Sunday, April 17, 2011

Taking Gifted Advocacy in Ireland to the Next Level

One week on from EU Talent Day and I am finally finding my feet again! Firstly, a big THANK YOU is due to everyone who supported Gifted Education Awareness Day and EU Talent Day. All the organisations who lent official support and helped to spread the word through their networks. An Post and Katie McMillan for the wonderful artwork. Dublin Zoo, the National Museum, the National Gallery who held events and helped to promote the day. The members of our GAS group who helped in so many ways behind the scenes. Deserving of particular thanks are Elaine Mackey for her enthusiasm, advice and expertise and Natalie Butler who succeeded in getting coverage in the National newspapers and who is responsible for the wonderful quote from our Minister for Education! And Hilary Jordan of for the delicious chocolate cake.

In the days leading up to 8th April, every single one of the 4100+ school Principals in Ireland received a poster for their staffroom and a leaflet prepared with the help of ICEPE, with information on gifted education. Based on the number of teachers who have signed up to TEACHIreland, the new professional association for Teachers of Exceptionally Able Children in Ireland, and the phonecalls/emails from people looking for more information, our goal of raising awareness was certainly achieved. This would not have been possible without the very generous sponsorship of  Brian Clavin and KPMG.

Frazzled and Peter "negotiate"!

On Saturday 9th April, we officially launched Gifted and Talented Network Ireland. We hope to see this develop into a  body which can bring people together to ensure that gifted advocacy in Ireland can be carried out in a co-ordinated, cohesive and effective fashion, whilst still allowing for individual groups. In fact, we would hope that it can be used as a means of supporting each other. The "rules of engagement" have yet to be finalised and our plan is to bring together representatives from interested parties in a few months time to agree on these .

It is our firm belief that the way forward is for a network of strong local support groups to develop. In this way, individuals on the ground can feel involved, valued and included so that, over time, new voices and new ideas can come forward. While a few high-profile advocates remain to the fore, there is a danger that other very capable people feel that they are not qualified or valuable, so they remain quiet. They may also be of the impression that the big noises have it all sewn up and under control! The story of our GAS group serves as a good illustration of what can happen when individuals come together with confidence and a can-do attitude. It began in 2009 when one individual realised that there was no support group in their area simply because no one had set one up. All that it took was one friend for moral support to get the ball rolling and from that has slowly developed GAS South Dublin/Wicklow.

View GT Network Ireland in a larger map
We plan to use the gtnetwork register to get local support groups up and running. As you can see from the map above, fifteen counties are represented already and we will be contacting the individuals concerned over the coming weeks. We are quite happy to travel to meet these people and get them started. 

In summary, the EU Talent Day initiative in Ireland was a great start and has opened doors. Now we need to keep the momentum going and we need more hands on deck. Just imagine the success we might see with our next venture if we have people all round the country working together! 

A final THANK YOU to Hungary for the concept of an EU Talent Day and to Eszter Kethelyi who helped to put together the Irish page on their website. The result of the initiative on a European scale is the Budapest Declaration on Talent Support which calls on all member states to ensure that talent is actively supported in their own country, and to hold an annual Talent Day each spring. It is hoped that an international talent support network will develop and: 
"The participants agree to invite stakeholders from every country of the European Union to convene annually to discuss the developments and current questions in talent support. Upon the invitation of the Government of Poland the next conference will take place in Warsaw in 2012."

For those of you who couldn't make it to the Zoo, here are a few photos. More to follow when we get permission to add people pics.


  1. What an incredible achievement! It's uplifting to watch the formation of such a strong advocate based and support organizations. I hope you can see what a huge contribution you are making to the opportunities for children in Ireland! The tireless efforts and constant work you've done is paying off. It can sometimes be hard to see when you're in the middle of it.

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. Significant momentum has been generated. It's very exciting and rewarding, but also somewhat daunting! To capitalise on the progress made to date, we now need to be focused, co-ordinated and on-the-ball. However, the team is growing both in numbers and skills/expertise, so things are looking good!