The conference, hosted by the University of NSW, Sydney, attracted leading researchers, practitioners and other stakeholders from across the globe who discussed the latest developments in the field of gifted education.
Education Officer (Gifted Education), Sally Brock and Education Officer (Secondary Curriculum), Christine Chapple from the CSO, along with former CSO Assistant Director, Dr Craig Wattam, presented a workshop entitled, ‘Developing a system-wide approach to gifted education’.
The CSO also funded registrations for 30 teachers from across the diocese to attend the conference.
Mrs Brock, Mrs Chapple and Dr Wattam were members of the CSO’s working party established in 2016 to develop a position paper on gifted education in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese. The impetus for this new strategy came from the diocesan strategic plan for 2016.
Mrs Brock said their workshop focused on the development of the CSO’s new system-wide approach to gifted education that was grounded in local data and evidence, research and the contextual needs of teachers and students in the diocese.
“The new policy and procedures that were presented to, and adopted by, the CSO leadership team last year include some innovative approaches that were featured in our presentation to the world conference,” Mrs Brock said.
These included the concept of a virtual academy to be developed in 2017-18 incorporating an online school program for students in the highly and profoundly gifted categories across the diocese, especially those in geographically isolated areas.
Another innovative aspect of the CSO’s new policy featured in the presentation was the introduction of a “cluster” scheme.
“In the first phase of the implementation of the new strategy, nominated schools have been selected to work in clusters that link primary with secondary schools,” Mrs Brock said.
“For instance St Peter’s and St Mary’s secondary schools at Maitland have been linked in a cluster with two primary schools, St John The Baptist, Maitland and St Joseph’s, East Maitland from the All Saints Region, developing a continuum within our education system from Kindergarten through to Year 12.”
This cluster system is expected to be extended across the diocese in future years.
Mrs Brock said the world conference presented a valuable opportunity to gain insights into the trends in education for the gifted.
“All of us who attended the conference had the opportunity to hear from world leaders in the field and the insights gained will be invaluable for us as we work towards developing best-practice teaching and learning opportunities for our school communities.”
Assistant Director and member of the CSO Gifted Education Committee, Mr Tony Kelly, attended the conference and praised the work of the CSO’s presentation team.
“They did an outstanding job,” Mr Kelly said.
“There was standing room only in the lecture theatre and the response to their presentation was excellent − considerable envy was obvious! I felt so proud to be there and to know that I am part of a very special and important initiative.”
Mrs Chapple said the insights she gained from the conference were invaluable.
“Attending the World Conference provided me with an opportunity to further my knowledge and understanding of current research and international thinking in relation to gifted education,” she said.
“The variety of workshops presented a plethora of strategies and ideas for curriculum delivery to improve educational outcomes for gifted students.”
Mrs Brooke Schumann, Assistant Principal and Gifted Education Mentor from Holy Name Primary School, Forster, said she was looking forward to disseminating the knowledge she gained at the conference.
“I am looking forward to going over my notes and editing them to share with the wider group,” she said.
“There was so much in the content of the keynotes and workshops that it will take me a decent amount of reflection time to digest it all. A couple of messages were reinforced and I am excited to be part of the journey that our diocese has started.”