Gifted Phoenix 2012 Review and Retrospective


I thought it might be neat – as well as useful – to round out this year’s blogging with a mildly self-congratulatory review, looking back at the various posts I’ve written about giftedness and gifted education.

New Year Fireworks courtesy of RobW_

New Year Fireworks courtesy of RobW_


I have embedded links to every post, so this is also an index of sorts. If you missed anything first time round, now’s your chance to catch up before next year’s programme kicks off.

This is my 40th post of 2012. There were none in August (holidays) or in October (heavy research and some privately commissioned work). I published between three and six posts in each of the remaining ten months. I haven’t attempted an accurate word count, but my best guess is roughly 200,000.



National Studies

I’ve published four ‘signature’ features on national systems of gifted education:

  • South Korea – Parts One and Two;
  • Singapore – Parts One and Two;
  • New Zealand’s Excellence Gap – Parts One and Two; and

The first two were studies of ‘Asian Tigers’, intended to showcase the particular significance of gifted education to a select group of jurisdictions that are so often held up as educational paragons for us to emulate as best we can. They complement an earlier series about gifted education in Hong Kong.

The New Zealand post was this year’s contribution to the NZ Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour. It attracted a lot less attention (and, consequently, much less vituperation) than I had anticipated. The substance of my argument is that New Zealanders are over-focused on ethnic achievement gaps, including at the top end, rather than socio-economic achievement gaps (which will of course have a significant ethnic dimension).

The post on Israel was a huge task, given the immense range of background material available online. I knew that Israel had a long pedigree in the field, but hadn’t appreciated that it was quite so extensive. Much of this activity deserves to be better known and better understood – and I hope my post has made some small contribution to that end.


The Directory of Gifted Education Centres

Four more of my posts during 2012 are contributions to an ongoing series about important centres for the delivery and support of gifted education:

  • Back in January I produced a postscript to my earlier work on the Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education (HKAGE) analysing recently published data about the Academy’s effectiveness;


Theoretical Posts

A third group of posts can perhaps best be regarded as contributions to the theoretical underpinnings of gifted education.

  • At the beginning of the year I offered a piece called ‘Are All Children Gifted?’ – Parts One and Two – which was prompted by an initial discussion on Twitter. The first part set out my personal position, together with a frame for the consideration of statements of this kind. The second part analysed three different examples of the genre.
  • Later that spring I published ‘A Bold Step in Broadly the Right Direction…But There’s a Big But!’ This is my contribution to the vociferous and sometimes violent debate prompted by the publication of ‘Taking a Bold Step’ an article by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, President of the US National Association for Gifted Children. Fundamentally, I argue for an inclusive, consensual position that can be supported by advocates of trait-based giftedness on one hand and gifted education as talent development on the other. But I place myself firmly in the latter camp, subject only to profound reservations over the idea that gifted education must be devoted to the nurturing of adult eminence.


Social Media

In the summer several posts were dedicated to consideration of the contribution that social media might make to gifted education.

I chaired a Symposium on this topic at the ECHA 29012 Conference in Munster, Germany. Two preparatory posts, published in July and September respectively, were concerned with the Symposium itself, including arrangements for a linked #gtchat on Twitter, designed to embody in practice some of the Symposium’s key messages.

There was also a substantive post ‘Can Social Media Help Overcome the Problems We Face in Gifted Education – Part One and Two. This considered how social media might be harnessed to support advocacy, learning, policy-making, professional development and research, offering several suggestions for worthwhile collaborative projects.

Finally, in October, I published a full review of the Conference as a whole, including reflections on the Symposium. This offered some potential learning points for the next conference in Ljubliana in two years’ time.

It is gratifying that the organisers have already been in touch expressing their willingness to act on such feedback. The Conference itself is called ‘Rethinking Giftedness: Giftedness in the Digital Age’, so this is perhaps the perfect opportunity to address some of these issues directly. I hope I can play an active part in that.




Posts Pertaining to English Gifted Education

Six of my posts dealt with the impact of English education policy on gifted learners, including high attainers.

  • In February I published a Policy Statement on the English School Performance Tables for GT Voice. This was drafted on behalf of the Board and revised in the light of comments received from other members. Later in the year, in early October, I resigned from the Board in protest at the very limited progress made since GT Voice was first established. I am still a member and – despite continuing forebodings – I very much hope that GT Voice can develop some real momentum in 2013.
  • The GT Voice Policy Statement was produced in response to the 2011 Performance Tables. In December I produced an analysis of the performance of High Attaining Pupils in the 2012 Primary Tables. There was evidence of real improvement between 2011 and 2012, though changes to statutory tests were a complicating factor and there is still considerable scope for further improvement in 2013 and beyond
  • Three posts dating from the early summer consider issues arising from the emerging outcomes of England’s National Curriculum Review. The first considered The Removal of National Curriculum Levels and the Implications for Able Pupils’ Progression. This was supplemented by a proposed Basic Framework for National Curriculum Assessment. A final post traced the clarification of Government policy over the secondary National Curriculum and replacement of existing GCSE qualifications taken at age 16. Initial media statements presaging full abolition of the secondary National Curriculum were succeeded by plans for a ‘skeleton’ comprising:

‘very, very short programmes of study that will give teachers “extreme” and “almost total” freedom over what is taught’.

  .Six months on, these are still to be published.

  • Two posts were dedicated to dissecting reports published by the Sutton Trust. The first considering its proposals for an Open Access Scheme; the second analysing a Report on ‘Educating the Highly Able’. I’m afraid I found them equally unconvincing. The first depends on a substantial taxpayer investment in independent (private sector) schools at a time when budgets are stretched as never before, quite apart from the fact that it would also denude state schools of all their most able learners. The second fails entirely to acknowledge the proposals in the first. By defining high ability almost exclusively in terms of high attainment, its proposed course of action would serve only to increase the ‘excellence gap’ between disadvantaged gifted learners and their peers.


Twitter Round-ups

I provided eight comprehensive listings of Gifted Phoenix Tweets during 2012. The first seven were monthly reviews, but the eighth and last marked a shift to quarterly/termly round-ups:

Gifted Phoenix on Twitter provides comprehensive coverage of global gifted education news, as well as links to useful research, commentary and resources made freely available online.

My Twitter feed also offers balanced analysis of wider education policy here in England, while specialising in unearthing and sharing newsworthy educational material from public sector sources. This supports the cause of greater transparency, espoused by the Government and opposition parties alike. It also helps ‘proper’ educational journalists keep up to speed.

Gifted Phoenix published around 6,500 Tweets during 2012. It has over 3,000 followers including several very influential politicians and educationalists.


Key Documents

Finally, I published a brief post drawing readers’ attention to an evolving Key Documents section of this Blog.

My plan is to build incrementally a global library of freely available documents, wherever possible (ie where copyright provisions appear not to stand in the way) by storing a PDF on the site.

When future posts need to reference the documents in question, I can link to the copy on this Blog rather than relying on external URLs. This should significantly reduce the incidence of dead links.

Phase One of this project is now almost complete, in that the ‘Gifted Education in the United Kingdom’ section is fully stocked with uploadable PDFs. I shall begin to stock the ‘Gifted Education in the Rest of the World’ and ‘Research’ sections during the coming year.



It is never wise to place too much faith in Blog analytics, but WordPress suggests my readership almost doubled in 2012 compared with the previous year.

There have been visits from 151 countries since 1 April. Some 48.5% of those visitors are resident in the United States or the United Kingdom.

The next largest readerships are located in Singapore, Saudi Arabia, India, Australia, Germany, France, Canada, Malaysia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the Philippines respectively

The ten most read posts during the year (including some published before 2012) are:

Mawhiba: Gifted Education in Saudi Arabia (Part One)

Gifted Education in South Korea – Part One

The Removal of National Curriculum Levels and the Implications for Able Pupils’ Progression

Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education: An In-Depth Analysis

Gifted Education in Singapore: Part 1

Gifted Education in Singapore: Part 2

The European Council for High Ability (ECHA)

Are Leonardo Schools a Good Model of Gifted Education?

USA: Maryland – Center for Talented Youth (CTY), Johns Hopkins University



As we move into 2013, may I take this opportunity to wish all my visitors and readers a very Happy New Year.

I have several very interesting posts planned for the early part of next year. I hope they will continue to meet your needs but, if you would like me to address a particular topic, please don’t hesitate to suggest it.



December 2012

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