Third-level colleges could duplicate DCU model to support the gifted, says Minister

Call for academically gifted children to be nurtured

“It is the duty of school boards of management to ensure that appropriate education services are made available to such students,” says Minister of State for Research Seán Sherlock. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

“It is the duty of school boards of management to ensure that appropriate education services are made available to such students,” says Minister of State for Research Seán Sherlock. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

 


Academically gifted children should be identified and nurtured in the same way that young footballers, musicians and artists are encouraged, the Dáil has heard.

Labour’s Gerald Nash said there were an estimated 27,000 gifted children in the school system, but unlike many countries “there appear to be scant resources available in Ireland for exceptionally able children”.

He said there was a danger of such children “being isolated and sometimes frustrated in the learning environment they occupy in the standard State school system”.

The Louth TD acknowledged the facilities in Dublin City University (DCU) and the University of Limerick for helping gifted children. However he said such resources “should be available to all children and not only children of families who can afford to access them”. He had contact with students “who are frustrated because they no longer feel challenged in a classroom environment, which then leads to frustration in the teaching profession”.

Appealing for more resources for children and training for teachers to assist them, Mr Nash said there was a growing population of children in Ireland with “dual exceptionality” where their intellectual ability was in the top 5 per cent quotient or above but they might also have a mild to severe learning challenge or profound disability.

School boards
Minister of State for Research Seán Sherlock said “it is the duty of school boards of management to ensure that appropriate education services are made available to such students”.

He said the DCU model to encourage gifted children “could potentially be replicated with the willingness of the institutes of technology and universities”.

He would be interested in exploring avenues with other higher education institutes in relation to the development of similar entities.


‘Daunting challenge’
Mr Nash said that being an exceptionally bright child did not always mean the child would have an exceptionally bright future and parenting “can be a daunting challenge for those who are rearing what is known as a gifted child”.

“These children have specific requirements which must be met if they are to fulfil their potential and maximise the contribution they can make to society and the economy.”

He added:“If one identifies a gifted footballer, musician or artist when they are young, those skills are honed, encouraged and developed.”