Gifted and Talented Programs

Independent schools recognise that gifted and talented students need to be nurtured to realise their full potential.

Many students have the gift of natural ability but require specialised support to convert their gifts into the talent necessary for outstanding performance.

Whatever a student’s gift, intellectual, athletic or artistic, the school environment is instrumental in its evolution into full-blown talent.

Streamed classes, expert coaching and individualised learning plans formulated by teachers and mentors trained in the teaching of gifted children can help extend high-achieving students even further.

At The McDonald College, an independent co-ed performing arts school in Sydney’s Inner West, flexible schedules help students meet their out-of-school commitments while ensuring that they maintain their academic studies. These students do best when their exceptional qualities are cultivated and sympathetically managed, says principal Maxine Kohler. “Gifted and talented children are uniquely special and are often acutely aware of their difference in relation to their peers. “Teaching these students requires a deep understanding of the personality traits that feed their creativity,” she says.

At Pymble Ladies College, on Sydney’s Upper North Shore, the Pymble Elite Sportswomen’s Program was established in 2007 to help the school’s elite athletes excel on and off the field. The program provides “personalised education” incorporating mentoring, sports nutrition counselling and individualised strength and conditioning programs.

Meanwhile, girls with a philosophical bent are well-served at Brigidine College St Ives. Streaming, extension classes and accelerated learning opportunities are complemented by the school’s Honours Program, in which students engage with contemporary intellectual debates to challenge their own views and develop their capacity for “multidimensional thinking, creativity and depth of analysis”.

As a whole, the independent schools sector is committed to producing the best outcomes for its top students. Its most recent initiative is ELEVATE, a multi-year project led by the Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AISNSW) that will focus solely on devising new strategies for teaching gifted students.

AISNSW chief executive Geoff Newcombe says: “High potential learners are Australia’s future innovators, entrepreneurs, STEM specialists and social change agents. ELEVATE compels us to reconsider what high potential learners require in order to thrive now, as well as prepare them for a dynamic future world of work in a rapidly changing global economy.”

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