Colm O’Reilly Director of the Centre for Talented Youth (CTY) at Dublin City University visited Budapest for a three-day conference on planned cooperation in the European Talent Support Network . Using that opportunity we asked him about his views on the European networking and cooperation.
What are the traditions of nurturing gifted kids in Ireland?
After some sporadic initiatives CTY Ireland was established at Dublin City University in 1992 to meet the needs of high ability students aged 6 to 17 years from Ireland and abroad.
CTY Ireland aims to allow all talented students to reach their potential both academically and socially by providing relevant and interesting challenges based on ability and interest rather than age.
Since the first summer programme in 1993 over 60,000 students have attended or participated in programmes run by CTY Ireland.
In the talent support area there is a line of division between for profit and non-profit organizations. Some are supported from public money, government or other public sources some other charge the kids’ families for their activities. Who is funding your work?
We are self-financed and operate on a break-even not-for-profit basis. We charge a fee for our services and the higher number of paying students that we get gives us the possibility to offer scholarships for students who cannot afford paying. We try not to turn anyone away for financial reasons.
Does Dublin City University support your programme?
We are self financed. The University allows us to use their facilities but we don’t get any financial support from them. We have now five thousand students on the course every year and each will pay a fee according to what they are doing. Through that money we break even and can pay the teachers and the scholarships to the people who may not be able to pay for themselves.
Why was it important for you to join the European Talent Centre Network?
It is very useful for us because it enables us to establish a network with like-minded science or talent centres that have similar activities outside Ireland. We can collaborate in various projects and apply for funding from EU funding programmes like Erasmus Plus which we are preparing a bid with our Talent centre partners around the area of professional development of teachers for gifted children. Hopefully other funding opportunities will come our way soon. Otherwise it would be a tool for direct cooperation in relation to education materials that would be made available for sharing and also a sort of student exchange that we don’t have at the moment.
Our acknowledgement as a European Talent Centre is prestigious for the University and the recognition of our work.
Do you have local networks? Any type of talent points or regional centres?
We don’t have such a developed system like you have in Hungary. Our way of operation is to run equivalent programmes in several other cities outside Dublin. Those courses are operated by local staff that live in the area and the students are recruited also from the region. We have agreements with the partner universities and schools that provide for the facilities like in Dublin.
Are there potential TalentPoints probably joining your network?
Concerning TalentPoints at the moment we are the main activity provider in Ireland but we know about several institutions that could become a TalentPoint. Maybe they don’t realize it themselves, but we are providing information for them and hope that they will be able to cooperate with us and each other for the talented kids. Most of the universities we are working together with may become TalentPoints. The network should be and hopefully will be more established in Ireland. Among our potential partners there are some large enterprises with sizeable CSR activity doing a lot for gifted kids in their area. Certainly they would be interested in becoming TalentPoints.
What is the legal background for the education of talented youth? Does the current Educational Act contain references to this field?
Our Educational Act is the only legal document regulating education in Ireland. It contains a reference that all students should be supported according to their special and individual needs. However the authorities do not allocate any special resources for that purpose beyond the regular school curriculum.
CTY will be hosting the 2018 ECHA Conference in Dublin. What are your intentions to take that big task?
We have always supported ECHA and consider the support of gifted children an important matter. The programme in Ireland got bigger and bigger in the last two years. In the previous five to ten years we concentrated on research and publications and looking at important areas of gifted education.
We were thinking that it might be a good idea to host the ECHA Conference just to showcase what we are doing and to give us an opportunity to have an access to the leaders of the field internationally. Based on the past 10 years’ experience I think we have grown up to be able to organize an event like that.
Each conference of ECHA traditionally has a main topic like Talents in Motion referring to giftedness and migration at the current conference in Vienna. Have you already chosen a leading topic?
It is going to be “Giftedness in the 21st Century”. Supporting the students in relation to technology in relation to issues of mental healthcare, as nowadays a lot more gifted students are struggling with mental health problems as the world changes and also in terms of general support and provision for the gifted.
The forming European network of Talent Centres and TalentPoints is a very promising new organization for cooperation and exchanging information. While it is being organized under the umbrella of ECHA, do you think it will become and independent entity?
ECHA is a very prestigious organization with a network of scientists and educators in the area of gifted education. That background gives the Talent Centres credibility. ECHA represents the more academic side of the issue. The establishing of the network of Talent Centres is the first step in a more practical application. It is more the implementation of the ideas of ECHA. I think that ECHA is lacking the practical application while we need both the theoretical background and the field applications that is the best practice. The two can work hand-in-hand. However, with the growing number of Centres and TalentPoints it will be too large of an organization not to be independent. So perhaps they may operate independently. We at CTY Ireland started from the more pragmatic line and did not have theoretical experts among us. In the last few years we had more resources for and started to work with researchers. Of course the University provides some theoretical support for the research component. In the European network I believe that ECHA will provide for the research and theoretical background while the Talent Centres’ and TalentPoints’ role will be the more pragmatic field work of collaboration.