It’s been six years since the first Sydney Catholic schools began the accreditation process to deliver the Newman Selective Gifted Education program – and Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Primary School Caringbah (OLF) decided to celebrate the milestone with a showcase.
OLF was the first primary school to finish the intensive three-year Newman accreditation process, which they completed in 2015. Today, they’re one of more than 40 schools who are Newman accredited.
In September, the school opened their doors to parents and community members, inviting them to see how children were being extended in their regular classrooms and through specialised initiatives.
Luke Murtas, a parent whose three children are all part of Newman, said the day was a chance to celebrate gifted students and the effort teachers made to ensure their success.
“Kids that are good at sport get gold medals – there’s always a really obvious recognition of what they’ve achieved,” he said. “It’s good for the Newman children to have a day that’s all about them.”
Artworks made from recycled materials, created to illustrate stories written by students in English extension programs, were on display, as were students’ personal interest projects. One of these, by a Year 4 student, examined the use of a human cancer treatment in turtles.
At other stalls, students demonstrated how to make slime, described the potential social impact of self-driving cars, or discussed tricky topics they’d been learning about in their philosophy extension class.
It’s good for the Newman children to have a day that’s all about them
Luke’s daughter Amber Murtas, one of the first children to be involved in the program, introduced the symposium. She also showcased her writing and assisted a younger boy she’d helped mentor in performing a puppet show he’d created based on ‘The Wind in the Willows.’ Her parents praised Newman for allowing her to remain with her peer group while still accessing appropriately challenging work and teaching others.
“Before Newman was established, Amber used to go up a couple of years for English,” said her mum Jennie Murtas.
“She was in year 2 going to class with year 5s,” added Mr Murtas. “Newman helped her stay with kids her own age and just progress academically at her own rate.”
Joanne Ford, the school’s Newman Coordinator, explained that Newman’s benefits extend well beyond assisting gifted students like Amber.
The program includes a rigorous professional learning program for teachers, which helps them better identify the individual learning needs of every child, not just highly gifted students. At OLF, staff are further encouraged to work with extension students in areas which fit with their own talents – allowing them to develop specific capacity in areas they’re passionate about.
“Showcases like these are a very visible way for parents who are new to the school or parents who are part of the school community to see that we do meet the needs of students,” she said.
“They show how good gifted pedagogy is good pedagogy for all students.”