there's something in Basel Stadt though as that's always a good bargaining chip with Basel Land. I'll have a search through the links you've all sent [Thank you ]

Having kids is so hard sometimes!
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Old 21.04.2011, 00:02
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

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Can't you have him jump a year?
That won't necessarily help - especially if the child is struggling a bit in other areas. (eg: social, physical) As the original poster is also wanting to develop her child's social skills and see that he has a rounded childhood, it makes more sense that he does stay with his year group, but in a setting that does offer differentation either in class, or in the form of regular extension classes built into the school week.
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Old 21.04.2011, 00:33
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

We are going through a bit of a nightmare with our 10 year old daughter. She was labelled by the teacher as having 'dyscalculia' just over a year ago, we disagreed but schools have quite a lot of "power" here and we had a bit of "meeting of minds".

So, after independent testing we got back the result that she was 'hochbegabt' (gifted, IQ >130) but not in the "traditional" sense of being advanced at everything. This is a very big disadvantage in CH, they have nothing really adequate to cater for this situation.

At first, the school were quite unhelpful, in fact they were almost incredulous ... but as previously posted, they have a legal requirement to do something when it has been correctly tested and identified. Each Gemeinde seem to have very varied degrees of help, here we were told no other child was hochbegabt and so they have no program, yet ... they are now trying to develop one.

We have had a lot of help and advise from both the psychologist that tested her and the FBK-Bern: http://www.fbk-bern.ch/ she attends a course one day a week at the moment.

One of the things we have learnt is to find out as much as you can, maybe it might help if you can afford it, get your son independently tested.

A word of note, we have heard secondhand of schools/erziehungsberatungstellen re-doing the tests themselves and magically your child is no longer gifted and they don't have to do anything. Not sure if this is really true but considering the obstacles we have faced I would not be surprised.

Also try and identify what your son is good at and encourage any activities that coincide. We are in the process of reading a lot about giftedness (most books come from UK or US).

I am sorry as none of this really helps you but we have not found an adequate solution yet, we did try a school in ZH which looked very promising but they unfortunately have no places available for the next academic year.

Honestly, Switzerland has no good offerings to anyone who is outside the "normal" range. They have started to address it with the hochbegabung program but it only really addresses people who are what most people think of as gifted.

We live in hope, not much at this point ... but we may be forced to look further afield as other educational systems have a far better record on not consigning them to work on a check-outs because of the "system"

Good luck, as you may be on a long difficult road in CH ... I wish you and your son well !!!

Last edited by montymole9; 21.04.2011 at 00:39. Reason: bad link to fbk
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Old 21.04.2011, 07:33
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

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We are going through a bit of a nightmare with our 10 year old daughter. She was labelled by the teacher as having 'dyscalculia' just over a year ago, we disagreed but schools have quite a lot of "power" here and we had a bit of "meeting of minds".

So, after independent testing we got back the result that she was 'hochbegabt' (gifted, IQ >130) but not in the "traditional" sense of being advanced at everything. This is a very big disadvantage in CH, they have nothing really adequate to cater for this situation.

At first, the school were quite unhelpful, in fact they were almost incredulous ... but as previously posted, they have a legal requirement to do something when it has been correctly tested and identified. Each Gemeinde seem to have very varied degrees of help, here we were told no other child was hochbegabt and so they have no program, yet ... they are now trying to develop one.

We have had a lot of help and advise from both the psychologist that tested her and the FBK-Bern: http://www.fbk-bern.ch/ she attends a course one day a week at the moment.

One of the things we have learnt is to find out as much as you can, maybe it might help if you can afford it, get your son independently tested.

A word of note, we have heard secondhand of schools/erziehungsberatungstellen re-doing the tests themselves and magically your child is no longer gifted and they don't have to do anything. Not sure if this is really true but considering the obstacles we have faced I would not be surprised.

Also try and identify what your son is good at and encourage any activities that coincide. We are in the process of reading a lot about giftedness (most books come from UK or US).

I am sorry as none of this really helps you but we have not found an adequate solution yet, we did try a school in ZH which looked very promising but they unfortunately have no places available for the next academic year.

Honestly, Switzerland has no good offerings to anyone who is outside the "normal" range. They have started to address it with the hochbegabung program but it only really addresses people who are what most people think of as gifted.

We live in hope, not much at this point ... but we may be forced to look further afield as other educational systems have a far better record on not consigning them to work on a check-outs because of the "system"

Good luck, as you may be on a long difficult road in CH ... I wish you and your son well !!!
All I can say is that since last year schools in Bern can get hold of some lessons for the "Begabtenförderrung". Before this the way was rather complicated. As there are usually only a few "gifted children" in one school, they are administrated regionally by the School-inspectors. As for your remark about the "Erziehungsberatungsstelle" I'd strongly advise to report such cases to the responsable school-inspectors.
It may be that the canton of Berne reacted rather late concerning the Begabtenförderung, but this is for sure not the case for the other end of the spectrum.
And just another thing. Please don't generalise. You experiences are based on the system in Berne. It's rather unfair to blame the other 25 cantons too.
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Old 21.04.2011, 11:47
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

My oldest son is also quite gifted in the maths department & loves to do logic puzzes etc too. He does tend to get a bit bored in class when it comes to lessons as they are not always stimulating enough for him but he is not an all round "gifted" child who qualifies for the special lessons that the school provided. He did have the chance to attend some but he is also a typical 9 year old who would rather kick a ball with his mates most of the time. The way we keep him stimulated & learning at his level is to do extra maths at home, not much but enough to challenge him for 30 mins and also we found some great websites that he is allowed to spend time on that stretch his maths & have fantastic logic pauzles that he loves to play. One of his favourite sites is www.coolmaths.com For us though the important thing is his all round development, no point in being a maths wizz if you are socially isolated.
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Old 21.04.2011, 15:27
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

I personally would be concerned less with the "giftedness" per se, but rather with the asynchrony between his mind and the physical development (you mentioned motor difficulties). It can cause a lot of frustration, and the "tricks" like the story with the picture could be covering up real suffering that should be addressed, especially if the difficulties remain when he is a bit older. In general small elementary schools here are not well equipped to handle such "twice exceptional" or 2E (you can google the term) children.

If you are not sure what to do, you can always get him tested. Some of the cantons have gifted programs, others do not. Most programs offer very little in the elementary years, other than some brain teasers and extra history lessons.
Your doubts on how to proceed are understandable. However, can you imagine your son (reading age 11 means Harry Potter and other 200+ page books?) sitting in 1st grade class while the class is learning to read the basic readers with 5 words per page for hours? it is not boredom, it is pure torture. Something will have to be done, and he can't jump grades if his motor skills are behind. So being proactive and talking to the school about potential solutions makes sense. Gifted program 2 hours a week would not help enough, it is the classroom teacher that would have to work with him.
We were in a similar situation back in the US for K-3d and then here for 4th-5th grades, and there was a lot the teachers could do to keep a child happy and challenged. However, you would need a teacher willing and able to differentiate. In the same school where my son (then 1st grade) was happily reading at his own level and writing stories, a friend's daughter had to sit still with her hands folded on the table once she was done with her basic reader (2 minutes tops) and wait for others to finish. After a few weeks she hated school and was no longer willing to make any effort.
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Old 21.04.2011, 16:38
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

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it is not boredom, it is pure torture.
Yes, it is. There are levels of giftedness and therefore levels of being able to adjust and not for children. The exceptionally gifted can be really screwed up by school, developing only the ability to daydream for hours as a method to cope with the boredom.

There is an excellent article by the prometheus society that addresses some of these issues: http://www.prometheussociety.org/art...Outsiders.html as well as the relation of childhood to adult IQs.
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Old 21.04.2011, 22:15
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

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Yes, it is. There are levels of giftedness and therefore levels of being able to adjust and not for children. The exceptionally gifted can be really screwed up by school, developing only the ability to daydream for hours as a method to cope with the boredom.
I, ah, can certainly see how somebody might come out of high school with a very strong ability to daydream.

There is "gifted" meaning top of the class, does well without help, likely to be the valedictorian, etc, etc. But then there is gifted, meaning is likely to be correcting science teachers, losing points for not showing work in math class, daydreaming more than is healthy, etc, etc. This second type can be harder for people to understand and deal with than the first.

A program based on adding a bit of extra material, without removing anything, is a "gifted" program, and a good way to mollify parents who are sure that their child is "gifted". An honest gifted program takes the time to figure out what the kid actually needs and doesn't need.

A legitimate IQ test can help differentiate between the two - as you approach 2 standard deviations, there is more likely to be problems. However, the real question is how the kid acts, not what some test says.

You might want to check out http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/.

Good luck.
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  #18  
Old 22.04.2011, 12:11
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Re: Swiss school - "gifted" program

Even a gifted person/child has to learn the basics, so I would suggest that this plus additional programmes focusing on extended application of learnt material for all-round gifted individuals would make sense.

On top of this, consider providing additional different activities and courses for your child in areas of interest such as learning a musical instrument or studying a specific subject that they are interested in independently.

For those seriously gifted only in certain areas and average in others, it might be good to consider a school geared towards that gift so that they can excel at it.

Being able to interact socially is at least equally important to being terribly bright and this is something that should not be neglected - both in the business and professional world, just being bright or talented is usually not enough in the long run...and there are examples of "averagely gifted" people being more successful than their talented peers due to people skills which the latter may struggle with.
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Old 06.06.2011, 16:18
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Support for a gifted child in Primary school system

Hi everyone,

I am new to the Forum, so forgive me if some of my post is a little topsey turvey. I am from England and my husband is swiss.

Our son is in a Swiss public Primary school since second kindergarden, where the teacher said she found him to be too advanced for the kindergarden class so put him forward for the gifted program when he started in the 1st class. At this time, he was 5 and had a reading age of 8. We understood the gifted programme to be an equal alternative to moving up to the first class. However we soon found out that the programme provided games and puzzles to pass extra time, as apposed to projects and challenging work to stimulate the minds of gifted children.

We then had a 6yr check with the local doctor, where he told us to get our son tested for his intelligence level, and suggested that we should ask the school to move him to a year above or he may become frustrated and naughty.

We pushed to have the tests, (which the class teacher was against, without giving reasons), then the school psychologist warned us that if the teacher was against doing the test, we should not go ahead. We decided to go with the doctors`advice and did the tests.
It turned out he was well above average, so we pushed for the move to the second class.
Again the class teacher said she was against it as she thought he was too young and he would have to do more work, he didn`t have enough friends making play days with him...etc
Our son insisted that he wanted the opportunity to try, so we did it for him.
Before the trial in the new class, his 1st year teacher tried to intimidate him into not going ahead, by telling him he would loose his friends on the gifted programme if he went to the higher class. Our son was upset by this but decided he wished to continue. We then asked her to say nothing else to him but to allow him a fair chance to see things for himself.

Three days into the trial our son was put in an exam for something he had not yet learned, was not explained, and we had no notification about. He received a low mark and was upset. Therafter, my husband explained the objective of the test, he realised it was something he could do if prepared.
In the second week, he did another test, but there he scored higher than the rest of the class.
The review meeting to decide his future was again chaired by the 1st class teacher, then present was the second year teacher, the gifted programme teacher , the school psychologist and us. The 1st class teacher stressed that she would not support the move, then the second year teacher pointed out that our son did not always put his slippers away correctly, sometimes pushed and shoved while coming into the cloakroom, asked her too many questions and also would need to work too much in the holidays if she allowed him to move, so she would agree not to support the move. She said he would need to be perfect in all areas for them to support the move.
The headteacher gave them her support, followed by all the other parties attached to the school. We were helpless with this conclusion.

Our son was so upset and cried for one hour, saying all of his efforts were for nothing, even if he did better than everyone else, he asked us to fight for him on this matter.

We spoke to the head again about the matter, but she gave the responsibility of the decision making back to the 1st year teacher, who offered to tell our son the decision herself in a meeting.

It has been a struggle with this class teacher even to write homework in the homework book, (as she feels the children should be independent), and there is no fair complaints system for us as parents.
Is this because we are in a small village "Altendorf"?.

We are now thinking of taking him out of the school and putting him in a private school. Is that too drastic?
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  #20  
Old 06.06.2011, 16:39
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Re: Support for a gifted child in Primary school system

As far as I've heard, the schools look at the child as a whole package rather than what they have to offer from purely an "intelligence" perspective. The child might cope with the level of work but might not be quite mature enough to advance to a higher class.

Ask the teacher if she thinks this might be an issue - maybe she's not been able to formulate it to open the discussion if you've been pushing the "gifted" thing so hard.

If you think he is sufficiently emotionally and socially mature, as well as having the brains to join a higher class push this with them, too.
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