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 Officers from the Catholic Schools Office, teachers, learning support and parents to ensure we find ways to identify and support 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 2021, St Mary's became a Gifted Education Lead School (GELS). This Diocesan initiative seeks to use effective data and observation to identify students presenting in the gifted range. Following the research of Francois Gagne, St Mary's then works with families and staff to cater to the needs of our Gifted learners.
As a GELS, St Mary's is proud to offer the Virtual Academy (VA) to our highly gifted students. The VA offers a unique program of investigation, workshop and problem solving to allow students to explore concepts deeply with other VA students from across the Diocese, specialist teachers and real world experts. Most of the VA work is completed online.
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 within the regular school environment. Our 2021 focus will be on writing.