The idea for National Gifted Education Awareness Day (NGEAD) was born in December 2010. I was on #gtchat on Twitter (Fridays 5pm and midnight GMT) chatting about global gifted advocacy(@DeborahMersino). One common theme that seemed to run through the chat was that there was little awareness in schools of Gifted/Exceptionally Able children in the classroom.
It seemed to me the logical answer to this was a campaign to raise awareness. Teachers already have the skills to engage Gifted and Talented children. Simple awareness had the potential to deliver immediate gains. So I proposed a Global Gifted Education Awareness Day. The structures are not yet ready for this but perhaps one day they will be.
In the mean time, I thought it would be useful to have a model that could be used if such a day was to come to pass. Hence National Gifted Education Awareness Day (NGEAD) was born. There was a clear need for such a day. I knew teachers would be open to receiving information on the needs of Exceptionally Able children. However, at initial teacher education level there is little reference to this group of children. Often there is none. The NCCA has issued Draft Guidelines on teaching Exceptionally Able children and the SESS has run a pilot scheme in 11 schools. But over all, there was much to be done to raise awareness of teachers of the presence of Exceptionally Able children in the classroom. I established this site and several other initiatives as a means of contributing to improved awareness.
As is often the case, three brains works better than one and so it was the synergy of efforts with Catherine Riordan and Karen McCarthy that made NGEAD happen. Together with enormous input from Natalie Butler and Elaine Moore Mackey we put together a plan to raise awareness in Irish schools. The first EU Talent Day was declared for April 9th so it was decided to combine the two days into one event to raise awareness and celebrate Irish talent. Our initial plan received a set back when we first costed it. Our response was to use electronic means to deliver the campaign. This would have been fine though we knew it would not be as effective as a print campaign.
Then, the magic happened. We received the support Department of Education, two principals’ associations, the largest second level teachers’ union and 3 parents associations all came on board to support the endeavour. This is probably the first time so many education partners have all been on the same page in support of such a project. We are immensely grateful.
And then something even more magical happened. Brian Clavin in KPMG Ireland offered KPMG’s support to fund the distribution of our materials to every school in the country. This meant we could write directly to school Principals in over 4000 schools, tell them of the support we received from the education partners and ask if they would display an enclosed A3 poster and distribute an information leaflet to their staff. We are grateful to Brian and KPMG for their support. KPMG’s funding made an immeasurable difference to the success of the project.
We are thankful to schools for their positive response the to campaign. To put things into context. Schools and teachers are under pressure to deliver more and to do so amid a climate of pay and funding cuts. To ask teachers help with this initiative was difficult, but without them little could be achieved. The response we had has been simply magnificent. Whether it is schools principals who see how providing for high ability students can stretch all students, SEN teachers who know that more can be done for students who had been forgotten about or classroom teachers who simply want to know how they can make even more of a difference in their classrooms, there is a clear motivation among teachers in Ireland to effect change in the school experience of Exceptionally Able children.
It is difficult for education partners to support new initiatives that add a layer of complexity to the myriad of other issues facing education in Ireland. Yet their openness to support NGEAD shows that where it matters – the education of our children – there is a fantastic willingness to contribute to progress in education.
And amid a recession, when businesses everywhere are cutting back and making efficiencies, KPMG saw worthwhile project which they felt needed support that had been previously missing. Their generousity with regard to this initiative can not be overstated.
Awareness is not something that happens overnight. We know it is a developmental process. But we also know that awareness can grow exponentially. Now that NGEAD has come and gone, next years plans are already at an advanced stage of planning. Gifted and Talented matters in Ireland have entered a new and exciting phase – one which we intend will grow and develop. You can be a part of this either as an advocate and supporter through Gifted and Talented Network Ireland or as a teacher through TEACH Ireland.