Progress to date
I think it was at ECHA’s 2004 Conference in Pamplona, or at the 2006 event in Lahti that I first proposed an international federation of organisations supporting parents of G&T learners.
It was during a session where parents’ groups presented their work and reflected on progress and the obstacles they faced. The UK’s National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) was represented, as was the late lamented Irish Association for Gifted Children (IAGC).
It was clear that each organisation faced broadly the same set of problems:
- a severe lack of resources and an uphill battle to recruit paying members;
- limited interest from the educational establishment and – with the honourable exception of England – from the Government;
- a low public profile and either internal disagreement or battles with other organisations over policy and priorities.
There was some concern that organisations like ECHA and the World Council are predominantly focused on meeting the needs of academics rather than those of parents.
So I suggested a federation and offered any assistance I could to help get one off the ground.
I revisited the idea from time to time, in discussion with international colleagues and in ‘keep in touch’ meetings with the UK NAGC. Then, in 2008, they were successful in securing EU funding for a joint project to identify needs and share experiences of parents in Austria, Turkey and the UK.
I understand that project has been very successful. The partners want to develop it into a federated network of parents’ organisations, though there is as yet no firm plan for how to do so.
One outcome of the project is a proposed 8-point international parents’ charter:
‘Every parent of a G&T child has the right
- To know the educational needs of their child and for this to be explained to them in a way that is jargon free and easy to understand
- To be engaged in the education of their child and for that engagement to be appropriate to the needs of the parent
- To be treated as an equal partner in the education of their child and for their contribution to be valued and respected
- To receive adequate support to ensure they have the skills and confidence to meet the needs of their child
- To access local, national and international networks for opportunities to share experiences, hopes and concerns
- Not to be discriminated against because they have a G&T child
- For no-one to assume that everything in their life is all right simply because they have a G&T child
- To be an advocate for their child.’
What could an international federation achieve?
A federation, network or association of parents’ organisations could:
- Significantly increase the advocacy muscle in all member countries and states.
- Enable parents to pool expertise and resources, to develop their collective knowledge and understanding of G&T parenting and parental engagement with schools.
- Strengthen the capacity of organisations to bid successfully for funding from international and philanthropic organisations to advance their aims, including funding to build a presence in less developed countries.
- Provide a firmer basis for online and face-to-face communication, so creating a thriving worldwide support network for ordinary parents wherever they live.
- By these means, enable parents in developed countries to extend support to those in relatively greater need – and enable national G&T communities to build effective links with their disaporas abroad.
- Engage on an equal basis with other national and international organisations, so creating a stronger and more equal partnership between G&T parents and G&T educators.
- By all these means and others, increase the scale and improve the quality of G&T education – and so improve the achievement of G&T learners with all the personal and social benefits that entails.
How might this be achieved?
A small but representative international steering group could collectively create a sound development plan and a draft constitution, using these as the basis for initial bids for small-scale development funding.
This could potentially be matched against a ‘fighting fund’ derived from a levy of one dollar per member of all existing national and state-wide parents’ organisations.
Subsequent expansion would be achieved through a viable business model drawing on a combination of low-level membership fees and sale of services, subsidised as necessary to ensure equitable support.
The federation could be established as a not-for-profit charitable trust. Parents with expertise in relevant areas could volunteer their services until the entity is able to balance income and expenditure.