Department walks away from select-entry programs for gifted students

The Education Department has stopped accrediting select-entry accelerated learning (SEAL) programs in mainstream schools. Photo: Dean OslandThey were once all the rage for gifted and talented students.
Nanjing Night Net

But the Education Department has stopped accrediting select-entry accelerated learning (SEAL) programs in mainstream schools, and has warned against making early enrolment offers to gifted students.

The changes have triggered concerns that some gifted children will miss out on the program for high achievers.

Balwyn High School principal Deborah Harman – who chairs a new group called the Academy of Accredited SEAL Schools – said the department’s emphasis had shifted to the needs of all students.

She said the department had told schools they could no longer make early offers to gifted students, and must enrol all local students first.

“Some schools are concerned because their numbers are increasing to the point where taking all their local students will mean they can’t offer SEAL programs for children living outside their zone,” she said.

Some gifted children may miss out on their school of choice, she said. “These programs have been very successful. Gifted and talented children thrive in an environment of like-minded peers.”

High-achieving students in the SEAL program, which is offered in 40 state schools, tackle a different curriculum to their peers and usually complete years 7 to 10 in three years.

Australian Principals Federation president Julie Podbury said accredited SEAL programs provided students with “massive social benefits as well as educational ones”.

Victorian Association for Gifted and Talented Children president Carmel Meehan welcomed the changes, saying they aimed to meet the educational needs of all students. “They are trying to raise the academic standard across all of Victoria and every school will be able to work towards the needs of every child, including gifted children.”

She said many other schools already ran “excellent” program for gifted students.

Monash University gifted education expert Leonie Kronborg said that gifted students tended to attend private schools if state schools did not cater to their academic needs.

She said it was “admirable” to provide for the needs of all students, but teachers were often uninformed about teaching gifted and talented children.

“They can miss providing for their highly able students because they are focussing on the rest of the needs in their classroom,” she said.

A 2012 parliamentary guideline into gifted children found the needs of some of the state’s smartest children were not being met, with some students dumbing themselves down to fit in at school and others experiencing bullying and isolation. It estimated there could be 85,000 gifted students in Victoria.

A spokesman for Education Minister James Merlino said the government wanted to ensure all students reached their potential.

“This involves encouraging excellence at all schools, including those with accelerated learning programs,” he said.

An Education Department spokesman said schools offering the program must ensure local students are offered enrolment before additional students.

They said the former state government discontinued the accreditation of SEAL programs in 2014.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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