Skip to main content

There's no such thing as 'gifted': Leading professor's message to parents in 25,000 UK schools

Valsa Schools 920x540

For over two decades, Professor Valsa Koshy MBE, an emerita professor of education at Brunel University London, has studied ‘giftedness’, ‘talent’ and the idea that some children can be labelled as naturally high performers, and some children can’t. During that time she has come to an overarching conclusion – society seriously needs to reconsider how it conceives of talent.

Now, in an effort to change how we collectively view ‘talent’, Prof Koshy has released a short video to all of the UK’s 25,000 schools, offering teachers and parents seven tips for developing children’s talents. 

The eight-minute video, which schools will be encouraged to share with parents and staff, sets out seven key ideas for developing children’s talents, including fighting low expectations, understanding wellbeing, and separating a child’s abilities from their social background.

7 steps parents can take to help their children to succeed


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>

“The most important message I have to share is that there is no universally accepted definition for any of these words – giftedness, talent, high ability,” said Prof Koshy, who co-founded the Brunel Able Children’s Education (BACE) Centre (now known as Brunel’s Talent Development Programmes) in 1997.

“There is a serious shortage of evidence-based guidance around the impact of parental engagement in the UK. Parents need to know that intelligence is not fixed at birth and we can change a child’s learning potential. Sharing this fact with children makes them put in more effort and feel more optimistic about learning.”

Prof Koshy believes parents need to concentrate on finding and developing their children’s individual talents by encouraging them to take on self-directed passion projects, discovering for themselves what they enjoy and can engage with. Figures such as Roald Dahl, Charles Darwin and Richard Branson, she points out, weren’t identified as particularly talented as children, but excelled through developing their own skills and passions.

 “Most children I have worked with enjoy undertaking passion projects. Some change their passions, some stick with it for life,” she said. “What it does do, parents tell me, is that it allows them to feel happier and more fulfilled, it reduces anxiety and make them more resilient, and it’s an excellent way for the parents to find out what a child’s special talents are.”

Prof Koshy’s work is inspired by Prof Charles Desforges, a now emeritus professor at the University of Exeter, who has worked with the BACE team since the release of his seminal 2003 paper in which looked at parental involvement in the development of children.

“Prof Desforges’ research demonstrated that parental engagement has the greatest impact during the early years of schooling and the benefit of parental involvement among primary school children is greater than the quality of an individual school, irrespective of social class and ethnic groups,” said Prof Koshy.

Prof Koshy’s 7 tips for parents to help their children to succeed

1 -- Intelligence is not fixed and we can change a child’s learning potential

2 -- There is no universally accepted definition of any of these words – giftedness, talent, high ability

3 -- Find and develop your child’s passion

4 -- Develop your child’s wellbeing

5 -- Children’s abilities do not depend on their parents' social backgrounds

6 -- Spend quality time with your children

7 -- Fight low expectations in children with special needs

For further information on Education at Brunel, please visit:

Reported by:

Tim Pilgrim, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268965