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Sometimes, a gifted child’s accelerated academic abilities develop faster than their physical growth, so choosing a school that understands and caters for this divergence is important. Psychologists in Sydney’s northern beaches explain.
How to choose a school for your gifted child
In NSW, both public and private schools cater for gifted students – so your choice for your child will be determined by many personal factors.
In the private and independent school sector, there are many schools that offer opportunities for gifted and academically able students. Many of these fee-paying schools require students to sit for entrance examinations for places in both primary and high school classes. Scholarships are also sometimes offered in order to attract capable students to independent schools.
In the public school sector, ‘Selective’ high schools cater specifically for children who are academically talented, while extension opportunities are also often available in comprehensive high schools that offer streamed or merit selected programs for high achieving students.
The public school system also offers ‘opportunity classes’ for children in Year 4 and 5, which provide extension opportunities for talented upper primary students.
More details about these schools are summarised below.
What is a Selective School?
Selective high schools provide an educationally enriched environment for academically gifted secondary students who are also high achievers.
Like OC Classes, Selective Schools are part of the ‘public’ education system in NSW. Most Selective Schools students enter in Year 7 and positions are determined by students’ results in the Selective High School Placement Test.
Children usually sit for this examination in the first term of Year 6, prior to the start of high school.
To gain entry to a Selective School, students’ skills in English (including reading and writing), mathematics and general ability are tested. Their primary school’s assessment of their performance in English and mathematics can also play a significant part in a child’s acceptance to a Selective School.
Northern Beaches Secondary College – Manly Campus, North Sydney Girls High School, North Sydney Boys High School and offer fully selective secondary education opportunities to students living in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and North Shore areas.
Chatswood High School has a partially selective program and extension programs for talented students in both academic and creative subjects are offered at schools like
- Northern Beaches Secondary College – Balgowlah Boys High Campus
- Killarney Heights High School
- The Forest High School
- Northern Beaches Secondary College – Mackellar Girls Campus
- Mosman High School
What about Opportunity Classes?
Opportunity Classes, or as they are commonly known, ‘OC Classes’, offer intellectual stimulation and a rich educational environment for academically gifted and talented children in Years 5 and 6.
OC Classes can be found in selected public primary schools throughout NSW and positions in them are highly sought after.
In the Northern Beaches and North Shore areas of Sydney, the following schools offer Opportunity Classes:
- Mona Vale Public School
- Balgowlah Heights Public School
- Neutral Bay Public School
- Artarmon Public School
- Chatswood Public School
To gain a place in an OC class, children must sit for an Opportunity Class Placement Test when they are in Year 4. The results of this test, combined with school assessments and other information about academic merit, determine a child’s chance of acceptance to an OC class.
Questions to Ask
The Gifted Education Research Resource and Information Centre (GERRIC) at the University of NSW suggests that, if you have a gifted or talented child, the following questions might be good ones to ask the principal of your gifted child’s prospective school:
- Does your school have a policy on gifted education?
- Is there an assessment procedure or formal identification process for finding gifted children in your school? Could you please explain this process?
- Could you explain how the school might cater for a gifted child?
- Is there a particular teacher who looks after the needs of gifted education at your school?
- Would it be possible to discuss what the school offers in this area in more detail with that person?
If you suspect that your child is Gifted and Talented, cognitive testing that determines your child’s skills can help you to have realistic expectations and to know what kind of school environment would suit your child’s needs.
Kids First’s Educational and Developmental Psychologists conduct this kind of testing frequently and can offer advice to northern beaches parents considering schooling options for their children.
© 2016 Kids First Children’s Services
Need support for your Gifted and Talented child?
Kids First’s after school education programs support gifted children with enrichment classes in English, Maths and Selective Schools, Scholarship and OC Exam preparation.
Our Ready Set School classes for children aged 4-5 also cater for talented pre-schoolers.
Kids First’s Educational Psychologists provide IQ and learning assessments that identify Gifted and Talented children.
Call Kids First on 9938 5419 for more information
- NSW Association for Gifted and Talented Children
- NSW Department of Education and Training – Selective Schools
- NSW Department of Education and Training – Opportunity Classes
- Catholic Schools Office – Diocese of Broken Bay – Gifted Education