St Mary's is committed to helping every child achieve their full potential across all areas of schooling. As a result we are always looking for new ideas to cater for children including those who are gifted in one or more areas of the curriculum. We work closely with the Gifted Education Curriculum Officer from the Catholic Schools Office, teachers, learning support and parents to ensure we find ways to identify and assist gifted students.
Currently, St Mary's offers students the opportunity to compete in activities such as Maths Olympiad, the Science and Engineering Challenge, the University of NSW competitions in Mathematics, Spelling, Writing, Computing and the Newcastle Permanent Maths Competition. On a regional and Diocesan level we also participate in competitions for maths, spelling, public speaking and debating.
In 2018 we launched our first RISE program. RISE stands for:
Reasoned: Gifted students deserve quality work to challenge them at their level
Intervention (for): Students are identified as having a need which we are addressing (the need to be challenged)
Student: When work is challenging and students struggle (with support), they are learning, which is what all students should be doing
Enrichment: Work should be broader, deeper, more challenging; not simply more of the same.
This is a program we have developed to respond to the need to engage gifted students in a broader range of pursuits with a challenging dimension.
It is important to note that a student identified for any of these programs will not necessarily receive an 'A' on their school reports. There is a great deal of research into the myriad reasons gifted students may 'underachieve' in school stage level assessments, and research also recognises that students can be 'twice-gifted': be a gifted learner in one aspect and have learning difficulties in another. One familiar reason is that gifted students can be 'bright enough' to realise that 'being bright' stands out which can have impacts on their social relationships and the amount of and quality of work they are expected to produce.
RISE aims to address these concerns by showing gifted students that they are not the only ones and by giving them work that challenges them and enriches them and allows them to make mistakes, rather than more 'easy' work.
In 2020 we will join with the Upper Hunter Cluster of schools to provide staff professional development on ways to identify and cater for gifted students in the classroom.