Steve Ramsden, Chair of our Trustees, recently came across the inspiring story of Ryan* in our archives. Here he shares the positive story of how Ryan’s life turned out – with some help from Potential Plus UK.
“I think Ryan will become a delinquent” – Ryan’s junior school headmaster
When Ryan started junior school his whole personality changed. From being a happy child with a terrific sense of humour, he became very unhappy, withdrawn and aggressive. He was unpopular with the other children and lacked concentration, spending his time looking out of the window. Despite this he still came in the top three of his class each term, but the school told his parents that he wasn’t particularly bright and warned them he was likely to become a delinquent.
His parents were very worried about him. They didn’t understand his behaviour and arranged an assessment with a child psychologist. This showed that he had an IQ of 170 and that he was frustrated and bored with the pace of work at school, which was geared to the slowest in the class, whereas he needed appropriate challenge and engagement.
The Importance of Appropriate Intervention
Once his parents became aware of Ryan’s High Learning Potential (often also referred to as ‘more able’ ‘high ability’ or ‘gifted and talented’) and that appropriate intervention was needed in his education, they joined Potential Plus UK, known at the time as the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). Working with NAGC they discovered how to advocate for Ryan at his secondary school and the importance of supporting Ryan’s social and emotional needs. Ryan and his family were founding members of their area’s Explorer club – giving him a chance to enjoy activities that challenged him, while also meeting up with like-minded peers and developing a friendship group.
Reflecting on his early years, Ryan’s parents commented that Ryan had needed to fight for his survival all of his life and had survived through sheer willpower to become a strong, independent person. They acknowledge they would never know if better support during those critical years, before he was identified with high learning potential, would have made Ryan a different person, but they were certain that a person of weaker character would have gone under.
While our involvement with children with high learning potential usually ends when they become adults, in the case of Ryan, one of our earliest members, we know how the rest of his life turned out.
Ryan Did Fulfil His Potential!
On the basis of his 11 plus exam, Ryan got a place at a local grammar school. When he left his junior school, shockingly his headmaster told his parents that he couldn’t understand how Ryan was offered a place at grammar school as he wasn’t particularly bright.
With the support of NAGC, his parents ensured that Ryan’s capabilities were recognised at grammar school. He was immediately put in the fast stream and his passion for mathematics was encouraged, performing well in the International Mathematical Olympiad. He passed his ‘A’ levels with 3 ‘A’s at 16 and went on to read Mathematics at university. He enjoyed life at university so much that he stayed on to complete a PhD in Pure Mathematics.
Ryan went on to become a lifelong learner, learning to speak French, Persian and Japanese, and playing and teaching the Chinese game of Go, at which he was an expert. He lived a full and happy life, married, had children and had a long and successful career in the oil, telecommunications and healthcare industries as a database administrator. He pioneered new computer-driven methods for off-shore drilling, as well as teaching Mathematics at universities in Iran, England and the USA. Ryan retired in 2019.
The Waste of Unfulfilled Potential
Things could have turned out very differently if Ryan had not been identified as a high potential learner. Without the right kind of understanding and support which Ryan received from Potential Plus UK, he might have become the delinquent his headmaster expected and what a waste that would have been!
Many children with high learning potential need support during the critical ages of 7 to 11 when their personality is moulded by their environment and their approach to the world crystallises. It is not always easy to identify children with high learning potential and, as we’ve seen with Ryan, schools and parents can get it wrong. Without identification and appropriate intervention in their education, such children are unlikely to achieve their potential or lead fulfilled lives.
Every child deserves the opportunity to develop their full potential at their own pace, with an engaging and challenging education. Constraining an exceptionally bright child to learn at the pace of the slowest child is as cruel and unthinking as expecting a child to walk in shoes which are two sizes too small, and what right-minded person would expect that?
About Potential Plus UK
Children with high learning potential are often isolated by their abilities. For 55 years, Potential Plus UK has been the only UK charity there for children with high learning potential, their parents/carers and their schools; supporting young people on their journey of identifying and fulfilling their potential.
Please Donate Today
After a devastating two years due to Covid and now the funding crisis, we are in desperate need of funding to continue our work. Please support our 55 years campaign to ensure that we can continue to help children. like Ryan, who have high learning potential.
About the Author: Steve Ramsden is Chair of our Trustees. With a background as a manager in IT, he has recently retired and now spends time volunteering, and learning to play the saxophone. Discover more about Steve and our other trustees and what motivates them to work with Potential Plus UK on our website: Meet the Trustees