Gifted high school students: A state-by-state guide on selective schooling

NSW

In NSW, there are pathways for children who are identified as gifted and talented in the NSW state school system. One of the most sought-after is winning a place in a selective government high school.

According to the NSW Government, selective high schools cater for students who have superior to very superior academic ability, matched by exceptionally high classroom performance. The schools provide intellectual stimulation by grouping together gifted and talented students who may otherwise be isolated from a suitable peer group.

There are 17 fully selective high schools in NSW. A further 25 high schools are partially selective, which means they offer selective classes. There are a further four agricultural high schools and one “virtual selective secondary school” for children in rural and remote areas.

Entry to a selective high school is determined by a test held once a year, which covers English (including reading and writing), mathematics and general ability. The child’s primary school assessments in English and maths are also taken into account, while “other evidence of academic merit may also be considered”

Competition for a spot is fierce, with a reported 13,118 students this year vying for 4215 spots.

Victoria

In Victoria, there are four government selective high schools but places are not available until year 9. As is the case in NSW, students sit a test the year before planned admission.

Another option for gifted students is select-entry accelerated learning, which allows students to complete years 7 to 10 in three years.

There is also the Higher Education Studies Program, which offers high-achieving VCE students the opportunity to study at university as part of their school studies. Eligible students can complete one or more first-year university subjects in a wide range of areas, including information technology, philosophy, mathematics and languages. Students who successfully complete the program have an increment added to their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) and may receive credit towards an undergraduate qualification.

Queensland

According to The Good Schools Guide, the Queensland Government offers a slightly different approach. A number of its government schools are partially selective, and admit students on the basis of academic, cultural or sporting ability.

There are also three fully selective high schools for high-achieving students in years 10 to 12 only. Known as Queensland Academies, they are partnered with universities and are for students who have a high ability in one of three areas: science, mathematics and technology; creative industries; or health science.

Students are offered the opportunity to sit the International Baccalaureate and the academies’ partnerships with universities provide a range of tertiary entrance benefits. Entry is determined by a test and interview.

Western Australia

There is only exclusive selective high school for academically gifted and talented students in the state is Perth Modern School. The school will have an intake of 225 places for year 7 next year and selection is based on the results of the Academic Selective Entrance Test.

The school, which has boarding facilities for country students, offers a unique education that brings together highly capable children and like-minded peers, the website says.

South Australia

There are three public high schools in Adelaide that provide an accelerated learning program.

The Ignite Program is described as “fast paced” and contains “less review and repetition than the normal curriculum because gifted students usually understand concepts quickly”.

“Students can accelerate through school to complete years 8, 9 and 10 in two years or opt for a program that focuses on moving faster through subjects or expanding on them, rather than skipping grades,” the SA government website states.

Students are selected for the program, which starts in year 8, from the results of a four-part test. Those accepted into the program work with peers on the same intellectual level. Studies focus on critical, creative and caring thinking and students have access to special technology and resources.

Several other schools offer gifted and talented programs.

Northern Territory

Gifted and talented students can apply for a spot at a Centre for Excellence in the Northern Territory.

The centres cater for students in tears 10, 11 and 12 who have a passion for learning in a specialist area.

There are five centres located in senior secondary colleges and high schools across the Northern Territory, with each covering  a specialist subject. These are: medicine and health sciences; sustainable futures; science and mathematics; visual arts and design and academic futures.

Benefits to students include specialist and challenging learning; access to industry experience; pathways to higher education and possible employment opportunities; and extended learning opportunities in association with Charles Darwin University.

Students are asked to do one of more of the following to gain entry: written selection test; interview; submit a portfolio of work; provide copies of past school reports and sit a formal test.

ACT

The ACT Government Education Directorate website states schools can use appropriate educational interventions and strategies to cater for students who have been identified as gifted.

“Developmentally appropriate programs for gifted and talented students include a combination of provisions to allow students access to meaningful learning opportunities such as a differentiated curriculum, incorporating advanced learning through enrichment experiences; counselling interventions; acceleration options and grouping,” it says.

There is no mention of selective high schools on the website.

Tasmania

The Tasmanian Government’s website says its offers “extended learning opportunities” for gifted and highly able students, but apart from an early entry to kindergarten program, the only other option is an online program.

The website says the Centre for Extended Learning Opportunities (CELO) Online programs assist schools, teachers and parents in improving the engagement and motivation of students who are highly able and gifted, from prep to year 10.

The programs provide online extension and challenges across a wide range of learning areas that are matched to the linguistic, mathematical, creative and technological capabilities of gifted and highly able students.

Students are selected by schools to participate in the programs based on their potential for advanced development in relation to their age peers at the local school level.

Students enrol online.

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