What we do, and why we do it…

The aims of the Trust

The Potential Trust was set up set up to provide, promote, and encourage whatever makes education more interesting and exciting for children and young people (up to school leaving age) who have high learning potential – especially those with considerably more than the average share of curiosity, creativity, perception, and persistence – and to enable them to have access to especially events and experiences that facilitate their personal and social development, and their creative, artistic, and practical skills as well as their intellectual abilities.

Is there a Questor in your vicinity by any chance?

Some Questors make their presence painfully obvious by a driving need to pursue a particular topic or skill in greater depth or at greater length than anyone else.  Others may have the same high learning potential (HLP) but, for various reasons, are not motivated to achieve in any of the activities that officially make up their day – or they may be impeded and/or discouraged from achieving by some disability or dysfunction, possibly one that has not been identified (DME: dual or multiple exceptionality).

Their needs are likely to be difficult – sometimes almost impossible – to cater for adequately in parallel with the needs of others in their immediate environment, whether at home or at school.  This is especially true of those who, for whatever reason, have not entirely come to terms with their own high learning potential resulting in behaviour that makes it difficult for others to relate to them in a constructive way.

But – like ALL children and young people – they need their curiosity, persistence, and creativity to be valued and therefore fostered and encouraged.  They need to feel that learning can be an interesting and exciting process in which they can be active participants.  Where there is significant imbalance between potential and the corresponding opportunities for motivation and achievement, frustration and boredom are likely to ensue…  with consequent problems for the child or young person, and these problems tend to spill over into the family, the school, and eventually society in general.  It isn’t always easy being a Questor.

Potential Bursaries

in 1984, with considerable experience of working in this field, setting up the Trust seemed the best way of being able help more HLP and DME children and young people – those benefitting from the support of the Trust being referred to as Questors.  Having run its own Quest Weeks until 1998, the Trust continues to provide bursaries for families unable to fund the full cost of Quest-type events to  enable Questors to participate in intensive and challenging activities based on something they are passionate about – whether or not it directly contributes to something they are currently good at.  Initial contact with the Trust can be made by a family, a school, or any organisation or other individual and no entry qualification or membership fee is necessary to become a Questor.

Potential Conferences 

Since 1991 the Trust has acted as a catalyst for change, hosting professional retreats for those whose aims resonate with those of the Trust.  Having often heard conference delegates say the best part is the bits between the sessions, a Potential Conference is in essence a ‘a 24-hour coffee break with dinner thrown in’ that gives participants an opportunity to focus on their visions for the future for themselves and for their organisations.  It offers them time to exchange ideas, share current concerns and interesting developments, explore effective ways forward, make new contacts and renew existing ones.  And, last but not least, it is an opportunity to recharge their batteries so that – whatever it is they do that is of benefit to HLP and DME children – together we can do ‘more of it, better of it, quicker of it’

Potential Collaborations

The Potential Trust has helped to develop a number of initiatives in the field of High Learning Potential.  It has also collaborated with other organisations working in the same field to complement the provision already being made by parents, schools, and other individuals.  We pose to ourselves and to others the questions:  How can we best be supportive to children and young people with high learning potential, and to their parents and educators?  Can we offer Questors appropriate opportunities for their own sakes, because they are not yet adults, and not for what they might eventually do for us?

Potential Change

The Trust’s primary aim is to help Questors with special needs that arise from a high degree of unfilled learning potential in one or more areas, whatever those areas may be.  But Questors have an infinite variety of needs, to different degrees and in different combinations, so the scope and implications of what we would like to achieve are extremely broad.  And in addition to drawing attention to the particular needs of Questors, we also work towards keeping an emphasis on the special needs of all children and young people up to school leaving age.

This may sound like a tall order for a small trust whose resources are definitely finite.  However, like Questors, we too have a huge amount of curiosity and persistence and we have discovered that we can move mountains – small ones at any rate – by initiating and facilitating various exchanges of information, ideas, and expertise as well as making a certain amount of direct provision ourselves.

We make an open invitation to anyone interested in our work and our aims to get in touch with us at any time.

THE POTENTIAL TRUST (Charity No 326645)

Shepherds Close, Kingston Stert, Chinnor, Oxon OX39 4NL, UK

Tel: (+44) 1844 351666   Email: thepotentialtrust@clara.co.uk

The Trustees

Click on a Trustee to read their bio.

Anna Comino-James

Anna Comino-James

Trustee

I have been working to help and support children with high learning potential (HLP) since the late 1960s when I joined Potential Plus UK (then the newly established National Association for Gifted Children).  Having set up a committee to run a local branch I later served on NAGC’s national Council of Management for many years, fo whom I eventually organise and ran a large programme of summer schools as well as editing newsletters for different age ranges of members’ children.  Then in 1984, to ensure the financial survival of the summer schools, together with an NAGC colleague I set up The Potential Trust.

When my father was asked in the early 1940s what effect his tiny printing company could have when the world looked as though it was going to war, he replied: ‘Perhaps not a lot, but you hope that by throwing a stone in the pond you cause ripples that spread.’  I inherited from him a belief in the importance of sharing ideas, experiences, concerns, and possibilities. and over the years I have organised and facilitated many Potential Conferences for the Trust.  The first one was simply an invitation to all the interesting people we knew to come and meet each other, and now we bring together other organisations working to help and support HLP children.  These events are based on a strong gut feeling that something good will come of it – and it invariably does.

As well as being a Trustee of the Potential Trust, the Comino Foundation. and a founder member of GT Voice, I am an honorary life member of Potential Plus UK, and a Fellow of the RSA.

Denise Yates

Denise Yates

Trustee

I became involved with The Potential Trust because I passionately believe in supporting children with high learning potential and those who have special needs or disabilities as well as being bright (who have DME – Dual or Multiple Exceptionality), especially those who come from low income backgrounds or who are otherwise vulnerable.

I have worked in education and training for more than 35 years with a range of

groups, including ex-offenders, children with Special Educational Needs and young

people at risk of offending. For ten years, I was Chief Executive of the national charity Potential Plus UK (formerly The National Association for Gifted Children).

Since 2017, when I left Potential Plus UK, I focused on issues relating to mental health and Dual and Multiple Exceptionality.  As well as being a Trustee of The Potential Trust and Chair of GT Voice, I am currently a Non-Executive Director of the Nisai Education Trust, a volunteer Adviser with Citizens Advice in Northumberland and a Fellow of the RSA. I have also co-written a book for schools with Adam Boddison, a fellow Trustee, on Dual and Multiple Exceptionality.

Adam Boddison

Adam Boddison

Trustee

As well as currently being the Chief Executive for nasen (National Association for Special Educational Needs), the professional membership body for SEND workforce (Special Educational Needs and Disability), I am the Chair of the Whole School SEND consortium which is leading on the delivery of the government’s SEND Schools’ Workforce contract.  I am also a National Leader of Governance and a Trustee at a large Multi-Academy Trust, which spans primary, secondary and specialist settings, and have founded the DME (Dual and Multiple Exceptionality) Trust.

I am a Trustee of the Potential Trust, a member of the National SEND Forum, and a Fellow of the RSA.  Prior to all three of these, I held a number of senior education roles including Director of the Centre for Professional Education at the University of Warwick and Academic Principal for IGGY (the International Gateway for Gifted Youth, a global educational social network for gifted teenagers).  I am a Visiting Professor at the University of Wolverhampton, an author of education books published by Harper Collins, and a qualified clinical hypnotherapist.

@adamboddison

Ron Lewin

Ron Lewin

Trustee

At the Fulmer Research Institute in the late 1960s my interest in the scientific education of young people resulted in local schools sending pupils to meet scientists and observe them at work.  This led to sessions in which 11-15 year olds showing natural curiosity could take part in experiments and learn the ways that scientists worked.

The Industry Education Department of the Department of industry looked at the viability of our work and in 1978 funded me to move into full-time educational research as a consultant to Berkshire Educational Authority on local and national educational projects.  The film ‘Engineering Is’ made by Rolls Royce Ltd, based on one of our 6th form technology classes working on an aircraft wing design, won a Bafta Award and copies were sent to all UK schools and also to other countries with a Rolls Royce connection.

My involvement in Industry Education projects brought invitations to contribute to courses and educational conferences throughout the country and I became part of a team advising the Government on rewriting both the Science and the Design and Technology Sections of the British Education System.  Having set up a company offering teacher training courses I wrote associated materials related to National Curriculum Science, Technology, Problem Solving and County Policy G&T Guidelines. I also wrote a series called ‘Let’s Make it work’ for BBC Schools, delivered Children’s Lectures at the Royal Institution on science topics, and led Mathematics Master Classes for the Royal Institution.

I have had both the privilege and the pleasure of working with Anna and the Potential Trust since the early 1980s.  Having been involved for many years in the education of Gifted and Talented young people, which is now known as HLP, our common interests led to a productive symbiotic relationship between my Government work and the summer school courses for HLP children that Anna organised.

Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the RI, and the RSA.

Richard Farmbrough

Richard Farmbrough

Trustee

I have been interested in issues around high learning potential for many years, originally participating as an teenager in events run by Potential Plus UK (then NAGC) together with my siblings, one of whom was a DME child.  Now with grown-up children of my own I have many years of experience of the challenges faced by HLP children and their families.

I volunteered as a helper at early Quest Weeks, while I was reading mathematics at Warwick, graduating to a senior position in the pastoral care team in my early twenties.  I gradually became more involved with The Potential Trust, and became a Trustee in the 1980s.  While my professional life was mostly outside the education sector, I worked with a deaf-hearing charity, and I joined the board of two state schools in Enfield, and through participation in a Potential Conference I also spent many years on the Board of an anti-bullying charity with a keen interest in developing the potential of severely bullied children, some of whom were DME.

Steve Ramsden

Steve Ramsden

Trustee

I have been a Trustee of the Potential Trust since 2015 and am an advocate for raising general awareness about challenges HLP children experience.  I am also Chair of Trustees of Potential Plus UK, the primary UK charity for parents with HLP children, and have been actively involved with that charity for the past 20 years. Having two high learning potential (HLP) children of my own gives me personal insight into the challenges faced by families with HLP children.

I am a passionate believer that all children can and should enjoy learning and that every child should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential with appropriate educational challenge – this being especially true for HLP children.  Whilst fulfilment of potential is dependent on opportunity, capability and hard work, it is the responsibility of society to make and encourage the first two of these to enable our children to achieve their best.  Without opportunity and the encouragement of capability it is difficult for anyone to succeed.

In my day job I am the Chief Information Officer at a membership organisation which provides medico-legal advice and indemnity insurance to the UK’s healthcare professions.  I am also a long-standing member of the Charity IT Leaders group – a charity which facilitates networking for IT professionals working for major charities in the UK charity sector.

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