Catholic school programme talent-spots gifted children

Gifted children are being identified and accelerated in a talent-spotting programme developed by Sydney Catholic Schools.

It is called the Newman programme. Teachers learn how to spot and extend students as young as four who are showing exceptional ability in areas ranging from maths to creative arts.

The programme is one of the first in the world to implement best practice in gifted education across dozens of schools in a single system, says one of the Newman Co-ordinators, Nicole Shepherd.

“[Unlike other programmes] …our point of difference is that it is across a whole system,” Shepherd says.

Shepherd says the Sydney Archdiocese developed the Newman system in 2012.

It is based on the work of the world’s top researchers and was requested by parents – partly because of the popularity of selective schools and opportunity classes in the public system.

At the 63 schools with Newman accreditation, every teacher has qualifications in gifted education, even though only an estimated 10 percent of their students are considered gifted.

The Newman-accredited teachers use a range of diagnostic assessments, parent consultation and teacher observations to determine a child’s giftedness.

The students are developed through strategies like grouping high ability young people together in class or accelerating them.

The Catholic system is beginning to concentrate its preschools, primary schools and high schools onto single campuses, which is allowing Newman-accredited teachers to begin identifying gifted students before they start school.

“We’re excited about [the preschool to post-school campus] because that fits in beautifully with Newman, as it [allows] early entry from preschool.”

Professor Jae Yup Jared Jung of the University of NSW, says the Newman programme is more inclusive of non-gifted students than the selective and opportunity class model.

“It’s more of a model that is consistent with the values espoused by the Catholic sector.

“I hear that there’s a lot of demand for Newman accreditation in the Catholic sector, that’s probably testimony to its success.”

Public schools in New South Wales see the programme as a blueprint. They will be launching their first programmes in 2021.


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