Above: Dr Genevieve Thraves and Professor Sue Gregory.


Next week, a UNE expert in ‘high ability learners’, Dr Genevieve Thraves, will address the first conference held in NSW specifically for educators working with high-ability students.

“Every student deserves to go to school and be challenged, but what we’ve been doing in our classrooms has not been meeting the needs of high ability learners,” says Dr Thraves, a UNE senior education lecturer and leading expert in high ability needs.

It’s an issue that was recognised in the 2018 Gonski Report, and subsequent studies, such as a UNE study around the trajectory of low-achieving and high-achieving students in NAPLAN results.

Dr Thraves says the specific needs of high ability learners are now being better addressed by Australia’s departments of education, with some important changes and assistance for teachers, including through partnerships with UNE.

“We’ve worked with various education departments since 2020 on projects to improve support for classroom teachers in this area, including a digital high ability education toolkit for the Victorian Department of Education, and professional development sessions and resources for teachers.

“It’s fantastic to see a commitment to improving the classroom learning experience for high ability learners.”

Following a revamped policy for these specific high potential learning needs from the NSW Department of Education, the department is holding the first conference for around 200 primary schools with select entry for high capability students in April. UNE is a major sponsor, injecting $20,000 to support the event.  

“We’re extremely proud to support the Opportunity Class Conference in 2024, with the funds supporting travel, accommodation and other associated costs to subsidise the costs to attend,” Dr Thraves says.

Dr Thraves will also be a keynote speaker at the event, where she will discuss the social-emotional needs of high potential and gifted students in opportunity class settings.  

“This conference offers the opportunity to bring together teachers and principals from every primary school in NSW with an Opportunity Class program to learn from each other and leading experts. We’re hoping it will also ensure the current interest in the field will continue to build momentum,” she says.

Head of the UNE School of Education, Professor Sue Gregory, says the conference is a great opportunity for teachers in NSW.  

“Teachers need professional development opportunities to be able to know how to recognise their high ability learners, and develop strategies to better engage them so they can reach their potential.

“But it can be difficult particularly for rural and remote teachers to attend conferences and opportunities like this, so we saw this sponsorship as a way we could help our teachers in NSW.”

However the most important support UNE has to offer in this area, Professor Gregory says, is its expertise. 

“In Dr Thraves, we have, I would say, the leading academic in Australia in knowledge and experience in the high ability field, so it’s great to be able to give back to that sector through our amazing people.”

The OC Conference 2024 will take place 4-5 April 2024 Novotel Sydney Olympic Park.