The positive impact of a sense of belonging

Julie Taplin

Chief Executive
Potential Plus UK
United Kingdom



Square block in a round hole


Potential Plus UK is often recognised as an ‘educational’ charity, but over the last year¹ the top five advice sheets that were downloaded by parents were on Social and Emotional Development, Hypersensitivity, Emotional Problems, Friendships, and Worry and Anxiety. On consideration, it seems obvious that the wellbeing of our high potential learners² should go hand in hand with their education, so we are delighted that the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education is highlighting this in your Gifted Awareness Week 2020.

So, what can parents and educators do to ensure the positive wellbeing of their high potential learners?


‘Happiness’ is a measurement of wellbeing that is increasingly being referred to in society. But what makes you happy? It is likely that you will think about family and friends, seeing and doing things with those who mean something to you, that you have shared experiences or understandings with.


Certainly, the recent (and for some, ongoing) social isolation that has been created by the global Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the negative impact on the mental health of those who haven’t been able to connect with family and friends. According to research carried out some years ago by the Happiness Institute in Copenhagen, a sense of belonging has a large impact on the happiness of those surveyed. For many of us a sense of belonging comes from our social context – from family, friendships, community and colleagues.


But not everyone experiences a positive sense of belonging. Some find it difficult to make social and/or emotional connections, possibly because they feel differently (like a square peg in a round hole), or they lack the skills to make those connections.

The characteristics of high potential learners, as identified by Dr Linda Silverman of the Gifted Development Center in the US, help us to understand that additional factors can impact on their sense of belonging:

• age peers are not necessarily their intellectual, thinking or interest peers
• the intensity of their emotions may mean they feel their ‘difference’ more strongly
• they may show no interest in the typical games or activities of their fellow students
• their strength of feeling and opinions can seem arrogant and domineering to others.
Some practical ways for parents and carers to help their children to experience a positive sense of belonging could include:
• speaking to the school - there may be opportunities that your child is not aware of, including cross-year-group clubs such as chess, science investigation or book clubs.
• encouraging out of school activities, so your child is not solely reliant on school. (In the UK this could include scouts, guides, or activities organised by Potential Plus UK.)
• considering opportunities for your child to gain volunteering experience as age appropriate.
• encouraging your child to take up opportunities that arise as they grow and develop - you do not always know what you will enjoy or where you will find a friendship group until you try it!
• modelling to your child how you make the most of opportunities to nurture friendships.


In recognition of the need to foster a positive sense of belonging amongst our young people, their families and schools, Potential Plus UK includes creating and sustaining a community of mutual support as one of its strategic objectives. We are therefore delighted to share the positive impact of belonging on wellbeing with our international gifted community.


¹June 2019-June 2020
²Potential Plus UK uses the term ‘high learning potential’ rather than ‘gifted’ or ‘most able’


About Julie Taplin

Potential Plus UK | United Kingdom

After graduating from university in German and Business Studies, Julie gained her Diploma in Marketing and worked for a multi-national company in Hamburg and then Milton Keynes. Following a career break to raise her family, Julie returned to work in the third sector in 2000 and joined Potential Plus UK in 2005. As well as speaking regularly at UK conferences, Julie has presented at numerous World Conferences for Gifted and Talented Children, as well as at ECHA (European Council for High Ability) and for Global and Gifted.

Julie is currently Chair of the charity North West Gifted and Talented, and Development Governor and Chair of the Curriculum Committee for a local state primary school. As the parent of a now adult child with high learning potential, she has a lot of empathy and understanding with the issues that can arise in both the education and general welfare of these young people. Outside of work, Julie enjoys swimming, travelling and trying to remember her German!






Posted as part of the 2020 New Zealand Gifted Awareness Blog Tour, run by the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education.

The views and opinions expressed in the Gifted Awareness Week Blog Tour are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of NZCGE, their staff, and/or any/all contributors to Gifted Awareness Week.

The positive impact of a sense of belonging

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