Domremy Catholic College in Five Dock was abuzz recently with students eagerly displaying and discussing their projects undertaken as part of the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program.
The Newman Symposium was an opportunity for students who have been identified as ‘gifted’ to display what they have been working on over the school year.
The projects were from a range of subjects including Mathematics, History, Geography, Science and English.
Currently, 63 Catholic schools in Sydney offer the Newman Selective Gifted Education Program, which was launched by Sydney Catholic Schools in 2012 after consultation with more than 2,000 parents and teachers.
“The overarching aim of the program is to provide each young person with the opportunity to fulfil their potential and to utilise the wonderful gifts that God has given them,” said Dr Dan White, Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, who initiated the Newman program.
“Catholic schools have a wonderful tradition of catering for all children with diverse learning needs, from those that need learning support to those that are academically gifted.”
Dr White, who is retiring from his role at SCS at the end of 2018, said he would like to see all their schools running the Newman program.
“As a system of schools, we believe over the next few years every school should have a Newman Selective Gifted Education program,” he said.
“Unlike state education, we do not support the notion of withdrawing our most talented students from four or five neighbouring schools to create a stand-alone selective school.
“I have been delighted to see the development of the Newman program that has ensured that every one of our precious children will have the opportunity to fully realise their potential, and as a consequence, make a wonderful contribution to the Church and society as they pursue their adult vocations, and make a difference to the world.”
Across SCS’s primary and secondary schools there are around 4,000 students taking part in the Newman program, from Kindergarten to Year 10.
Domremy currently has 120 students from Years 7 to 10 who have been identified as ‘gifted’ and placed into the program.
Year 9 student, Bridget Habkouk, had researched the Industrial Revolution and the advent of the printing press which changed the newspaper industry forever.
“I learnt about how time-consuming everything was back then,” she said.
“What they thought was super-fast was actually really slow for us … they would be astonished at how fast we print newspapers now.”
In her Science project, Sabrina Dunn from Year 7 demonstrated the difference in temperature between the four seasons.
“We were doing an experiment that simulates the seasons on earth using a lamp … the lamp would be stationed at 90 or 30 degrees, showing the difference between winter and summer.”
“I just really love science. There’s something about it I’ve always been drawn to.”
Year 10 student, Kasey Baughan, explored ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue by focussing on the issue of euthanasia for her religion project.
Along with classmates, she set-up a debate demonstrating different approaches to the topic and said it helped her appreciate the opinions of others.
“Despite being individuals we all have different opinions,” she said.
Maryanne Sozou, Leader of Learning and Innovation at the school, said the girls in the Program appreciate being constantly challenged and stretched to “move beyond the A”.
“The girls will tell you, they’re with other students who are all high-ability. So they’re able to move through things a bit quicker,” she said.
“Often I find the girls will tell me they’re more comfortable [in the Newman class] sharing their opinions and voicing things that maybe in a mixed-ability class they wouldn’t.
“So there’s more sharing of ideas, more healthy competition and encouragement because they’re all at the same level.”
Identifying gifted students is a thorough process, with staff looking at students’ grades, as well as results from objective tests such as the Orwell and NAPLAN.
They also accept nominations from parents and primary schools from which incoming Year 7 students have graduated.
“Then from Year 7 to 8 we continuously test and we talk to the staff about students they think show giftedness. It’s a bit fluid, so students can move in and out of that Newman class,” Ms Sozou said.
“They all like it. They all want to be in Newman and they form really strong friendships.”