Media Release – Response to:
NSW dumps education proposal to let students progress at their own pace
Sydney Morning Herald – February 14 2021 – Authored by Jordan Baker
14 February 2021
The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) has recently undertaken a review of the NSW Curriculum, cited to be the largest of its kind in 30 years. In June 2020, Review Chair Geoff Masters handed down three key recommendations: streamlining the HSC, cutting content, and untimed syllabuses.
“Gifted NSW Incorporated welcomes the recommendations of the NSW Curriculum Review”, Gifted NSW President, Melinda Gindy stated. “With an increasingly crowded curriculum, and restrictions upon the expertise of educators at the coal-face to respond to the needs of the students within their classrooms, changes were well overdue”.
However, Education Minister Sarah Mitchell today stated that the proposed implementation of untimed syllabuses would be disbanded, and the government would instead reduce syllabus content to give teachers more flexibility to help students falling behind in their class (Baker, 2021).
Gifted NSW Inc. calls on the Minister to preserve acceleration options for gifted and high potential students in the face of surprise moves by NESA to go back on the commitments made in the Curriculum Review that allow advanced learners to progress through learning at their own pace. Gifted NSW members were stunned and disappointed to see a major and effective, research-backed option for gifted learners taken off the table with no apparent consideration of their learning needs.
“All students have a right to a relevant education based on their readiness to learn”, Mrs Gindy continued. “What is not clear from this announcement is how the changes will engage gifted and high potential students in rigorous and relevant content at the depth, complexity and pace they deserve. Research is clear that gifted students typically grasp outcomes at a faster pace than their age peers. Decisions made now are fundamental to the issues of equity and excellence for all students, not just students who are falling behind”.
Masters himself has said that since the turn of the century, NSW has the fastest falling school academic results in the world (Singhal, 2020). Additionally, the Curriculum Review Chair has been a long term advocate of equity in educational growth: “every student should be expected to make excellent progress in their learning regardless of their starting point” (Masters, 2016).
“There seems to be an assumption that moving through the curriculum at a faster pace would leave gaps in the student’s learning”, Mrs Gindy stated. “Whilst this may be true for some learners, failing to plan and provide for the advanced needs of gifted and high potential learners falls short of the 2015 election commitment. Furthermore, it contravenes the principles of NSW Department of Education High Performing and Gifted Education Policy 2019, which are now in place”.
In February 2017, a review of the 2004 policy and rewrite of a new policy that accommodated the 2015 election commitment was commissioned. The brief was to address changing departmental strategic directions and address headline emerging trends in NSW student achievement. The election promise specifically addressed advanced learning pathways for high potential students and included the following: ‘…develop partnerships with universities, training organisations, business and industry to mentor and stretch high ability students, with school students with high ability able to study tertiary subjects while at school.’
Research indicates that gaps in achievement, known as excellence gaps, indeed may exist between different groups of high potential students unless specific support is provided. Such gaps further entrench equality and disadvantage.
“Gifted NSW Inc. calls on Minister Mitchell to confirm that a more flexible curriculum including advanced learning pathways and acceleration options for gifted and high potential learners be maintained, strengthened and made more accessible. Furthermore, Gifted NSW Inc. calls for documented procedures that trust teacher judgement to allow students to advance to the next year or stage when students are ready, and not when they’ve completed a blanket set of mandatory hours”, Mrs Gindy stated.
“Continued collaboration and appropriate implementation of the Curriculum Review recommendations are paramount to delivering equitable and sustainable educational options for our gifted students throughout the state” concluded Mrs Gindy.
Media Release – NSW Department of Education High Potential and Gifted Education Policy
5 June 2019
The New South Wales Department of Education has now released the new High Potential and Gifted Education Policy. The policy, which commits to the provision of quality learning opportunities for every student regardless of background, has been two and a half years in the making.
“The NSW Department of Education High Potential and Gifted Education Policy sets a new Australian benchmark for excellence”, GFSG Inc. (NSW) President Melinda Gindy stated.
“The NSW Department of Education should be commended for committing to a complete overhaul of gifted education practices in our State”, Mrs Gindy continued. “We have full confidence that the implementation plan, resource allocation, and unwavering commitment to evidence-led practice will ensure that NSW has one of the best education systems for gifted students in the world”.
GFSG Inc., the NSW state gifted association, has been involved with the development of the new gifted education package since work began in 2017. As detailed on the NSW Department of Education website, the High Potential and Gifted Education Policy will be operating in all schools in NSW by day 1, Term 1, 2021. Schools have 18 months to familiarise themselves with the policy, engage in professional learning and plan for implementation.
“In recent years, parents and teachers alike have reported a discrepancy in approaches to meeting the needs of gifted students in our NSW schools. The High Potential and Gifted Education Policy and related Literature Review represent a decided leap towards ensuring every student will receive appropriate educational entitlement based on their readiness to learn”, Mrs Gindy continued. “Furthermore, professional learning for every teacher will ensure that our valuable educators are equipped to meet their obligations under the new policy”.
The new policy supports schools and educators to implement assessment, evidence and data in their programing. This is designed to extend high potential and gifted students beyond their current level of mastery.
One of the big game-changers in the High Potential and Gifted Education Policy is the express inclusion of students who are gifted and who also experience additional impact/s on their learning. One example pertains to high potential and gifted students with disability.
“Ensuring that our national Disability Standards for Education tie in with the new NSW DoE High Potential and Gifted Education Policy is paramount. Gifted students with disability have a right to have their diverse learning needs met at school each and every day. Sometimes overlooked as being average, high potential and gifted students with disability should be provided with support, adjustments and inclusive practices so that they can participate in their education on the same basis as high potential and gifted students without disability. For the first time in the history of NSW, we have a policy that commits to the educational entitlement of these students”, Mrs Gindy concluded.
Media Release – Plan to help state’s gifted students thrive
9 June 2019
Education Minister Sarah Mitchell, has announced an inclusive plan to identify and extend an estimated 80,000 gifted public school students:
“The program will train teachers to identify and develop gifted students in areas ranging from academia to sport, public speaking and the arts, and provide the resources needed to extend them”.
“In our position as the NSW state gifted association, GFSG Inc. is excited to see this plan announced by our education minister”, President Melinda Gindy stated.
“We are pleased to see a strong focus and interest for gifted education coming from our state leaders. Most importantly, this interest is projected in a way that is inclusive of students from all backgrounds, including gifted students with disability, across all of NSW”, Mrs Gindy continued.
GFSG Inc. has had ongoing involvement in the development of the new NSW Department of Education gifted education package since early 2017.
“We now issue a call for funding to support these initatives”, Mrs Gindy said. “Teachers and schools will need support to help make this plan a reality for students right across our state. Funds will need to be invested to ensure that the plan can be implemented and sustained long term”.
Read more in the Sydney Morning Herald
Media Release – New selective school to be built in south-western Sydney
4 June 2019
The New South Wales Premier announced today that a new selective school will be built in south-western Sydney.
“The announcement is a bold move, signalling the ongoing commitment that the NSW government is making to provide opportunities for rigorous and relevant education for gifted students in our state”, GFSG Inc. (NSW) President Melinda Gindy stated.
Over the past 2 years the NSW state gifted association, GFSG Inc., has been invited to consult and collaborate with the NSW Department of Education as part of the overhaul of the state gifted education policy and provisions for gifted and high potential students in NSW.
“With identification and appropriate access to selective schooling under recent scrutiny, the announcement of a new selective school in south-western Sydney is welcomed”, Mrs Gindy stated.
“The NSW Department of Education should be commended for their in-depth analysis on educating high ability students”, Mrs Gindy continued, “and applying best practice through increasing options for these students who rightly deserve an education based on their readiness to learn”.
“In order to capture the highly intellectually able students that selective schooling was originally designed for, it is essential that the action plan for rebuilding the system is free from bias and makes way for the diversity of the gifted. We know that giftedness is not dictated by socio-economic status, gender, geographic location or culture, nor is it free from disability. I am confident that our state government will rise to the challenge of appropriate education for all gifted children supported by the new gifted education policy.
“The announcement of the new selective school in south-western Sydney is one of a number of measures being taken to address the issue of equity of access. It is essential that we get it right for all gifted children across the state” said Mrs Gindy.
NSW government schools offer a variety of opportunities for gifted students, including opportunity classes for year 5 and 6 students, and selective schools for students in years 7 to 12. These classes endeavour to provide an engaging and challenging curriculum for a number of gifted and high potential students alongside cognitive peers.
“Continued collaboration and implementation support is paramount to delivering equitable and sustainable educational options for our gifted students throughout the state” stated Mrs Gindy.
NSW Department of Education Access to Selective Schooling Review
Melinda Gindy Published: December 17 2018
The New South Wales Department of Education has now released the review report into the Access to Selective Schooling. The review was announced by NSW Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott in July 2017 at the opening address of the World Gifted Conference in Sydney.
“The review is a bold move signalling commitment to providing opportunities for rigorous and relevant education for gifted students in NSW”, GFSG Inc. (NSW) President Melinda Gindy stated.
GFSG Inc. committee and members were invited to collaborate with NSW Department of Education representatives as part of the 2018 review. Discussions around initial application, communication and the testing process through to the placement of students, raised vital concerns and considerations around fair and equitable access to selective schooling.
“With identification and appropriate access to selective schooling under recent scrutiny, particularly in light of the perceived increase in private coaching and tutoring, the Access to Selective Schooling Review is openly welcomed”, Mrs Gindy stated.
“The NSW Department of Education should be commended for committing to an overhaul of the system. It is clear that they need continuous evaluation and informed processes to meet the needs of our gifted children”, Mrs Gindy continued.
“In order to capture the highly intellectually able students that selective schooling was originally designed for, it is essential that the action plan for rebuilding the system is free from bias and makes way for the diversity of the gifted. We know that giftedness is not dictated by socio-economic status, gender, geographic location or culture, nor is it free from disability”.
“A new, informed system for accessing selective schooling will ensure that disadvantaged groups will no longer be under-represented in our selective schools. It is essential that we get it right for all gifted children across the state” said Mrs Gindy.
NSW public schools offer a variety of opportunities for gifted students, including opportunity classes for stage 3 students, and selective schools for students in stages 4 to 6. These classes endeavour to provide an engaging and challenging curriculum for a number of gifted students alongside cognitive peers. 124 schools across the state use the current select entry processes for composing their student bodies.
“Continued collaboration with all stakeholders is paramount to delivering an equitable and sustainable selective schooling option for our gifted students” stated Mrs Gindy.
Please visit the Sydney Morning Herald to read the related article.
Australians are blessed to live in a democratic society. We generally have access to options, choices, rights and freedom of speech. In a recent article by Masako Fukui, published in the ABC News (27 November 2017), a Sydney mother had the opportunity to discuss her choices in relation to accessing a NSW selective school education for her children. I applaud this mother for hi-lighting the challenges that children of high intellect have in accessing this important platform available to some in our state education system.
Gifted children, possessing a natural aptitude in the top 10% of their age peers (as defined by the current NSW Department of Education Gifted and Talented Policy), have no guarantee of success in performance-oriented exams, which test not only raw ability but also knowledge derived from prescribed curriculum. Despite their cognitive depth and innate ability, gifted children competing against highly-tutored peers to gain a place in the selective schools’ program can be unsuccessful.
In addition, one would only need to consider some basic statistics to conclude that there are far fewer places available for students in NSW selective schools than there are gifted children at high school level in our state. In 2016, there were 50,586 students enrolled in Year 7 in NSW Public Schools. In the same year, 4,215 positions forselective school placement were available to this cohort. Considering the potential number of Year 7 students enrolled in Independent and Catholic schools, home-schooled students and students undertaking alternative educational pathways, we must conclude that the NSW Department of Education simply do not have the number of positions equal to the number of gifted students (defined as the top 10% of same-age peers).
Whilst one may decry the mismatch of figures, debate the challenges of the current system, or call for an inquiry into equality of access to selective schooling, there are three truths that remain. 1. Not all gifted students thrive on the same educational pathway. 2. It is essential that intellectually gifted children have the opportunity to engage with like minds. 3. Gifted children have a right to access rigorous and relevant learning experiences each and every day.
Not all gifted students thrive on the same educational pathway
Considering the diversity of individual needs, it is essential that we maintain and a variety of options for our students. Despite the best intentions of our professional, committed educators, it is not always possible for the needs of every student to be met through differentiation within the regular mixed-ability classroom. A gifted student needs to have the opportunity to access one of the many types of accelerated learning paths in order to receive the level and pace of instruction that is right for them. For some students, accessing one of the 50-plus NSW fully- or partially-selective schools provides an educational pathway that meets their learning needs. We need to ensure that these pathways are open for our academically gifted students, just as we expect pathways to be open for our gifted athletes and gifted musicians, for example. It would be unreasonable to envisage that our Commonwealth Games hopefuls should train in ‘comprehensive’ sports clubs. In fact, these ‘comprehensive’ local sports clubs engage team grading across their age groups, providing opportunities for students of all levels to have their ability and development level catered for. The clubs provide athletically gifted children with instruction based on readiness-to-learn, offering multiple pathways to thrive. Why should we offer any less to our intellectually gifted students?
It is essential that intellectually gifted children have the opportunity to engage with like minds
Having the opportunity to be accepted and understood by peers is essential to the development of the whole child. For some gifted children, functioning at a cognitive level beyond their age peers can lead to feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. Selective high schools are one setting where students can engage with like minds and do not feel compelled to hide their ability in order to ‘fit in’ or have friends. Indeed, ‘Selective high schools cater for the specific needs of high achieving gifted students who may otherwise be without sufficient classmates at their own academic and social level’. Because of the number of locations of our selective high schools (including the virtual selective high school, Aurora College), some students have the opportunity to engage and learn alongside like minds – opportunities not previously afforded to them in their regional or rural communities. In these communities, gender, socio-economic status, geographical location – or racial origin for that matter – should not hinder access to intellectual peers.
Gifted children have a right to access rigorous and relevant learning experiences each and every day.
In 2001, the Australian Senate Committee of the education of gifted and talented students identified gifted students as the most educationally disadvantaged students in this country: ‘All types of interest groups agree that there is a problem with education of gifted children. These children have special needs in the education system; for many their needs are not being met; and many suffer underachievement, boredom, frustration and psychological distress as a result’. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) notes in its student diversity literature that ‘Gifted and talented students are entitled to rigorous, relevant and engaging learning opportunities drawn from the Australian Curriculum and aligned with their individual learning needs, strengths, interests and goals’. If we offer only a one-size-fits-all comprehensive schooling approach, we risk not providing opportunities for all children to develop their individual talents and learning experiences. In fact, such an educational system would fall outside the aspirational pronouncements of the Senate Committee and the foundations of our Australian Curriculum.
Extensive Research in educational psychology has demonstrated the relationship between four factors and achievement. First and foremost, students find value in their school experience. To succeed, children must find school meaningful. Motivated students enjoy what they are doing or believe that what they are doing will produce beneficial outcomes. Secondly, students need to believe they have the skills to be successful. Thirdly, students must trust their environment and expect they can succeed in it. Finally, it is pertinent that students develop self-regulation through setting realistic goals and implements appropriate strategies to successfully complete those goals. For some of the 79,000 gifted students in NSW, developing their needs as a whole child and attaining a level of achievement can occur in their local comprehensive education setting. But what of the children who are not “…in a very supportive family environment” and who do have “parents who are well educated and well connected”? For some gifted students, such as the Sydney mother featured in this article, it is essential to also have the opportunity to “thoroughly enjoy… years spent at a selective high school.”
Whilst the composition of some selective schools in the Sydney area may lead us to assume that one or other racial group is over-represented, it would be interesting to know if that assumption holds true elsewhere in the state, and if that assertion could be substantiated with empirical evidence.
Equality, opportunity and inclusion are not about ensuring that each student has access to exactly the same type of education, but that each student has access to what they need in order to thrive and flourish in our education system.
Selective primaries an option but the gifted need more
Published: July 24 2017 – 12:05AM
On the weekend, the wider community heard a lot about what the NSW public school system could do for gifted children: better teacher training, an overhaul of the selective schools test and, perhaps most controversially, selective primary schools.
But unless you have a gifted child in your family or have taught one or were one, you probably don’t know much about them. Gifted children think differently. They often approach problems in a more creative and divergent fashion than the majority of their age peers.
Please visit the Sydney Morning Herald to read the full article.