An Appeal to Schools and Teachers; So you think you’re inclusive?

Let’s just start with this. Most teachers have an IQ in excess of 130.  It is reasonable to assume, given genetic pre-disposition and given the nurturing environment of teachers’ homes, that often children of teachers are Exceptionally Able.
In my experience of CTYI, in each of my classes, the single largest represented profession was Teaching. The common denominator among all professions was the presence of books in the home from child birth.

Now the hard part.

Harmful Myth No. 2: Education provision for gifted children is elitist.

There are a few angles to statements like this, the answer to which requires a little more than a slap about the face with a wet fish and a conical hat that says ‘God, how dumb am I?’.

Angle No1. Gifted kids come from middle class backgrounds and allowing them access to gifted education provision gives them an advantage that working class children miss out on.

Well, come on.  What about the 5% of working class children who are gifted? They wouldn’t miss out if there was a government policy that required schools to evidence planning for Exceptionally Able children.

Every child who is Exceptionally Able should have access to gifted education provision. At the moment, if there is elitism it is because middle class families are prepared to and can more afford private enrichment programmes like CTY that compensate for the TOTAL absence of government-mandated provision. (note: CTY does have scholarships).

The best way to eliminate any perceived elitism is to ensure that all schools, whether they are in middle class or working class areas have, at the very least, a basic recognition that 5% of ALL children, regardless of background, are Exceptionally Able and that they address the implications of this.

SIMPLY – to provide opportunities for ALL Exceptionally Able children is to practice inclusivity.

Angle No.2 We can’t provide resources for or support gifted children because it’s only for gifted children and is therefore not inclusive (one of top 10 ‘control statements’ of all time and quoted more than once to me).

The answer to this exists on two levels. Firstly, not every child is gifted. It would be pointless to provide access to a gifted programme for child of average ability. The whole purpose is to provide a programme for gifted children (see Why below). Everything else is called ‘ regular school’. If regular school met the needs of gifted children, you wouldn’t be reading this.

DO note however, that it is possible to make provision within a single class that is suitable to all ability levels.  And for no monetary cost.

Secondly, we already have educational exclusion in Irish schools. How? Well, most Junior Cycle schools operate mixed ability classrooms. The NCCA promotes mixed ability classroom organisation – it is intended to be ‘inclusive’ and prevent the worst excesses of ‘streaming’ (or ‘setting’). This is fine. Except we already have streaming-by-proxy. This is where students with learning problems are pulled out of class for extra ‘help’.

In a regular mixed ability classroom, given all the dynamics, it is a well established fact that teachers teach to the middle ability (in fact, teachers teach to the top of the lowest ability but that’s another issue). So in these classrooms, average ability students are provided for; and we have extra help for weaker students. BUT we have nothing for gifted children.

Most teachers aren’t even aware there are Exceptionally Able children in their classrooms.

SIMPLY – in the Irish education system, gifted children – 5% of any school, are EXCLUDED on the first day they step inside the school halls .!

Why should we have recognition or a programme for gifted children?

Well, a programme would be nice, but I know resources are scarce so I’ll settle, for the time being, for an interested, motivated and aware teacher.

We need to provide for gifted children because every child – EVERY CHILD, not just the average ability child, or the SEN child, EVERY child has a RIGHT to an EDUCATION that is APPROPRIATE to their NEEDS. Gifted children, as a whole, do not receive ability-appropriate learning opportunities in Irish schools.

Every child has a right to an education that helps them strive towards achieving their potential.  Wouldn’t you want that for your child?

Gifted children have a civil and human right to an education that matches their needs.

BUT if you don’t believe me, and you think the civil/human rights thing is glib, then don’t.

Rigid dumbed-down curriculum offers no challenge or engagement

Carry on your merry deluded way……..and enjoy living with the behavioural problems it creates in your school and classroom…..and ultimately in society. And when you go home and ask your child how their school day was, don’t bother wondering if they were actually engaged in class or whether their teacher had them sitting in a time-out chair for most of the day.

And if you can’t be bothered, because it’s ‘SO much work’, or whatever other excuse, then really, should you be teaching at all?

And if you are ‘management’ and can’t be bothered because you haven’t the will, should you even have anything to do with children.

Sorry if all this is in your face, but I have children. I want them to get the education that will help them be the best they can be in life.  I think you want that for your children too. Don’t you?


  1. As a parent of a child who attends CTYI and gets no help in school,thank you,I think you’ve summed up all the frustration and anger that I have felt and expressed to my child’s school but to no avail.

  2. Thank you, an interesting article. Sadly, I suspect the issues you mention are the same the world over though some countries undoubtedly do a better job than others. One question – you state ‘Most teachers have an IQ in excess of 130.’ Where are you quoting that statistic from please? My experience, direct and indirect, does not support the majority of teachers being Gifted, even ‘moderately’ so. If there *were* more Gifted teachers (and by that I mean ‘teachers who are Gifted’ as opposed to ‘teachers of Gifted children) I would think Gifted kids would have fewer difficulties in a typical classroom. At least they’d potentially have someone who understood what it feels like to be Gifted – with all the OEs and intensities that come with it.

  3. Hi Rochelle,
    I can’t quote you chapter and verse as it is a statistic I heard many years ago. Sadly, that’s not very scientific, but as you asked, I will look. (though I did find this.. cutting edge!)

    I don’t think that a teachers who are gifted necessarily make gifted teachers (I understood your meaning). Though it is clear that some teachers who are gifted (whether they know it or not) are gifted teachers. While research (there’s that word again-I will look!) supports the idea that the biggest influence on how well a child performs in school is the quality of the teacher, there are so many other factors at play that it is not a given that a high quality teacher will mean a better experience for gifted children.
    I think the only way to ensure, as far as is reasonably possible, that gifted children have a good schooling experience, is to have standards-based teacher training having first ensured the entry process to become a trainee is rigourous; to have specialist modules in teacher training courses so teachers can manage children who have particular educational needs, gifted included; to have a reasonable, accessible, attainable and compulsory Continuing Professional Development; To have a strong inspection system with remediation for teachers facing professional difficulties; and to ensure the prevailing culture in a school supports a success attitude that is celebrated by the school community.
    I do go on. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment – I really appreciate it. 🙂

  4. as a 14 year old cty student who is tired of being treated like i’m the exact same as rest of my class in school , the only thing i can think of to say is : Thank you

  5. Terrific article, really summed up the main points and obstacles for gifted children in the Irish education system.

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