Sensationalism and selectivity; now for the facts about the WiseOnes program for gifted children

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Timna Jacks, the Education Reporter for The Age, wrote earlier this week about “a school program for gifted students…offering vaccination exemption forms and urging students to avoid Wi-Fi in schools”. As sensational as the claims were, they also demonstrated a concerning amount of selectivity.

The WiseOnes program has been available to gifted students in primary schools around Victoria for nearly two decades, teaching multi-disciplinary units with exciting names such as Ancient Egypt, How to Mind Your Money , Astronomy, Fibonacci Maths, Basic Engineering and Morphing Dirt to Diamonds. Students need to give evidence of their high thinking ability, which is not related to reading, writing or spelling, and need to “qualify” at a minimum of the 93rd percentile to participate.

Unfortunately, the founder and owner of the program unwisely decided to use the business’s website to convey her personal beliefs about the effects of vaccination and Wi-Fi. However, those beliefs are not shared by the licensees and teachers delivering the program and having contact with the students. The licensees and contracted teachers are all VIT registered and highly experienced.

By conflating the personal views of the founder with the content of the program, Timna Jacks has done a great disservice to the licensees and teachers who have worked with students in small groups providing extra intellectual and educational challenges. The losers will be the children if schools elect to discontinue the program.

Here are a few facts:

  • The WiseOnes program curriculum does not contain any reference to anti-vaccination or anti-Wi-Fi doctrines.
  • Vaccination exemption forms are not offered directly to participants in the WiseOnes program.
  • The WiseOnes program has been thoroughly presented to each school that chooses to offer it. The parents receive a full written report at the end of each unit and are also invited to attend the final session and work with their children.
  • The program’s founder, Pat Slattery, does not live in a caravan. For a short time, she did move into a caravan over concerns about electromagnetic exposure from a smart meter. She has now moved into a new home.
  • The program’s founder is not responsible for the delivery of the WiseOnes program at any of the schools currently using it. It is delivered by licensees and accredited teachers contracted by the licensees.
  • WiseOnes licensees were urging the program’s founder to remove all references to her personal and widely discredited disbeliefs from the WiseOnes website long before Timna Jacks’s article was written and published.

Patricia Truscott, a WiseOnes licensee with responsibility for delivering the program in more than a dozen primary schools, is appalled that the original article and subsequent discussion fails to distinguish between the founder’s personal views and the program’s real purpose and content.

“I am a life-long educator and I am shocked and extremely disappointed to be associated with this controversy,” she said. “The students enrolled in the programs are seeking additional educational stimulation and that is what I, my teachers and my fellow licensees provide. We want to reassure all parents and schools that we do not support Pat’s views and we certainly do not disseminate them to their children. I’m more than happy to speak directly to any principal or parent who has concerns about this.” You can read a statement from Patricia below.

It is a genuine shame that a successful and rewarding education program now runs the risk of collapsing under the weight of uninformed opinion.

*In the interest of full disclosure as the author of this article, I am the stepdaughter of Patricia Truscott and have previously been exposed to the content delivered in the schools, which I have found fascinating and entirely innocuous. I have also taken the test that the children sit to determine their level of giftedness, simply because I was interested. My stepmother is the most passionate teacher I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and that includes all the teachers who taught me throughout my primary, secondary and tertiary education years. I want everyone else to know that, too.

 

Statement by Patricia Truscott

You may have noted that there was an article in The Age online and in print.

I was invited to Brandon Park Primary School to prepare to start the program, as the principal had told me that parents of incoming preps were asking whether or not WiseOnes was used in the school.

As is reported in the articles, a parent saw a post (since removed) regarding some of Pat Slattery’s private thoughts and personal questioning and urged the school to axe the program before it had even started.

It was stated in the online article, “WiseOnes is used by a small number of schools as a resource to help gifted students succeed and does not contain any reference to vaccination or Wi-Fi.” The print article has quoted Pat Slattery as saying, “None of this is in the curriculum.” This is totally true.

The curriculum, which is Pat Slattery’s Intellectual Property, is reported on to each parent each term; with comments from the teachers who are VIT registered and experienced. Schools receive copies of these reports. Pat’s thoughts in no way reflect the opinions of the teachers.

WiseOnes has been a very successful program for nineteen years supporting school communities, families and gifted students in schools. STEM topics have been taught throughout this whole time as well. Nothing has changed as regards the details, the delivery or the reporting of the program.

The moral of the story is that a person’s private thoughts and personal questioning should never be placed on a professional website.

Parents who have any concerns can ring me, Patricia Truscott, on 0407 313 657 and I will certainly address these concerns with you.

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