BYO Scholarship: an innovative path to excellence

Self-starters wanted … Queenwood’s Build-Your-Own Scholarship supports talented, dynamic learners to pursue their dreams. Photo: Queenwood School

The inaugural recipient of Queenwood’s Build-Your-Own Scholarship loves to write: she writes about flame-haired heroines with crimson lips who carry daggers in their boots; she writes about storms that ‘claw through the ground hunting for prey’; she assiduously reviews literature on her blog ‘BookAddicts’. Her heroes are authors: she thinks J.R.R.Tolkien is ‘ever-glorious’; she thinks C.S Lewis is ‘thought provoking’; she wants to be a ‘story-weaver’ like J.K.Rowling. She is 10 years old and already steadfast in her desire to attend Oxford University to study literature. She is an excellent English student and she does well in mathematics but she works slowly so her examination results are affected and she is unlikely to qualify for an academic scholarship; but she does deserve a scholarship. So what does she do? She applies for a Build-Your-Own Scholarship at Queenwood.

If this sounds like your child she may be the ideal candidate for a new scholarship program being offered at Queenwood School on Sydney’s Lower North Shore.

The Build-Your-Own (BYO) Scholarship seeks to identify uniquely gifted and talented students who may otherwise go unrecognised.

Specifically aimed at unconventional high-achieving students, the BYO Scholarship sees applicants augment academic results with demonstrated skill, personal references and a structured interview. The goal is to uncover the full breadth of a student’s capabilities and capacity to contribute dynamically to the life of the school.

Students who show exceptional aptitude in any field are encouraged to apply and while an excellent report card is a prerequisite, topping the ACER scholarship exam is not. Queenwood has found that the most passionate learners are not always the best exam takers. The BYO process is calibrated to capture outstanding talent not readily divulged by exam results alone.

“Some schools offer scholarships just to the students who score the top marks in the scholarship examination. We shortlist the top 10 to 15 candidates and conduct a tough interview engaging them in an intellectually challenging discussion. The strongest performers in the interviews were not necessarily the top exam scorers. In the last scholarship round the candidates who ranked 2nd and 14th secured academic scholarships,” says Emma Macey, Queenwood’s Director of Admissions.

“You would find that just below the top, there are candidates who achieve top marks in General Reasoning even if they are slightly lower in the reading and writing sections. This indicates that they are intelligent, have potential and may perform well in the interview. Those students make a valuable contribution to the school community by engaging energetically in classroom discussion and lifting the overall level of discourse,” Mrs Macey says.

Another aim of the BYO Scholarship is to address a perceived gap in the independent schools scholarships offering: that of students from middle-income backgrounds for whom full fees are too onerous but their financial circumstances are such that they don’t meet the criteria for a full means-tested scholarship, says Mrs Macey.

“Queenwood offers a contemporary liberal education that encourages students to build knowledge of a broad range of topics; to do this effectively we must ensure that we have a diverse range of students from a range of socio-economic backgrounds who are able to participate in intellectual discourse. We wish to expose our girls to a wide variety of people and ideas to help them grow in their understanding of the world.”

Queenwood recently awarded their inaugural BYO Scholarship to Maya Le Her who will join Queenwood’s 2019 Year 7 class. Her successful application encapsulates the talent-centric ethos underlying the BYO Scholarship’s broad remit.

Infectious enthusiasm … Maya Le Her’s talent and passion won her the inaugural BYO Scholarship. Photo: Anna Le Her

“Maya is the daughter of an old girl. She’s a very talented writer and she compiled an extraordinary portfolio of stories, photographs and ideas evidencing a true passion for literature. Her test results were exceptional in English but she only got through about half the Mathematics section — Maya scored well in the sections she did answer but she wouldn’t have made the cut on her exam ranking,” Mrs Macey says.

On the strength of her portfolio, Maya’s application was referred to the Catalyst Coordinator at Queenwood, Dr Rosalind Walsh, who supervises high potential learners at the school. After reviewing Maya’s test paper, she concluded that that Maya “is not a poor mathematician; she is a slow, methodical mathematician. It is likely that she is a ‘thinker’ who needs time to process information and respond accordingly. She is probably better at coursework than examinations and we can work with that.”

‘The point is that Maya is brilliant, engaged and her enthusiasm is infectious. She’ll be an asset to the school,” Mrs Macey says.

“The BYO Scholarship is consistent with our approach to general admissions as it adopts a robust procedure that ensures equity between applicants without compromising our primary objective of empathetically supporting the circumstances of individual families. We expect that the bespoke approach that we take to the BYO Scholarship program will continue to attract interesting, passionate and curious young women to the Queenwood community,” Mrs Macey says.

BYO Scholarships are available for Year 7 and 10. Applicants are required to prepare a portfolio of their own work and nominate two referees outside of their immediate school/family circle who know them and their skills well.

The best portfolios demonstrate talent, self-motivation and enthusiasm for learning, Mrs Macey says. She recommends that interested students start preparing now for next year’s application round to ensure that their work is of the highest quality.

For more information on the Build-Your-Own Scholarship see: https://www.queenwood.nsw.edu.au/Enrolment/Scholarships

The McDonald College: a high-performance education

When I’m performing it’s like I’m so much more confident. In that moment, I don’t have any worries in the world. It’s like heaven. I love it.Meg Mac, chart-topping singer-songwriter and graduate of The McDonald College

Does that sound like your child? Do you want to support your child’s natural abilities but find it hard to fit lessons/training/auditions around school and homework? If so, The McDonald College in Sydney’s Inner West might be the solution to your dilemma.

Peak performers … The McDonald College has a strong dance program including ballet, modern and musical theatre streams.

Centrally located in North Strathfield, the independent co-ed performing arts school nurtures talented students from years 3 to 12.

Its unique immersive approach emphasises academic excellence while allowing students to pursue their passions for two hours every day with dedicated tuition in either acting, ballet, dance, music, musical theatre or elite tennis. With all the coaching provided in-school, students can focus intensively on their training free of the demands involved in commuting to far-flung extra-curricular activities.

To develop their gifts fully, students often need to perform or compete at an elite level. The McDonald College offers students flexible schedules to help them meet their out-of-school commitments while ensuring that they maintain their academic studies.

Many students have the gift of natural ability but require specialised support to convert their gifts into the talent necessary for outstanding performance.

Reaching for the stars … The McDonald College offers specialised support to help students hone their gifts into talents.

These students do best when their exceptional qualities are cultivated and sympathetically managed says principal Maxine Kohler.

“Gifted and talented children are uniquely special and are often acutely aware of their difference in relation to their peers.

“Teaching these students requires a deep understanding of the personality traits that feed their creativity,” she says.

The school’s success is evident in the achievements of its performing arts alumni including pop star Meg Mac, Romper Stomper star Sophie Lowe and Heath Ledger scholarship winner Mojean Aria.

In 2013, the college added tennis to its roster of specialist programs partnering with Voyager Tennis Academy. With two international championship wins this year, the school won the NSW Tennis Award for Most Outstanding School.

Focus … The McDonald College is the Most Outstanding School in the state as awarded by NSW Tennis.

Powering every star is a deep well of creativity. In supporting and celebrating this characteristic the college produces not only excellent performers but high academic achievers well prepared for the modern workplace.

Once considered the preserve of artists, performers and advertisers, creativity is of increasing practical value throughout our fast-changing global economy.

At the 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, it was named, along with critical thinking and complex problem solving, as one of the three primary skills requisite for success in the next decade.

With the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence entailed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, humankind’s unique creative capacity is of greater importance than ever, the WEF predicts in its 2016 The Future of Jobs report.

“Creativity will become one of the top three skills workers will need. With the avalanche of new products, new technologies and new ways of working, workers are going to have to become more creative in order to benefit from these changes,” the WEF says.

21st century skills … creativity will be the key to success in the next decade, says the World Economic Forum.

This WEF’s prognosis is borne out by Year 10 acting student and entrepreneur Ali Kitinas who, at 16, is believed to be the nation’s youngest CEO.

Her beauty product company Freedom Scrub recycles coffee grounds to produce an ethical and sustainable skin cleanser. A portion of the profits is donated to the Hope Foundation Hospital providing health and medical services to impoverished children in Kolkata, India.

The social enterprise has attracted wide media attention and Ali counts Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson as a mentor but performance remains her first love.

“I’m a very passionate performer, but I always knew that it would be really hard to gain financial security in that field,” she told Mamamia. “That’s why I went into business, so that I could have the financial security to pursue my other passions.”

Talented, accomplished and ambitious: Ali’s self-assured dynamism is emblematic of the The McDonald College ethos.

“Our environment is supportive and nurturing of creativity enabling us to graduate students that are lateral thinkers and excited about life beyond school. Whether their chosen career is on the stage as a performer or in the world of medicine, law or global business, our students are confident communicators, distinguished leaders and diverse role models,” says Principal Kohler.

References:

Meg Mac interview – Poncho TV
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQQaw8MJpkU

Iconic Australian film Romper Stomper to be recharged as Stan original TV series — Media release, Screen Australia, August 1, 2017
https://www.screenaustralia.gov.au/sa/media-centre/news/2017/08-01-stan-romper-stomper-starts-production

Mojean Aria awarded 2017 Heath Ledger Scholarship — Inside Film, June 2, 2017
https://www.if.com.au/Mojean-Aria-awarded-2017-Heath-Ledger-Scholarship/

The 10 skills you need to thrive in the fourth industrial revolution — Alex Gray, World Economic Forum website, January 19, 2016
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-10-skills-you-need-to-thrive-in-the-fourth-industrial-revolution/

At 16, Ali Kitinas is Australia’s youngest CEO (and her mum’s boss) — Belinda Jepsen, Mamamia, June 15, 2017
http://www.mamamia.com.au/ali-kitinas-16-year-old-ceo/

The Hills District Think Tank for Gifted and Talented Students

Hands on … Hills Grammar teacher and elite sportswoman Alyssa McMurray shares the secrets of athletic success with Think Tank workshop students. Credit: Hills Grammar

An exciting new initiative is bringing together the Hills district’s best and brightest primary school children to intensify their learning potential.

Established by Hills Grammar Junior School, the Hills District Think Tank compounds the intellectual, creative and athletic power of high-ability students from seven independent schools in the local area, including: Tangara, Pacific Hills Christian School, William Clarke College, Rouse Hill Anglican College, Adventist College and Australian International Academy.

The Australian Curriculum (AC) defines gifted students as those “whose potential is distinctly above average” intellectually, creatively, socially or physically, whereas talented students are characterised by their demonstrated outstanding skills in any field of human endeavour.

While the AC acknowledges the influence of a number of factors on student achievement, it emphasises the transformative role of schools in helping gifted students to translate potential into talent by “giving students appropriate opportunity, stimulation and experiences.”

Born to run … Sports Science workshop participants learned how to hone their gifts to achieve even better results. Credit: Hills Grammar

The Think Tank series of workshops meets this imperative by providing deeper and broader enrichment opportunities to supplement classroom learning, says Hills Grammar Gifted and Talented Coordinator Deborah Wightley. “Gifted programs are often just an extension of existing studies. We wanted to expand on what was already on offer and bring in students from different domains of learning: academic, creative and athletic so we can cater for the learning needs of all high-potential students.”

“Research shows that these children need to work with like-minded peers to maximise their learning,” says Mrs Wightley.

Last term’s inaugural Think Tank event focused on physical prowess. Led by elite sportswoman and Hills Grammar teacher Alyssa McMurray, a group of 28 athletically-gifted Year 5 and 6 students participated in a sports science workshop examining performance-optimising strategies.

Students analysed the impact of diet, fitness, technique, skill, and strength and conditioning on athletic outcomes to create a personal training regimen, which they then compared to that of an elite athlete from their chosen sport. Utilising the Hudl app on iPads, these students were able to log their results and can continue to record their progress as they incorporate theory into practice.

Multi-dimensional … the Sports Science workshop examined the many factors required for optimal performance. Credit: Hills Grammar

The collaborative nature of the workshop was enthusiastically embraced by students. “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. They really enjoyed making connections with like-minded kids from other schools and working together on their area of passion,” Mrs Wightley says.

And it’s not just the kids who are loving the opportunity to take a deep dive into their favourite field. Teachers too are excited by the prospect.

“We asked our staff to self-nominate to design a workshop in their own area of interest,” Mrs Wightley says. “They’ve been very positive, especially as the students’ feedback has been so good. Teachers from the network stayed for the entire day at the first event and were really impressed by the level of engagement of the students.”

Peer perfection … the Think Tank brings gifted and talented children together to maximise their learning potential. Credit: Hills Grammar

This term’s workshop, Debating Skills and the Secrets of Adjudication, was designed for Stage 2 students by Hills Grammar Debating Coordinator Fiona Khoo who is also an adjudicator, “so she’s perfect to run the workshop”, Mrs Wightley says.

In Term 4, Creative Writing and Cookie Characters will bring high-ability students together in a literary bake-off.

Students will be tasked with creating a fictional character and then designing and baking a cookie representative of that character.

“It’s a stimulus to creative writing,” Mrs Wightley explains. “The idea of the workshops is to be engaging for students who have a strength in that area already. It’s about engaging them in higher-order thinking and adding some complexity to the task so they’re challenged.”

After the biscuit-making, participants will spend the afternoon dramatising their characters. The action-packed day is calibrated to match these students’ natural aptitude, says Mrs Wightley.  “The fast pace is deliberate because the kids acquire knowledge so quickly.”

With every member school scheduled to run a workshop for each learning stage, the Think Tank will eventually comprise a multifaceted set of learning tools designed to turn propensity into proficiency.

“We will have a lovely collection of workshops,” Mrs Wightley says. “The schools are really engaged with the vision and see the opportunity for their own school. Between us it’s a very positive network aimed at providing more opportunities for our high-potential students and staff members.”

Interested parents are encouraged to contact their school about this program and other enrichment activities available to their children.

For more information on independent schools in the Hills area, visit the Hills School Expo on Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10, 2017.

Where: Federation Pavilion, Castle Hill Showground, Showground Road, Castle Hill
When: Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10, 2017
Time: 10am to 4pm both days
Cost: Free admission
Parking: Parking is free and plentiful at Federation Pavilion
Contact: Dorothy Willoughby on 0412 233 742