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26 March, 2021

Leadership focused approach to learning

Dubbo based school, the Central Western Leadership Academy is looking to offer Gilgandra families an opportunity to develop and foster the talents of their children.

Photo via Unsplash

The school offers a focus on gifted children and maximising their potential. But gifted isn’t strictly ascribed to academics according to school principal Mandi Randell.

“Most people think of the word gifted as only academic, but that isn’t the case. About half of our students are for excelling in academics, a quarter of our students are for excelling in the arts and then we also have students here for community leadership,” said Ms Randell.

“So, they might be nine years old and raising $400 through bake sales for pink ribbon. These bright sparks children who are leaders in very different ways and their parents really want to keep them engaged and connected to their learning and community.”

Ms Randell said she believes the school represents an opportunity to “bridge the schooling gap” between urban, regional and rural areas.

“What we’re trying to do here is give the children a world class quality education that you would be paying $75,000 a pop for each child to get in Sydney.

“We’re trying to give that same quality of experience here locally while allowing talented regional children to grow up in community, with family and stay connected with the region. They’ll have a fond affiliation for the regional areas they come from and hope that they will come back after their university lives.” An emphasis on community and community engagement is an ethos that runs deep throughout the school’s philosophy and approach to learning.

“It’s a school about leadership and leadership is about being invested and involved in the community. We make sure that we’re going out and participating in city wide events.

“For Cleanup Australia Day we had 40 students go down to the city event. It’s just important for them to realise that in order to make change in the world that they live in, your personal best and traits go out into the world to help make changes and make the world a better place,” said Ms Randell.

With this emphasis on community, the school also actively ensures that students aren’t isolated and that it doesn’t become an “ivory tower experience”.

“If you’re a gifted sportsman you’re still out on the weekends doing club sport and rep teams, gifted dancers are still engaged with their studios.” Ms Randell said the focus is also on the individual student’s level of learning, rather than their age group, focusing on 21st century skills based around critical and creative thinking.

“We try to make the mandatory curriculum come alive with real world learning projects. What we do is that we help students become in charge of their own learning, so they can go as far and as fast and as wide as they want to go. So, we work on not only the academic skills but their social and emotional skills, such as drive and work habits, positive self-talk and confidence to not only maximise their academic results but their love of learning, confidence in themselves and investment in the community.”

The academies principal said that the school presented a unique opportunity for students in regional areas, particularly as it is one of the few independent schools that is not affiliated with a church. The school has also committed to staying small, with maximum classroom sizes of 22 students.

“We don’t want to be a big school, we have a commitment to our students and their families that we’re going to be small enough and nimble enough to know the students really well and tailor the work for them.

“This isn’t a place where students will get lost in an ocean of children, this is a place where all the staff members take responsibility for really supporting and growing every child.”

The school’s students have already had international level success, with the school’s Australasia Ethics Olympiad team placing 15th in the competition. This places them in the top six per cent in Australiasia. An ethics olympiad involves students constructively arguing about contemporary and relevant ethical issues.

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