Joan Freeman
  • Joan Freeman

ECHA: The first years

The primary aim of ECHA is to act as a European network for understanding high ability throughout the lifespan. From its establishment on 19th May 1987, during the years of my Founding Presidency, it soared from an idea to become a dynamic multinational association. The initiating team (including Pieter Span, Harald Wagner and Ulrike Stedtnitz) reached out particularly to professionals behind the (then) ‘iron curtain’. High standards were crucial, which is probably why the demand for international membership obliged us to remove European geographical boundaries. We published a quarterly newsletter and (with great difficulty) a scientific peer-reviewed journal. Not only did we present biennial conferences, but several times a year across Europe we set up ECHA symposia at other conferences, as well as independent ECHA workshops, e.g. maths, music, adolescence, thinking.

A specialist academic group designed and put into action the ECHA international Advanced Diploma for near and distant learning, while the Schools Division was concerned with the practice of education for the most able. A bank of about 25 ECHA Correspondents cared for concerns in their own countries. Our exciting plans for international research on art talent and an ECHA publications company were in progress when I handed over. After nearly quarter of a century, it is thrilling to see the magnetism ECHA still holds all over the world for professionals in our field.
Committee 1989
ECHA Committee 1989 - from left to right: Klaus Urban (Germany), Candido Genovard (Spain) Pieter Span (NL), Joan Freeman (UK), Harald Wagner (Germany), Eva Gefferth (Hungary) and  Andrzej Sekowski (Poland)