Equality of Challenge

Equality of Challenge Initiative

Piloting Educational Provision for Exceptionally Able and Dual Exceptional Students



Tom Daly [SESS, 2015]

The 'Equality of Challenge' Initiative was a small-scale post-primary project which aimed to advise the development of support in the area of Exceptional Ability and Dual Exceptionality. It ran from 2008/2009 to 2013/2014.


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Contents of Equality of Challenge Section

Project Background and Overview 

‘Equality of Challenge’ was a small-scale project which aimed to pilot models of educational provision for exceptionally able students in post-primary schools and with an emphasis on inclusive principles. It explored how generally recognised principles could be applied in the Irish context and aimed to provide a framework and examples of practice which could be generalised and used by schools and teachers in developing learning and teaching in relation to students with exceptional ability / dual exceptionality. It ran from 2008-9 to 2013-14.

The objectives of the initiative included the development of:

  • professional knowledge and awareness of identification, and of learning and teaching in relation to exceptionally able and dual exceptional students
  • examples of school policy and system development which assists in the identification and assessment of exceptionally able and dual exceptional students
  • examples of differentiated teaching approaches based on an established inclusion policy
  • exemplars of strategies for developing the metacognitive skills of exceptionally able and dual exceptional students
  • awareness of social and emotional issues related to exceptional ability and dual exceptionality, and the addressing of students’ needs in this area
  • strategies of how to develop an environment and culture in which exceptional intellectual ability is accepted and celebrated by peers
  • models and examples of school-based sustainable enrichment activities
  • examples of systems for identifying and supporting socially-disadvantaged exceptionally able and dual exceptional students
  • models of continuing professional development (CPD) which contribute to the learning and teaching of exceptionally able and dual exceptional students.

Schools which worked with the SESS on the initiative at various times included:

  • Mercy Mounthawk Secondary School, Tralee, Co. Kerry
  • Schull Community College, Co. Cork
  • Scoil Dara, Kilkock, Co. Kildare
  • Loreto Secondary School, Kilkenny
  • St. Clement's Redemptorist College, Limerick
  • Castletroy College, Limerick
  • Coláiste Mhuire, Askeaton, Co. Limerick
  • St. Leo's College, Carlow
  • St. Colmcille's Community School, Dublin
  • St. Paul's Community School, Waterford
  • Mount Saint Michael Secondary School, Claremorris, Co. Mayo
  • Cross and Passion College, Kilcullen, Co. Kildare
  • St. Brigid's Presentation Secondary School, Killarney, Co. Kerry
  • Ballinamore Post Primary School,  Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim

Teachers at Equality of Challenge Workshop, Sept 2010
(Teachers from the participating schools at a Teachers' Seminar, September 2010)

The project approach, based on inclusionary principles, was guided by the Inspectorate’s Inclusion of students with Special Educational Needs Post-Primary Guidelines and the NCCA’s Exceptionally Able Students: Draft Guielines for Teachers.

An initial Approach Framework was developed by SESS as a broad roadmap for the initiative’s implementation. This included an emphasis on the continuing professional development (CPD) of teachers and the development of schools’ systems and procedures. Based on this approach, the SESS provided CPD support and scaffolding, in concert with the schools’ own CPD strategies.

At the earlier stages of the project Mr. John O’Roarke, Principal of Mercy Mounthawk Secondary School, wrote about such CPD issues, as they related to the initiative, in the June 2009 Journal of the Second Level Support Service.

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Early Progress

Some of the early learning and outcomes of the initiative were presented at the conference of the Irish Learning Support Association (ILSA) in September 2009.

  • Observations from Mercy Mounthawk Secondary School on differientiation strategies and extension tasks used during the first year of the project.
    Click here to see observations (PDF, 59 Kb)
  • In developing the Equality of Challenge Initiative within the school, the implementation group in Mercy Mounthawk used a three-phase reflective cycle during their first year (2008-09). In each phase, a four-stage reflective exercise was used, based on the use of extension strategies with exceptionally able students in teachers’ classes.
    Click here to see reflective cycle template (PDF, 66 Kb)
  • Ms. Pauline Burke, an English teacher in Mercy Mounhawk Secondary School, discussed the mainstream differentiation strategies and resources developed by the school at the ILSA Conference in Sept. 2009:
    Click here to see presentation (PowerPoint, 262kb)
  • Ms. Jean Johnston, SEN Coordinator in Schull Community College, described testing and assessment used in the school, the identification of students with dual exceptionality, and the role of the school’s SEN system in provision for exceptionally able students, also at the ILSA Conference in Sept. 2009:
    Click here to see presentation (PowerPoint, 8.4 Mb)
  • Dr. Tom Daly, Assistant National Coordinator SESS, outlined the Equality of Challenge background and context and introduced the presenters at the ILSA Conference in Sept. 2009:
    Click here to see presentation (PowerPoint, 1.3 Mb)

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Metacognition Skills and Strategies


Webcast: 'The Metacognitive Teacher and Learner: An Introduction to Metacognition in the Classroom'

This webcast examines the important role which Metacognition can play in learning and teaching. It has four main sections:

  1. What metacognition is and why it is important in teaching and learningLink to Metacognition webcast
  2. Metacognitive strategies for use by students and teachers
  3. How metacognition can benefit students with special and additional learning needs
  4. Ideas on how to implement metacognition in schools

Click here to access Webcast

In September 2009 the SESS produced a resource on metacognitive skills and strategies as part of the Equality of Challenge initiative. The resource, entitled Metacognition for the classroom and beyond: Differentiation and support for learners, was developed with the input of Dr. Sarah McAlwee of the University of Oxford.

Strategies for teaching and learning outlined in the resource were explained by Dr. McAlwee at a workshop for teachers in September 2009.  These were trialled in Mercy Mounthawk and Schull Community College in 2009-10 in a variety of school contexts – e.g. mainstream classrooms, SEN/Learning Support settings, and mentoring activities.

Some outcomes are outined in the section below.

Image of Metacognition Skills Poster
(A poster on Metacognition Skills, Learning Support Room, Schull Community College)

Image from Mercy Mounthawk
(A poster on Metacognition Skills, Mercy Mounthawk Secondary School, Tralee)

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Samples of Work from the Project 2010-12

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 Samples of Work from the Project 2009-10

Examples of strategies, resources and other materials developed by the Equality of Challenge schools will be posted here as they become available.

(Schull Community College also participated in the Assessment for Learning programme (AfL) and found similarities in the strategies - AfL is therefore mentioned in a sample of observations from the school, below) 

 Implementation Group, Schull Community College
(The implementation team, Schull Community College)

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Other Documents and Information

Report of a CIDREE collaborative project:

The CIDREE project (Curriculum Provision for Exceptionally Able Students) set out to bring together some of the experiences of schools and teachers in Ireland, Switzerland and the Netherlands in providing curriculum provision for students with exceptional ability. The Equality of Challenge Initiative features in the report from Ireland.
Click here to see the CIDREE report [PDF, 1MB]

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