Stuartholme School has a long tradition of enabling all learners to recognise their individual strengths to enhance their learning. Coupled with exceptional academic success as a school, this has seen an increase in the number of high achieving students enrolling in recent years.
Stuartholme students continue to consistently rank well above their peers in the state system. When compared to females in state schools, our results over the last five years show Stuartholme students performed 10.8% better in the OP 1-5 category, 17% better in the OP 1-10 category and 13% better in the OP 1-15 category.
The SPARK Program has been designed to meet the needs of our high potential students.
Our approach to providing for high potential students
“All people of whatever race, condition or age, in virtue of their dignity as human persons, have on inalienable right to education. This education should be suitable to the particular destiny of the individuals adapted to their ability, sex and national cultural traditions…” Gravissimum Educationis, 1965 Declaration on Christian Education, Pope Paul VI.
This extract from Gravissimum Educationis indicates Catholic schools have a responsibility to educate all students to their full potential; academically, emotionally, spiritually and socially. In Catholic schools the curriculum is founded on a belief in the dignity of the human person, a commitment to social justice, and a transformative view of learning and teaching.
Stuartholme aims to develop the potential of each student by providing a pathway that acknowledges their individual gifts and talent. This requires an environment where each girl’s spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional and physical development is nurtured.
However, research makes clear that high potential students may often not fulfil that potential without intervention. Pohl (2012) notes a range of vulnerabilities that may be barriers to high potential students: perfectionism, alienation from their peer group, unrealistic expectations from adults and uneven development across cognitive, emotional and physical domains.
Beyond these general barriers girls with high academic potential face a particular range of pressures in schools that may prevent them from fulfilling that potential. Whilst in their accepting home environment, girls feel free to be themselves and to pursue any subject that intrigues them, at school the desire for friends, a disinclination to stand out, fear of ridicule, along with the need for acceptance, often impel girls with high potential to make their abilities appear ordinary or even non-existent. (Smutny, 1999)
A supportive school environment with appropriate interventions can therefore play an important role in ensuring that girls with high potential have the opportunity and motivation to ensure their potential is developed into talent.
Identifying high potential students
As Gagne (1994) has made clear giftedness is multifaceted. High potential learners typically share a number of characteristics. These include;
- Learning at faster rates
- Understanding beyond her peer group
- Creative and divergent thinking
- A strong sense of justice and humour
- Intense curiosity about subjects
- Task commitment to a chosen topic of interest
- A desire to work independently on self-selected projects
- Finding, solving and acting on problems more readily
- The ability to manipulate abstract ideas and make connections to an advanced degree
However, whilst “checklists” like this are very useful, a range of research indicates that there is no single technique through which schools can fully identify and be certain about the potential of any student. (See for example, Reis and Renzuli 1982 and Gagne 1994.) To effectively identify high potential students, information from a broad range of sources is needed.
At Stuartholme a flexible, continuous process involving a combination of careful and sensitive observations and objective assessments is used to build a detailed picture of students so that confident judgments can be made about students with high potential. In particular, Stuartholme ensures gifted students are not disadvantaged on the basis of race, culture, socio-economic background or physical or sensory disability.
Supporting high potential students through the SPARK Program
The unique characteristics of the students serve as the basis for decisions on how the curriculum should be modified (Berger, 1991).
Stuartholme’s Director of Enrichment works collaboratively with the Leaders of Learning and teachers, Co-curricular Coordinators and Program Leaders to ensure the most beneficial modifications to curriculum programs are made and that challenging co-curricular options are available to high potential students.
Key features of the program include:
- An enriched curriculum designed to nurture the academic strengths of high potential learners
- Differentiated learning and assessment within the core areas of English, Mathematics, Science and HASS (Humanities and Social Sciences) specifically designed to reflect the academic strengths of high potential learners
- Personalised learning through regular student tracking and monitoring to provide alternate curriculum pathways and assessment
- Enrichment extension for high achieving students in English and STEAM through project-based extension experiences designed to target individual interests and abilities and develop future-ready skills
- Access to out-of-class extension opportunities
Entry into the SPARK Program
Entry to the program is by invitation and is based on several factors including the enrolment interview, academic performance at primary school and additional testing through the Middle Years Ability Testing (MYAT) and Progressive Achievement Test (PAT) that are completed by all students.
‘When you spark her imagination, the results are limitless’