Giftedness as a Special Educational need

Our Twitter chat last night was on the topic of Giftedness as a Special Educational Need (SEN). (Transcript)

The tweet of the night has to be this one from Minister of State  in the Department of Education, Ciaran Cannon:

“…I would be more than happy to meet with you to talk about this subject.”

Firstly, we tried to pin down whether giftedness, officially referred to in Ireland as “exceptional ability”, is recognised by the Authorities as a SEN.

1. The Education Act of 1998 explicitly includes “exceptionally able students” under the heading of SEN:

“special educational needs” means the educational needs of students who have a disability and the educational needs of exceptionally able students.

2. The Education of Persons with Special Educational Needs (EPSEN) Act of 2004 is much less clear and veers heavily towards defining SEN as disability:

‘‘special educational needs’’ means, in relation to a person, a restriction in the capacity of the person to participate in and benefit from education on account of an enduring physical, sensory, mental health or learning disability, or any other condition which results in a person learning differently from a person without that condition and
cognate words shall be construed accordingly; 

We can just about squeeze giftedness in there under “person learning differently from a person without that condition” if we accept giftedness as a “condition”. One must wonder why the change of emphasis was made and by whom? Was it  a decision based on political correctness or one intended to reduce the number of children entitled to seek special educational support?

3. The Special Education Support Service (SESS) certainly believes that exceptional ability is a SEN and devotes a whole section to it along with resources.

4. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) would seem to believe that it is an SEN too, as they published a glossy book called Exceptionally Able Students: Draft Guidelines for Teachers and distributed it to every school in the country in 2007.

A summary of the chat follows, but the take home message for me is that we need to raise awareness of giftedness. There does seem to be official recognition of the field and a genuine willingness to provide for the needs of gifted students. However, there has been no concerted effort to ensure that this happens effectively and consistently. As well as a lack of understanding of the issue and a lack of expertise in the relevant places, this may be partly due to a fear of what it might cost if every gifted child demanded special educational support.

We need to lobby for giftedness to be included in both pre- and post-service training for teachers. With an awareness of what giftedness is and what it isn’t, there is a great deal that could be done to improve the lot of the gifted student in school, without the need for much in terms of extra resources. I’ll be starting with Minister Ciaran Cannon and his generous offer of a meeting!

  • I wonder what @Education_Ire and Minister @ciarancannon think. Is giftedness an SEN?
  • I would be more than happy to meet with you to talk about this subject. (Minister Cannon. With no #gtie tag attached, this tweet was not spotted during the chat)
  • NAGC in Britain seems to separate giftedness from SEN – Q4.
  • SCoTENS lists SENs.
  • I was going to look at teaching Council to see what they had to say and I remembered they didn’t have anything.
  • It’s cracked!! Exceptional ability is a special education need but not an educational disability.
  • Meeting the needs of Gifted and Talented Children from @ICEPEurop
  • Sadly, not sure Education Act or EPSEN gets the distinction: and that’s why it’s not correctly addressed I suspect!
  • It really is depressing to see the world and its granny back-slapping each other when in truth, nothing will change because they have missed where the change needs to occur. End result – Gifted and Talented gets forgotten, again.
  • It seems we have enough backing to claim that it is indeed an SEN. But, with little awareness and limited resources, so what?
  • Even with awareness, will funding/support follow in Ireland? Does it require Council approval, etc?
  • Awareness would be a good 1st step. A lot could be done with minimal resources.
  • Council at present is useless in this area (and always will be methinks). Don’t need much funding to effect some good change.
  • A Parent Guide To Special Education for the Gifted: <Looks very good.
  • Goes to show what little imagination exists in the dreary minds of public policy officials.
  • In Ireland, we are ‘stuck’ with definition of SEN – but need to make use of it. Anyone interested in suing the government?
  • To what end?
  • Mandamus order to get govt to get schools to act on needs of gifted children.
  • I think there is a belief that if it was explicitly recognised, it would cost a fortune to resource, so best to keep it vague.
  • Seems ridiculous that a child who is twice exceptional can get help for dyslexia bit but not gifted bit.
  • Of course there are other dreary minds that believe gifted children can look after themselves!
  • Nice to see mention of gifted in the Programme for Government, but they seem to have mixed it up and made it dependent on 3rd level input.
  • Remember Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn’s quote about Gifted and Talented? Near the bottom of this blogpost.
  • Yeah, it’s great. He showed he got it. But what has happened since then?
  • Bu**er all!
  • The sad thing is the Teaching Council didn’t set a standard for teacher training – they merely rubber stamped what was there. Had the TC sets standards, they could have tackled THE issue with second level schools in Ireland and giftedness as well.
  • SEN provision in teaching should be a central theme in teacher training
  • Sadly, the course is voluntary and depends on schools requesting it. 
  • And yet the ICEPE CPD Dip in Special and Inclusive Education does not cover Exceptional Ability/Gifted and Talented…much to my dismay. 
  • Have you seen this course from ICEPE? Teaching Gifted and Talented Students.
  • I think that what makes gifted SEN is the educational system itself that’s not only causing problems for gifted students, but for a way larger group.
  • This is SO true – neglect of gifted education shows the weaknesses in the rest of the system.
  • The issue remains that EA training is a voluntary add-on.
  • It would be nice if the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children would cop on and go back to basics – promote awareness globally.
  • Let’s make Education as a whole a SEN (final thought).
  • If we truly saw each child as an individual, there would be no such thing as SEN!!
  • Final thought: Time to get ready for Gifted Education Awareness Week 2013. Any volunteers 😉  Sign up here!

Here is the transcript for the chat, but several tweets are missing, once again. We may have to find an alternative in future.