The Irish Centre for Talented Youth
CTYI is the only organisation in Ireland providing challenging academic programmes for young people with high ability. Accepting children from age 6 up to 16 years, the Centre runs enrichment courses in subject areas ordinarily unavailable at school.
CTYI is based in Dublin City University, but has a number of satellite Centres in University College Cork, Limerick IT, Tralee IT, Wexford town (Carlow IT campus), Athlone IT, Galway-Mayo IT and Letterkenny IT. The Centre was established in 1992 and has seen more than 30,000 students through its doors.
The Centre’s Director is Mr. Colm O’Reilly.
Young people who wish to take part in the programmes on offer at CTYI, must first establish their eligibility through assessment. Eligibility can be found in a number of different ways.
A Note on Standardised Testing
Primary schools regularly use standardised assessment tests to measure a student's performance. Examples of such tests include, the Drumcondra tests, Sigma-T and Micra-T. Standardised tests are norm-referenced meaning that a child’s score is compared against a standard group of similarly aged children. This comparison allows the child’s achievement level to be discerned and enables the teacher to see where the class and its students fit within a national picture. Children functioning in the ~90th percentile are encouraged to take an assessment at CTYI.
Standardised tests are designed in such a way that they clearly define the ‘middle students’ in any test group. That is, their evaluation can more sensitively discern children in the average range, but is less precise at discriminating the abilities of children at either end of the curve (purple areas). Essentially these tests have a specific number of easy, mediocre, difficult and complex questions. Few children will be able to answer the very complex questions, and for those who can answer these with ease, a small number of complex questions is not enough to allow clear definitions of their ability to be drawn. For example, a given test contains five very complicated questions. There is one gifted boy taking the test along with seven bright children, and all eight children get all five questions correct in the test. With this test there is no way of distinguishing between the gifted and bright children in the class. If the test had 20 increasingly complex questions it is more likely that the bright children would be able to answer, say, 5-10 of the questions, while the gifted children would be able to answer 15-20 of them. This approach is called out of level testing.
It is generally accepted that out of level testing is the most appropriate way to assess the academic potential of high ability children. This involves administering a standardised test that is geared for children 2-3 years older than the child being assessed. This test will include the requisite number of ‘tricky’ questions and will present a greater challenge. Scores are then compared against the norm chart (for that age group). Usually children must fall into the 50th percentile or above of the standardised test group, to be placed in the 95th percentile of children their own age.
The Centre runs a regular programme of courses for primary and secondary school students throughout the year.
Courses available come from all disciplines, and in the past have included;
The courses typically present material at a pace and level above that which students are used to at school. Courses are designed to challenge and stimulate new interests. Students will learn about their chosen subject from an instructor who is currently studying at PhD level or works in that field and are therefore at the cutting edge of developments in the area.
Students will also be challenged to think in different ways, through the courses at CTYI. Instructors challenge them to “think like a scientist” for example, and encourage them to get immersed in the subject they are learning. In the writing courses, students are encouraged to explore new ways of expressing themselves and try out new ways of approaching their writing.
The courses at CTYI allow students to learn at a level that is more appropriate to their academic ability. All students need to be challenged, and gifted children are no different, just that their level is much higher than what you might expect. It is important for them to access a learning environment that is motivating and challenging, so that they can learn the tools of scholarship. In less challenging environments, students can’t learn about the need to devote time and study to their learning, because everything comes easily to them. They can quickly and erroneously learn that everything should come to them with ease. Then when faced with a problem that they can’t figure out, they don’t have the necessary skill-set to work it out.
CTYI courses for high ability students have many benefits. Firstly they bring like-minded, equally able children together. This has a hugely positive and grounding effect, in that the students learn that they may not be the smartest in the class, and that there are others out there that are better than they are. While initially their confidence can take a shock, it levels out as they begin to perceive a more realistic sense of themselves and their abilities.
They can often for the first time see the extent of their capabilities, as the glass ceiling on their learning is smashed. They will also learn about their strengths and weaknesses.
CTYI gives students greater focus and motivation. Time and time again, students return to school with a greater sense of what they are interested in and know what they need to do to achieve their academic goals.
Most importantly, CTYI is a place where they get to meet with like minded students, who are interested in the same things as they are.If you are eight years old, and have an interest in astronomy, you may find it difficult to find a friend who shares that interest in your class or even your school. Coming to CTYI, they will meet other children who share their passions, and even develop new interests.
In February 2008 and March 2009, CTYI hosted conferences in DCU on understanding and working with gifted children. These conferences were aimed at parents, teachers, researchers and students.
CTYI is currently conducting research in the area of giftedness. CTYI Director, Colm O’Reilly is conducing research which looks at the effects of CTYI programmes on children and their families. Catriona Fitzgerald is doing her PhD in the area of acceleration, setting up and evaluating an early university entrance programme in DCU for high ability students. Eleanor Cooke is researching in the area of high ability in children from disadvantaged areas.
The Irish Centre for Talented Youth
Many thanks to Catriona Fitzgerald, CTYI, for providng this article on CTYI's activities.
The Irish Centre for Talented Youth
“The CTYI have improved my child's social life enormously. He keeps in touch with some of his friends by email. It has really helped to improve his social skills and that's spilled over into school."
"My son is coming to the last year or two of CTYI and I don’t know what he will do without it, He lives for it, every year, since he was 8 years old. CTYI was the turning point in my teenagers life and I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to them for providing the environment which helped my son to be proud of who he is. He is now becoming a well adjusted, very happy, confident, young adult. I am so very proud of him."
Disclaimer: This is not an expert site, it is run on a voluntary basis and as such is based on opinion and experience but we hope that it acts as a signpost for educational resources and other support services for Irish families with exceptionally able children. By using this website you accept that any dependence by you on such information, opinion or advice is at your own risk.