'Harder than I expected': Students sit first Catholic schools selective test

Isabelle De Gioia, 12, is among the first group of year 6 students to sit the test to get into newly created selective streams at Sydney's Catholic high schools.

"It was a little bit harder than I expected, I found the abstract thinking quite challenging, but I enjoyed it," said Isabelle, a student at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Primary School.

A total of 131 students from Catholic and non-Catholic primary schools sat the inaugural test on Tuesday, with about 90 to be offered a place at All Saints Catholic College Liverpool, De La Salle Catholic College Caringbah or Our Lady of Mercy College Burraneer - the three high schools piloting the streams next year.

All 38 of Sydney's Catholic high schools are expected to introduce the Newman Selective Gifted Education program in coming years.

Scarlett Ianni, in year 6 at St Finbar's Primary School, sat the NSW Department of Education's selective school placement test in March, and said that test was harder than Tuesday's assessment.

"On a scale of one to 10, this test was probably like a seven and the selective school test was maybe a nine," Scarlett said.

"The general maths was probably the hardest [in Tuesday's test] because I'm not a very logical person, I'm more creative."

Scarlett said she narrowly missed out on getting into a government selective school and is planning to go to Our Lady of Mercy College next year, regardless of whether she gets into the selective streams.

"I was extremely excited [when they announced the streams] because it gives people a chance to learn differently in subjects they're good at," she said.

"I definitely want to get into the English and science streams."

Tuesday's test, which was developed and run by the Australian Council for Educational Research, included three 40-minute sections on abstract, verbal and quantitative reasoning, and a 25-minute written expression section.

As well as sitting the test, students are also required to submit a portfolio containing school results and samples of their work, and get recommendations from their principals to gain entry into selective streams.

The streams will be introduced at the three high schools for some subjects, including English, maths, science and history and geography, and students in the Newman program will also be able to choose from extension courses such as coding, robotics, creative arts and STEM initiatives.

Selective streams have been offered to gifted and talented students at a number of Catholic schools since 2011, but this is the first time students have sat an external exam and had to submit portfolios.

All Catholic schools will have to go through an accreditation process, which will include extensive staff development in teaching gifted children, before they can introduce selective streams.

Executive director of Sydney Catholic Schools Dan White said the program will ultimately aim to ensure that "gifted students who attend their local Catholic school are given the opportunity to reach their potential".

"We want to make sure that our comprehensive system of Catholic schools, no matter where the child lives, has access to the program," Dr White said.

The story 'Harder than I expected': Students sit first Catholic schools selective test first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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