Back in July 2010, I published a post about the genesis and initial first steps in establishing a federation of UK stakeholders in gifted and talented education. I used the opportunity to express some ideas and some vague fears about risks associated with the process.
Three months later, in October, I joined a working group of ten volunteers charged with developing proposals for how such an entity might operate.
All of us are involved in one way or another with G&T education in the UK, but we gave a commitment to leave our personal and professional interests ‘at the door’ – as well as agreeing to invest up to 10 hours a week in the development process.
Between October and March we held a series of face-to-face meetings and teleconferences which culminated in a recent consultation event with our wider constituency in London, a stone’s throw from the London Eye and just over the river from the Houses of Parliament.
The purpose of the consultation was to test our thinking with the wider membership and prospective membership and, provided we had their agreement and support, to announce the next steps in the process.
We are very grateful and reassured that the full house of stakeholders felt able to give us positive feedback on our proposals, and to endorse the further action we recommended. They also gave us valuable information about the support services they would like to receive, how they could contribute to the undertaking and their longer term vision for future development.
Now that our deliberations are in the public domain, I can make public our proposals, so that those who were not present at the event, including many of my overseas readers, can have a clearer understanding of the direction of travel.
I also want to use this opportunity to extend an open invitation to my international readers to join the network.
I will not comment on the process by which we developed these proposals except to say that it was a hard struggle to reach consensus on some of the most controversial issues. We all brought very different visions to the table, as well as different ideas about how to agree a way forward. We got there eventually, but it has taken significantly longer than expected.
The Name and Nature of GT Voice
The working group considered and adopted several names during its deliberations but decided finally on ‘GT Voice’. This was designed into a logo, incorporating a strapline, which is reproduced in the left-hand column of this Blog.
We hope that our members will use the logo as a badge of identity, marking their support for – and commitment to – the ideals and core principles for which GT Voice stands.
GT Voice is an inclusive network of those with an interest in UK gifted and talented education. That interest may be professional or personal (so parents/carers and gifted learners themselves may become members). They need not reside in the UK: the network is open to organisations and individuals located anywhere in the world.
Anyone with an interest in global G&T education is by definition interested in UK G&T education and so elgible to join!
It is intended to have the smallest possible central hub, to distance it from previous ‘top-down’ approaches to gifted education in this country and to ensure that, so far as possible, it does not set itself up in direct or indirect competition with its members.
The network is entirely independent of any other interests or organisations, not funded by or through the UK central Government and politically non-aligned. It is also non-profit making (though it will be established as a company limited by guarantee as it may need to generate income to help meet its costs).
The Working Group has already consulted on and finalised a Charter for GT Voice which is published on the GT Voice Blog.
The Charter – officially Charter 2011, in recognition that it will be reviewed annually and may need to be revised and updated – sets out the core principles which all network members are invited to endorse:
- The potential of gifted and talented (G&T) learners must be positively encouraged.
- All learners – including all G&T learners – have an equal right to inspiration, challenge and support to maximise their potential.
- All learners– including all G&T learners – have an equal right to be confident, happy and fulfilled in who they are and to feel good about letting others see what they are capable of achieving.
- Effective G&T provision is essential for securing educational excellence, narrowing achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged learners, and supporting social mobility
- Effective G&T education will make a valuable contribution to the overall quality of our education system, our economy and our international competitiveness.
It goes on to define the purpose of GT Voice as to develop:
- the significance and quality of gifted and talented identification, learning and support;
- networking within the G&T community including organisations involved in G&T learning, both nationally and internationally;
- improved access by G&T children and young people and their families to opportunities for learning, networking and support;
- positive dialogue and collaboration to share knowledge, evidence and experience including an annual ‘G&T State of the Nation’ survey (see below); and
- opportunities for members of the network to join together to strengthen advocacy of the need for an effective G&T strategy and provision across the UK and internationally.
The Charter notes that ‘members may decide at a later stage to extend the role and remit of the network to address other priorities, including advocacy for the needs of G&T learners, parents/carers and educators’.
Pending such a decision, there is nothing to prevent members from advocating in their role as members of GT Voice – as suggested by the final bullet point above – but they cannot claim to be speaking on behalf of the network.
There is an additional gloss on GT Voice’s role. It:
‘is a response to the changes in government education policy and funding. It seeks to build on past achievements; to ensure that existing expertise and resources are retained and to collaborate and offer mutual support. It also wants to develop imaginative, network-led ways to share knowledge and experience; to ensure the development of cutting edge projects and to improve services and support for the benefit of all gifted and talented learners.’
So there is emphasis on a mixed blend of continuity and change, including a clear commitment to innovation and reform.
Membership and Services
Prospective members are invited to sign up to the Charter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org . A letter from the working group was sent directly to everyone on the mailing list as well as being published on the Blog.
All those who agree the Charter are encouraged to register as Founder Members of GT Voice. The letter confirms that membership and core services will be free of charge for the first year of GT Voice’s existence, though concedes that it may be necessary to explore how costs can be underwritten in the longer term to ensure that the network is financially sustainable.
Founder Members are entitled to use the GT Voice Logo on their websites, on any headed paper and in their marketing materials. They will also be able to access a range of online services via the GT Voice website.
The website, which is Joomla-based so very flexible, is expected to develop rapidly and is intended to become an online hub or, more accurately, a G&T routemap enabling members to locate and link together relevant resources, communities and discussions wherever they may be found online.
It will not be a centralised ‘one stop shop’ that relocates resources from their current location unless that is necessary to safeguard access and/or helpful to the membership.
The website will offer members:
- online registration;
- a G&T education news and information service, including a calendar of events;
- multimedia forums supporting interaction and collaboration between members;
- a directory of providers of services relevant to G&T education in the UK. (The letter invited those on the mailing list to send in details of their services for inclusion on this directory); and
- other support, to be determined and developed in the light of feedback.
Annual State of the Nation Report
As an additional service, the working group has committed GT Voice to providing an annual report on the health of G&T education in the UK, drawing on available data and on qualitative evidence secured through a brief annual survey.
This is intended to inform future discussion about the development of services by and for members, as well as any advocacy or other activity they may wish to undertake.
The working group intends to develop an underpinning database to capture all statistics and records potentially relevant to the report, drawing in material supplied by national Government, which is committed to increased transparency through data-sharing.
We expect to prepare an initial baseline survey for publication towards the end of 2011, drawing in evidence from the January 2011 School Census and linking it to summer 2010 achievement data.
The data may include evidence relating to high attainers, as well as the identified G&T population, given current uncertainty as to whether such identification will continue to be required in future School Censuses.
The provision of this service will require funding to meet the costs, although these will be kept to a minimum. It may be necessary to charge for access to detailed reports and possibly related services to help meet the costs.
Election of a Permanent Steering Group
All individual adult Founder Members registered by the deadline will be able to vote in the election of permanent Steering Group members. It will not be possible for organisations to vote, so those who are organisational members should take care to ensure that they are also registered as individuals.
The Steering Group’s constitution has been adapted from that of giftEDnz, the professional network established in New Zealand, although the size of the Group is significantly larger, in recognition of the larger population of the UK and the wider range of stakeholders that GT Voice represents.
There will be nine full members, each elected to serve a three-year term of office. Each will stand in the same open election – there will be no system for reserving Steering Group places to particular constituencies (although candidates are free to declare themselves as potentially representative of particular constituencies).
Any adult Foundation Member may stand for election to the Steering Group. Each candidate will be invited to submit a short supporting statement and all of these will be published online.
Voting will be anonymised – using membership numbers – and will also be done online, via the website. The result will be cross-checked and, if necessary, will be scrutinised independently.
Once elected, the Steering Group may appoint up to four co-opted members with one-year terms of office to fill any gaps in their skillset. Co-opted members must also be Founder Members of GT Voice.
The Board will also elect its own chair and other officers as necessary. In all proceedings, all steering group members, including co-opted members, have a single vote – although the Chair has a casting vote if needed.
We intend that the timetable and full draft constitution will be published online by mid-April. Nominations for the Steering Group will be invited between mid-May and mid-June, when voting begins.
Voting will take place between mid-June and mid-July. Votes will be counted and checked and the result announced before the end of the Summer Term.
The elected Steering Group will meet for the first time in September 2011, when it will elect its officers and have the option to appoint co-optees. The working group will hand over all vestigial responsibilities to the elected Steering Group at that point.
The International Perspective
The reason for this post is to alert readers overseas that, if they are prepared to sign the GT Voice Charter, they are eligible to become Founder Members of GT Voice, to access the services available to Members and to vote in the forthcoming elections.
So, if you fit this description, please don’t hesitate to send your details to email@example.com (or use the online registration service once that is available).
It will be critical to the effectiveness of GT Voice that it develops and maintains strong links with G&T stakeholders in other countries and with the emerging global advocacy movement for G&T education.
In recognition of that, I will be representing GT Voice at the imminent Hungarian EU Presidential Conference on Talent Support in Budapest, Hungary and using that opportunity to encourage international colleagues to register as Founder Members of GT Voice.
I will be keen to explore with them ways in which the network might develop to reflect their needs and interests and will feed back their views to the working group on my return.
In further recognition of the significance of the Hungarian Presidential Initiative and of pan-EU partnership and collaboration in G&T education, the working group has agreed to align the launch of GT Voice with the inaugural EU Talent Day celebrations.
We very much hope that GT Voice will be able to play a significant role in the development and delivery of the support programme for European G&T education that we confidently expect to emerge from the Presidential Conference.
If you have any questions about GT Voice and how you can become involved – or if you have ideas and suggestions for services and support targeted specifically at our international members – please don’t hesitate to contact me (see the About page for contact details).
Thanks and – I hope – welcome aboard!