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Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.

Mark Twain is credited with saying “Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.” 

It’s a sentiment that drove primary school principal Katie Wallace to fight to establish an Academic Enrichment Program (AEP) at South Newman Primary School.

“We have always catered well for underprivileged and indigenous children at South Newman” she said.

But after one of her four sons came home from his first day at a progressive high school and said “I finally feel like I fit - they talk and think like me”, she realised South Newman needed to do more for the gifted students.

“At South Newman, every child is given opportunities to succeed, and AEP provides the more academically able kids the chance to excel even further,” she said.

“These kids are gifted and passionate about learning, and deserve to have their academic needs catered for as well as the more academically at-risk kids.” 

Fifty per cent funded by BHP, the Academic Enrichment Program is a multi-age classroom, comprised of students across Years 4, 5 and 6 ranging from 9 to 11 years old.

“I just knew that it would be a great opportunity for students, and that it would work. So I matched the BHP funding with school resources, to assign a full-time teacher to the AEP classroom.” said Ms Wallace.

Creating the AEP classroom wasn’t all smooth sailing, as it received resistance from some staff and parents arguing it could cause elitism. But Katie had a vision to create a school that met every child’s needs, and forged on. 

“I wanted this program to be a beacon for the rest of the school and have other students aspire to get into the class, because of the great things the enrichment students were achieving and being exposed to.”

“The 28 students in the AEP class are from all different backgrounds and cultures, and many were quiet academics lacking self-confidence,” she said, “the learning environment of the program has enabled these students to believe in themselves, and now many are active participants of the student council.”

The amazing opportunities provided to the class by BHP financial and human resources aren’t just limited to these kids, with other classes and students being exposed to and involved in the AEP activities, excursions and incursions.

“BHP provided someone to show these kids about robotics, which was then rolled out throughout the entire school,” she said.

The AEP teacher receives additional professional learning supported by BHP, many of these professional learning opportunities have also been afforded to other members of the teaching staff through this program.

“Broadening a teacher’s knowledge means stretching them a little, and in turn they can challenge the children just that little bit more,” she said, “because at South Newman Primary School, we believe in giving every child the best possible educational opportunities to enable their brightest future.”