Many high schools have specialist or special interest programs – languages, music, sport etc – that contribute significantly to the school’s identity and culture. The Department [for Education and Child Development] supports such specialist schools and in effect ‘licenses’ their operation.
This post looks at the Gifted Art Program at Seaton HS – a different, but no less significant, order of school specialisation.
The Gifted Art Program was developed from current success
One of the strengths of the Gifted Art Program is that it came from Seaton High’s involvement with its local primary schools. Over several years, Art teachers at Seaton ran special Art workshops for local primary school students. In part, this was to support Art in the primary school, where mainstream teachers often do not have specialist skills in this area of curriculum. The workshops helped develop the primary school teachers’ expertise. They also proved very popular with the students. Eventually, the workshops developed into a more formal Year 5/6 Art program run at Seaton HS and then a one-day Year 7 program, which was also offered at Seaton HS. Then, to build on the continuity of the Yr5/6 and Yr 7 programs, Seaton HS introduced its own Gifted Art Program in 2008. The continuity between primary and secondary is a distinctive feature of the program.
The program was introduced to build on the success of an educational program that was already in place.
The Gifted Art Program matches the current pedagogy and culture in the school
Over many years, Seaton HS has established a reputation for itself in the areas of literacy, higher-order thinking skills, cooperative learning and authentic assessment. It was one of the first schools to introduce ‘panel presentations’ in the middle school, where individual students present their work to panels of teachers, parents and community members who assess the work against set criteria. This model has been adopted in many other high schools.
Not surprisingly, the Gifted Art Program reflects many of these streams. For example, admission to the program is via an interview process which involves the student presenting and speaking to a portfolio of work, discussing their own personal interests in Art and completing an observational drawing. Similarly, the Gifted Art Program’s focus on higher order, critical thinking skills sits within the wider, whole-school focus on this area.
The program reinforces the existing educational program and culture of the school.
The Gifted Art Program represents a creative use of existing resources
The Gifted Art Program has taken the powerful school resources of staff expertise and student motivation and re-worked them in a creative way. Essentially, it has brought together teachers who have the expertise and motivation to teach a specialist Art program and students who have the ability and motivation to profit from the program. But it has done this within existing staffing levels and other resource allocations. The additional inputs from the school have been in the areas of timetabling, professional development and curriculum planning.
The program relies on existing resources but employs these in a creative way.
The Gifted Art Program produces quality outcomes for all involved, where outcomes are significant, obvious and verifiable
For students, there is obviously keen interest from those involved in the Gifted Art Program and beyond this, enrolments in Arts subjects generally have increased. Results at the senior school level have improved, with more Yr 12 merits. As well, staff have noted that the overall standard of Art at this level has become more sophisticated and its content and form more critically significant.
For the Art staff there has been increased recognition, across the school, of the status and importance of Art teaching. There have also been significant professional development opportunities.
For parents of students in the Gifted Art Program, both the nature of the selection process and the nature of the program itself, with the emphasis on exhibiting work, have fostered improved three-way relations between student, teacher and parent.
For the whole school, the Gifted Art Program has brought recognition for the school in the wider educational community. There are constant requests for visits. Within the school itself, the creation of so much quality Art work and the emphasis placed on its exhibition have meant that there is the ongoing opportunity to arrange exhibitions that showcase student work.
The program is successful across a wide range of measures
The Gifted Art Program is sustainable
The Gifted Art Program has been running successfully for several years. There is keen student interest in the program. The program has high visibility and credibility in the school, and beyond. Art staff are rotated through the program and so relevant expertise continues to both broaden and deepen. Ongoing ‘costs’ for the running of the program can be met from within the school’s existing resources. The program has become an integral part of the school’s curriculum.
The program’s genesis and its continuing success make it naturally sustainable
The Gifted Art Program at Seaton High School is a striking example of a small-scale specialisation in a specific area of curriculum. It is school-initiated, school-managed and school-resourced, and it delivers quality education outcomes.
The Gifted Art Program at Seaton HS is a powerful example of how the individual high school, using its own resources and expertise, can craft a specialist program that brings value-added outcomes for the whole school.
Principal, Seaton High School: Richard Abell – [email protected]
Arts Coordinator, Seaton High School: Tony Jeffrey – [email protected]
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