Sydney Catholic schools grow holistic approach to gifted education

The Kindergarten-to-HSC pathway for gifted students at Sydney Catholic schools has strengthened with the introduction of a selective test and other criteria for Year 6 students to enter the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program.

The Newman program was introduced in 2011 and is currently delivered at 39 primary and secondary Catholic systemic schools across Sydney to extend students identified as gifted within an academically challenging, creative and nurturing, faith-based environment.

On September 12, the Higher Ability Selective Test (HAST) will be sat by students from nine primary schools for the first time as part of the first phase of a two-year pilot initiative to streamline entry to the program.

It’s very holistic and there is a lot more parent input.

– Penina Barry

For the first time this year, parents of children in Years 5 and 6 from the pilot schools also have the opportunity to nominate their child for placement in the program in Year 7. They can also offer evidence of their child’s ability in the form of test results, certificates, and letters from university-based school-holiday extension programs to support their application.

This and data from the student’s primary school on their progress and abilities makes up a portfolio that is considered along with the HAST results to identify and offer gifted students a place in the program at the secondary level.

Newman Selective Gifted Program education officer, Penina Barry, said the new measures would strengthen the identification process for gifted students in Sydney Catholic schools.

“It’s very holistic and there is a lot more parent input,” she said. “It invites parents to put forward clear evidence to help support us to gain a clear picture of their child’s abilities.

“If they are getting involved in programs outside of school, that shows a real sense of curiosity, interest and motivation. Primary schools have a wealth of student data and can determine where students may display perfectionistic tendencies or other characteristics of gifted learners.”

The test is formulated and run by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), the education body that also designs the entry test for selective public high schools. It will test students’ reading comprehension, abstract and quantitative reasoning, and written expression.

At a Newman school, the whole school is working towards that goal of excellence in supporting gifted learners.

Newman schools offer enrichment opportunities in creative arts, coding, literacy and Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives along with extension in each of a student’s timetabled subjects.

Teacher professional development is another mainstay of the program, with academics and psychologists specialising in gifted education contributing to the program’s development and delivery. Newman Selective schools undergo a comprehensive accreditation process every three years to ensure a high-calibre program that raises the bar for gifted students and their non-Newman peers.

“At a Newman school, the whole school is working towards that goal of excellence in supporting gifted learners,” Ms Barry said. “They’re wanting to work beyond the usual standard. Newman pushes the boundaries, not just for the students but for the teachers as well because of the professional learning that goes with accreditation.”

For more information on the Newman Selective Gifted Program and schools that offer it click here.

Pilot schools to sit the Higher Ability Selective Test (HAST) on September 12:

To apply for entry to the program at All Saints Catholic College Liverpool:-

  • – All Saints Catholic Primary school Liverpool
  • – St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School Moorebank
  • – St Francis Xavier Catholic Primary School Lurnea
  • – St Christopher’s Catholic Primary Holsworthy

To apply for entry to the program at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic College Burraneer or De La Salle Catholic College Caringbah: –

  • – Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Primary School Caringbah
  • – St Catherine Laboure Catholic Primary School Gymea
  • – Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Primary School Miranda
  • – St Francis De Sales’ Catholic Primary School Woolooware
  • – St Aloysius’ Catholic Primary School Cronulla

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