For the first time, Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) will offer selective entry tests for students to ensure educational equity for gifted learners.
The new tests – developed in conjunction with the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) – are the result of principals, teachers and SCS’ parent community to embrace a new innovative way of thinking for students.
SCS’ executive director, Dr Dan White, said the initiative began when he enlisted the help of teachers and parents to develop a comprehensive program that would advance the needs of SCS’ gifted and talented students.
The outcome was the development of the Newman Selective Gifted Education program. In 2012, the first pilot schools were rolled out, with there now being 39 Newman Selective Schools in the Sydney Diocese.
“Sydney Catholic schools are now at a stage of building on this foundation and making sure that our most capable children fulfil their potential,” Dr White told The Educator.
“In our Primary and Secondary schools we offer all our capable students the opportunity to fulfil their potential.”
Selective streams have been offered in some Catholic schools in Sydney since 2011, but the Newman Selective Gifted Education program will be developed further this year through the external exam and portfolio process
White said the Newman Selective Program is unique because it has taken a pedagogical approach – recognised by external experts in the field – as best practice.
“My passion comes for this program comes from a deep belief that every educator respects that every student is on a journey through life to fulfil their God given gifts.”
White said that as a parent and a teacher he wants SCS’ children to achieve the highest potential they can, adding that the Newman Selective program is driven by its internal values.
“Our Newman Selective Gifted Program is not just about academic testing. It is about recognising and developing student’s talents and gifts, whether they are academic, digital, artistic, dramatic, scientific, or as part of Stem STEMs,” White said.
How the program works
In order to gain entry into the Newman Selective gifted and talented Program, either a parent or teacher can nominate a student for this program.
Students are not assessed by testing alone. They will also get the opportunity to submit a portfolio, which will include samples of their work, class reports and a recommendation from their teachers or principal. Based on the outcome, their work will be assessed by internal and external judicators.
“The benefit for the programs students is that they are extended in their chosen field of excellence within the school that they attend,” White explained.
“They do not need to attend a special school to receive this extended education but instead can stay with their friends and siblings in the school of their choice and still have the benefits of this additional extension in their chosen subject.”
White added that the program is not about taking children into a special school or selective school, but rather about making sure the comprehensive system of SCS has access to that program regardless of where the child lives.
In order to be accredited in the Newman Selective program, the school and the principal have to undergo rigorous and continuous academic improvement.
At the completion of a three year engagement in the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program, schools move through a formal Accreditation Program facilitated by a Validation Panel.
After successful accreditation is formalised, the school is notified of the outcome of the process and accreditation is confirmed for a period of three years.
“At the completion of the next triennium, the school applies for accreditation once again, hence maintaining its status as a Newman Selective Gifted Education School,” White said.
“This extensive enriching accreditation process will not only benefit the gifted learner; it will also enhance the overall performance of the school and their fellow students.”