An International Federation of G&T Parents’ Organisations

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.

An International Quality Standard for Gifted and Talented Education?

When people ask me which innovation I’m most proud of, I always cite the development and introduction of our national quality standards for G&T education.

The concept emerged in discussions I had with Ceri Morgan HMI, then employed by the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth. It was influenced in part by the US NAGC standards for school districts.

We began with institutional standards (for schools, colleges and other settings), followed by classroom and local authority standards. The basic approach was the same:

  • A broad, concise framework with universal application, regardless of context;
  • Three tiers – entry, improving and exemplary – the former setting out what every institution, classroom or authority should aim for; the latter providing challenge for the very best performers;
  • An audit, evaluation and improvement planning tool which could also be used to secure ‘intelligent accountability’;
  • A mechanism for accrediting outstanding providers and, if necessary, for targeting resources; and
  • A basis for organising relevant guidance material – the internal structure of single pieces of government guidance and the sorting of all supporting resources into a comprehensive database.

Three standards is quite sufficient for any national service. But in 2007 or thereabouts, I began to think about the potential value of an international quality standard.

I had become frustrated at the limited influence of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children and the European Council for High Ability as advocates for national and international reform.

I proposed a new organisation built around the development, maintenance and implementation of standards for G&T education at national level and state level in federal countries.

I argued that the development process, requiring the negotiation of worldwide consensus, would help to stimulate a shared understanding of the essential components of effective practice. There would be a clear progression route from a universal minimum standard towards national best practice. The standard would provide a sharp focus for discussion about how effective practice changes over time – and for capturing such change through a regular review and updating process.

An international framework would provide a lingua franca for comparative analysis of national and state systems, for international consultancy and for collaborative activity between two or more countries.

The new organisation might choose to accredit the best national and state providers as centre of excellence for others to emulate. National G&T communities could use the standards as a basis for defining their own legislation or guidance – and for advocacy.

Three years on, I continue to believe in the potential power of an international quality standard and would give much to have the opportunity to realise this vision.

Maybe something similar has already happened inside the US, as part of the work of NAGC and the Davidson Institute on analysing comparative provision across the different states? If so, I would welcome the details;  if not, maybe this should be on the agenda of one of those organisations?

What do you, the global G&T education community, think of the idea? And, more interestingly, what elements would you look for in the standards? How would you scale up from the district and local authority standards to create something with real currency at state and national levels?

May 2010

What are the key issues in Global Gifted and Talented Education?

Welcome Dear Reader!

I thought it might be fun to begin with an initial analysis, to prompt comments from others in the field and to serve as a baseline statement that I can revisit over time as this blog develops.

As I see it then, there are three broad and overlapping issues impacting on gifted and talented (G&T) educators worldwide.

Each issue can be defined as a polarity. Practitioners position themselves at some point between each of  the two extremes, influenced by their personal beliefs and the context in which they operate.

The first polarity is familiar territory – it’s  Nature versus Nurture.

At one extreme, there are those who  see giftedness as predominantly inherited

  • G&T learners are typically a small fixed percentage – an elite
  • Attention is focused on identified G&T learners rather than on effective G&T education
  • And the G&T concept is static – once identified as G&T a learner is always G&T
  • And the emphasis is almost exclusively on academic ability

At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who see giftedness as largely achievable through effort

  • All learners are potentially G&T
  • Attention is focused on effective G&T education rather than the G&T learner
  • The G&T concept is dynamic – learners may move in and out of the G&T population over time
  • And the emphasis is typically on the widest possible range of abilities

The second polarity is Excellence versus Equity.

At one extreme, there are those who see  G&T education predominantly in terms of higher standards

  • G&T learners are supported to achieve the highest possible educational outcomes regardless of background
  • Strong emphasis is placed on academic achievement and
  • Identification of G&T learners tends to select in those who are already high achievers.

At the other, there are those who see G&T education primarily as a means to to narrow achievement gaps and strengthen social mobility

  • Disadvantaged G&T learners are supported to overcome performance gaps that are attributable to factors such as gender, ethnic and socio-economic background
  • Strong emphasis is placed on holistic support, often to strengthen motivation and self -esteem and
  • Identification is concentrated on spotting untapped potential.

The final polarity is Special Needs versus Personalisation:

At one extreme, there are those who regard all G&T learners as having a special educational need

  • As a consequence, G&T learners are typically educated separately rather than in ordinary schools
  • Acceleration is the guiding principle of provision and
  • It is common for G&T learners to be regarded as very different, even to the extent of having social and emotional problems.

At the other, are those who conceive of G&T education as a compartment of personalised education, designed to meet the needs of all learners

  • As a consequence, G&T education is typically based in a standard classroom setting in an ordinary school
  • Enrichment is the guiding principle of provision and
  • G&T learners are typically regarded as normal.

It seems typical for G&T educators to incline consistently towards either the first or the second set of statements within each polarity – ie towards Nature, Excellence and Special Needs or towards Nurture, Equity and Personalisation, but their profile may be spiky, eg they may be relatively more ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ on one polarity than the others.

The polarities influence each other significantly: for example,  a G&T educator who is focused on highly/profoundly gifted learners will find themselves more aligned with the first set of statements than they will the second.

But my sense is that, over the last few years, the international community of G&T educators has been shifting significantly towards the position described by the second sets of statements. This may continue, or there may be a backlash in due course.

Any community of G&T educators needs to understand these tensions, so as to accommodate the very different perspectives that may be held by its members.

Do you agree with this analysis? Where do you stand on each of the polarities?


16 May 2010