Students identified as high ability require either (or a combination of) pace, complexity, depth or breadth in their curriculum and will be placed in the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program class in Year 7, 8 and 9. The program will be extended in 2019 to Year 10.
Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) listened to parents and carers of gifted children during a number of forums held across Sydney in 2010. These parents were looking for a school that offered their children academic rigour and creative diversity within a Catholic teaching environment. It was recognised there was no national or state-based framework for gifted education that could serve their children justly. After much research and deliberation, the SCS Gifted Education Framework was re-energised and in 2012, and the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program formally began.
Since this time, SCS has benefitted from expert leadership and diverse consultative processes. Teachers have participated in professional development opportunities through the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program and the University of New South Wales. The resulting pedagogical adjustments to our teaching practice make a significant difference for both our high ability students and our teachers.
The College was invited to join the Newman Program in 2016 and is working towards full accreditation in 2018.
Each year in November, students in the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program showcase their learning in a symposium.
Why is it called the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program?
The Newman Selective Gifted Education Program is named after Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801 – 1890), who embraced rigour and diversity. He followed truth, intellect, creativity and was not deterred by the status quo. He challenged mediocrity and paved the way for those who felt forgotten, although at the time, he was unaware how great an impact he had on people’s beliefs.
How does a student get placed in a Newman Selective Gifted Education Program?
A variety of data sources are used to help group students appropriately. Sources such as the Allwell Testing, previous school reports, recommendations from past teachers, enrolment interview conversations with parents, PAT Maths and PAT Reading assessments, and other relevant data is gathered and discussed to ensure we have developed a clear profile of a student’s strengths, and areas the College needs to improve and extend.
When the non-verbal/abstract reasoning data indicates a high ability, and when this information is aligned with strong literacy and/or numeracy skills, a student will be grouped into a Newman class. These students require either (or a combination of) pace, complexity, depth or breadth in their curriculum. They tend to move through the curriculum more quickly than others, since repetition of skills and content is not necessary.
Students who we identify as having fairly strong non-verbal/abstract reasoning skills, but require some further support are grouped into the Shadow Newman class, so their strengths are still the key focus while learning gaps are improved.
Do the Newman classes follow a different program to the other classes?
Our Newman classes and Designed Mixed Ability classes all follow the same curriculum as outlined by the NSW Educations Standards Authority (NESA). Due to the nature of the Newman students, Newman classes may finish the programs earlier than other classes so they have the opportunity to delve deeper into their topics using a variety of differentiated group and independent strategies.
Will my daughter be “locked into” the Newman Class?
The purpose behind flexible groupings is to be fluid when the need calls for students to move across groups. This could be due to many reasons, some of which will be either pastoral and/or academic. If movement is required based on the evidence gathered over a period of time, consultation between parents and carers, staff and students will take place and appropriate adjustments can be made for Newman students.
Doesn’t having a “gifted class” create a culture of elitism?
Over the decades, research has shown that gifted students require opportunities to be surrounded by other students that are like-minded. This environment supports gifted students to reach their potential. Since gifted students tend to think at least two years above their aged peers in some domains, working with others that have this ability to think beyond the regular curriculum is important to maintain their academic and pastoral wellbeing.
At the College, we focus on learning-growth and personal-best to reach academic success. We believe we can reach this goal by grouping our profiled diverse learners according to their strengths and areas to improve, including our Newman classes, who still require structure and extended support. Elitism is about promoting one class above all others – this is NOT the case at the College because we believe in the learning-growth and personal-success of ALL our students, whether they are in Newman or not.
How do you assess the Newman classes?
If the Newman classes are following an in-depth program, their assessments should reflect this challenge too. Newman classes will attempt the Above Level differentiated assessment tasks across their Newman subjects. The Above Level tasks still meet the requirements of the syllabus outcomes like all other classes; however, they are required to go into more depth in at least one area of the task. The number of questions should ideally be the same since it is only the depth of the question/s that should differ. TAS and CAPA tasks may differ slightly due to the nature of their practical work.