European Agency for Development in Special Needs Education

The Agency’s website describes it as:

‘an independent and self-governing organisation established by our member countries to act as their platform for collaboration regarding the development of provision for learners with special educational needs’.

It is maintained through support from member countries (the website lists 30) and the EU.

In 2009, the Agency compiled a survey of educational policy and provision for gifted learners. Twenty-four of the 30 member countries returned the questionnaire on which the survey is based (England was one of the six non-participants).

This seems to have been the Agency’s only substantive contribution in the field of G&T education (though it has also published a glossary which helpfully includes gifted education terminology in 21 member languages). One of the purposes of the survey was to scope potential areas for further investigation, but it does not identify any that would add significantly to our knowledge base.

Such limited involvement is unsurprising, since relatively few member countries identify G&T education as a designated special need. (Indeed 19 of the 24 respondents do not include gifted pupils within their identified SEN population.) The Agency tends to adopt ‘inclusion’ as a more catholic term, but this is not universally applied to gifted learners either.

The literature review and survey summary inevitably come across as a brief and incomplete ‘Cook’s Tour’ of the research and practice respectively.

That said, the report does include some useful information about recent practice in responding countries which updates two somewhat more helpful but older publications:

Two main conclusions spring from this analysis:

  • First, that national policy and practice is complex and changes rapidly. Snapshot surveys that rely solely on written responses to a questionnaire are unlikely to produce much useful information;
  • Second, that the best results are secured by deploying those with some background and expertise in gifted education.

In my view, the needs of policy makers and providers would be better served through a continuously updated online registry for European G&T education, which could service the activities of a European network.

Perhaps the recently announced Hungarian initiative could help to secure this outcome by creating a parallel European Agency for Development in Gifted Education, staffed and funded on the same generous basis as the Special Needs equivalent!

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