On Gifted Support in Ireland and the lay of the Land…
Ireland has a rich, intellectual heritage. It has many great literary, scientific and mathematical greats to which it can lay claim to. Ireland has a rich artistic and musical heritage as well.. It is a country which historically has produced a wealth of Talented people, in many different disciplines.. It is puzzling then, to many of us folk who live in this country, the reason why students of this nature are not well supported, except in certain sports arenas… it would be a mystery that a lot of us would like to solve.
Gifted and Talented Children are officially known in Ireland as ‘Exceptionally Able’ children.
To this authors knowledge support and advocacy for the gifted, or exceptionally able child in Ireland has its roots in the UK support groups and Trinity College over thirty years ago. A national parent organisation eventually formed under the name of the Irish Association of Gifted Children, or the IAGC.. As with many voluntary organisations, it had its years when it was strong, with numerous explorers groups around the city and country, and years of these falling off and dwindling.
During one of it’s strong strong periods, it lobbied the government, held speakers evenings and held conferences.. and during this period, the association managed to get Exceptionally Able designated as a group under the Special Education legislation (see SESS- Education Act 1998), and it was thought that they were finally protected and that there would be some movement forward towards appropriate provision for this group. Unfortunately, the IAGC began another decline, and, by the time new legislation in the area of disability began coming to the fore, it also began to errode the clarity of what did and did not constitute a special educational need, and wether it applied to the gifted or exceptionally able.
More recent legislation moved down the road of equating special needs with only disability rather than encompassing special needs as a term used as an umbrella for the needs continuum from exceptional ability to disability.. it was no longer possible to stop or change the direction of the policy makers. Exceptionally Able or Gifted children in Ireland today sadly remain in a grey area in regards to their needs being met. As the recent boom years came to an end, and despite having been a player in moving along such landmarks as the NCCA’s Guidelines for Teachers of Exceptionally Able Students, the IAGC, despite the attempts of a few dedicated members to inject new enthusiasm and momentum into the group, eventually came to the realisation that as a voluntary group, without sufficient volunteers for its main committee, would have to dissolve.
Due to this dissolution, Ireland no longer has a National Organisation for the support of gifted or Exceptionally Able Children.
All is not all doom and gloom though, as into this void stepped a Parent support website, which had been quietly growing over the few years before the IAGC’s demise… Little by little it has blossomed into a vast archive of information and support. It is voluntarily run by its founder and a small team of hand-picked volunteers all of which ensure the smooth running of the site. Giftedkids.ie has been a lifeline for many families and children in Ireland and has recently begun to offer free webinars on different subjects available to see from its site.
At present, as a country and community, we are also very thankful for the existence of the Centre of Talented Youth in Ireland. Having had its inicial roots in the IAGC, it moved first from activities first offered in St. Patrick’s Teaching College in Drumcondra, CTYI eventually evolved into an autonomous Centre in DCU. It is affiliated or linked with similar CTY programs from John Hopkins University in the USA, and other countries. It has served as the steadiest and most effective single provider of Saturday and summer courses designed and geared specifically for gifted children from the ages of 6 through to 17, and has been instrumental especially in helping many many students find kindred spirits and their intellectual and interest equals.. so important for this group of children. Unfortunately CTYI has lost its government funding. The centre at this time is offering a broader range of courses to take up a wider range of able individuals, and has started to host a yearly conference on gifted issues.
Recently, through social networking, internet and cybercontacts the support net for gifted community both in Ireland and abroad appears to be widening, with more teachers and individuals taking an interest through mediums such as twitter, facebook, blogs and other forms of electronic media.. A few examples are the Irish input on the #gtchat live twitter chats twice on Fridays, attended by both teachers and parents, including a dynamic duo parent team – Frazzled and Dazzled who are developing a Gifted support blog. I suppose I would also have to include – this site- which is being developed by me! There is also a lot of cross interaction by interested Irish individuals with other global supporters in the USA, Australia, and Europe through Twitter, Facebook, Second Life and other applications.
Other initiatives and peripheral supportive activities happening in Ireland:
- ICEP EuropeA privately run organisation that runs short, 6 month online courses in special needs for teachers, which also runs courses these courses in gifted education.
- There has been some work with providing a number of web-based resources through government educational bodies such as the NCCA , SESS and the NCTE/Scoilnet websites.
- There have been a very small but steady number of lectures at University level (UCD) on some Post Grad and Masters courses in SEN.
- Daynuv – There have been some very innovative projects in Virtual World technology been done within a number of schools. Also some multicultural projects through etwinning.
- A number of Teachers Conferences have had speakers on their schedules that provided information on gifted children.
- There is a publishing company that carries books for, among other ranges on different topics and populations of students, a range specifically for use with exceptionally able or gifted students called outsidetheboxlearning.
There may be other initiatives, or individuals out there doing other activities supporting gifted children in Ireland, and I am sure that this is not an exhaustive list here above.. it is only just a small taste of some of the goings on in Ireland, and for readers to get an idea of what the lay of the land is like here in this country. This page may indeed be edited on and off as information changes.
If there is anything that is felt would be a good addition to this page, or they would wish removed or changed, by a reader, pls feel free to contact me.