Gifted, Talented & Extension




The pupil teacher system was a virtual apprenticeship process by which ‘promising’ and bright pupils were handpicked by the head teacher to assist and learn the craft of teaching. This was the primary method for local recruitment of future teachers during the late 1850s and early 1900s.

This was somewhat a necessity as Queensland’s population increased rapidly at this time with a colony of children hungry for learning:


“Closer settlement in Queensland progressed rapidly in the 1880s and 1890s and, consequently, the number of schools rose from 231 in 1875 to 911 in 1900. This situation strained the colony’s limited education budget and created problems of inadequate teacher supply and training, a proliferation of poorly designed and equipped provisional schools, and a perennial teacher housing problem in rural areas. These problems, however, should be kept in perspective: despite the difficulties, colonial educators achieved a remarkable feat in bring basic literacy to most Queensland children by 1900.

Though a number of highly qualified teachers were imported from Britain in the 1880s, the pupil-teacher system was the main method of recruiting and training teachers. Not until 1914, when a teacher training college was established in Brisbane, was it possible to upgrade the standard of teacher preparation beyond the level of the pupil-teacher system, which was phased out between 1923 to 1935.”

Source: Department of Education, Training and Employment, Library Services, Education History, The Department of Public Instruction 1875-1957,, Accessed 21 September 2014.


Tania Aspland writes explicitly about the pupil teacher system in her study, Changing Patterns of Teacher Education in Australia in 2006:


“… teacher development in Australian began with an apprenticeship model based on pupil teachers …”

“… the historical development of teacher education, prior to the establishment of the first teachers’ college in Australia in 1850. This period was dominated by the use of pupil teachers.”


“In Queensland pupil teachers were recruited from promising students at the age of 13 or 14 on the recommendation of the head teacher. They were then trained in an ad hoc manner in the classroom to become the future teachers of Queensland. In some cases the students were required to sit an examination before entry, however, this practice did not last long … Pupil teachers received instruction from the head teacher before and after school and in some cases also on Saturdays. During the day they were responsible for instructing lower classes under the supervision of the teacher, although at times they assumed sole responsibility. They received a minimal salary, which was less than the average farm labourer’s wage, and 5 to 6 weeks annual holiday (Logan & Watson, 1992). The instruction given to pupil teachers mainly benefitted the student’s personal education, while providing limited instructional skills necessary for teaching. During the 1870s some pupil teachers also attended normal schools (Anderson, 1960) with a view to enhancing their training but the quality of the supervision was questionable and it was deemed that the service provided by pupil teachers was inadequate (Hyams, 1979). Nevertheless, by 1880 the apprentice system of teacher training was widely used throughout Australia. Pupil teachers were young and enthusiastic, and shamelessly exploited but they were cheap! It is not surprising, therefore, that the pupil teacher system persisted will into the early twentieth century.”

“As Hyams (1979) duly acknowledged, the platform for Australian teacher education in the twentieth century was built on the coexistence of the normal schools and the pupil-teacher or apprenticeship models of teacher training. Central to both was a commitment to learning in the field. Basic teaching competencies were modelled by Master teachers and then reproduced by the apprentices in even greater degrees of complexity until the point was reached when the apprentice was decreed job-ready for admission into the profession. By the mid 1890s, however, teacher organisations were being formed across Australia, and they uniformly opposed the pupil teacher system as a form of cheap labour (Anderson, 1960).”

“By the 1920s the number of former pupil teachers was steadily declining (Browne, 1927) as the number of teacher training institutions increased. The key responsibility of teacher training institutes was to provide programs to develop professional teachers for a rapidly growing nation experiencing an economic boom.”

Source: Changing Patterns of Teacher Education in Australia (; Tania Aspland; The University of the Sunshine Coast; Education Research and Perspectives, Vol 33, No. 2, 2006, pp 142, 145-146;; Accessed 21 September 2014.



Naturally, it was the norm to reward children for their efforts, talents or exemplary behaviour and over time this was done in a variety of different ways and means.


Read More About Awards and Competitions



In more recent time academic achievement could be measured by offering willing and able students to opportunity to compete in competitions (in a text/exam format) that pitched them against other like-minded students across the state or the country.



Over the years various academic competitions have catered for children with a talent for these disciplines:



“First team entry into Department of Education Mathematics Tournament – Wade Johnstone, Douglas Charters, Glen Gallagher, Rochelle Stephens and Amelia Irish.”

– David Stephenson, 1999 – Principal, 1 Jan 1991 – 2007

Source: Commemorating 125 Years of Service: Petrie State School 1874-1999, pp50-53.


“19 Year 7 students sat the Australian Mathematics Competition.”

– David Stephenson, 1999 – Principal, 1 Jan 1991 – 2007

Source: Commemorating 125 Years of Service: Petrie State School 1874-1999, pp50-53.



AUSTRALIAN MATHEMATICS COMPETITION: Year 7 students took part in 1991 voluntarily and Petrie students received certificates of Distinction, Credit and Participation.

Source: Petrie State School ‘Petrie Log’, Issue 91/19, 31 October 1991, From the Collection of Jean Charters.



‘Tournament of the Minds’ ( was originally started in Victoria in 1987 by 4 women who were busy mothers and full-time teachers. They realised that at this time in education there were no programs to extend students in various ways beyond their text-book based classroom learning. One of these women travelled to the United States and became captivated by the concept of ‘Odyssey Mind’ ( (Source: Interview, Geraldine Nicholas, ‘Tournament of the Minds’, Victoria Branch –

On returning to Victoria, she adapted this program and improved it for a uniquely Australian group of students and thus the ‘Tournament of the Minds’ was created. Although it began as a state-based program it was only a few years before the competition schedule went national in 1992.

Petrie State School signed up straight away and, in this inaugural national year, the first team was selected to compete in the local competition.



“First Tournament of Minds Team selected.”

– David Stephenson, 1999 – Principal, 1 Jan 1991 – 2007

Source: Commemorating 125 Years of Service: Petrie State School 1874-1999, pp50-53.


A team was nominated for the following year also:



“A team also represented the school in the Tournament of Minds. It is our second year our school has entered and we are getting far more confident in the strategies needed for the tournament.”

– David Stephenson, 1999 – Principal, 1 Jan 1991 – 2007

Source: 1994 Petrie State School Prospectus, From the Collection of Jean Charters.



It is not quite clear if a Tournament of The Minds team was entered every year, as by 1997 it seemed that there had been some break from entering teams in the competition as it was re-initiated in 1997 as part of the ‘Gifted and Talented Program’.

Mother and P&C member Julie Farrington, with the support and assistance of Teacher-Librarian Coral Foster, recognised the specific need within Petrie to extend the intellect of bright students who were experiencing boredom in the classroom. With the approval of the Principal (David Stephenson) and Deputy Principal (Ann Campbell), Coral became the ‘Extension Program Coordinator’ and some of the more advanced learners again represented the school in the competition.


“Tournament of the Minds allows children to be able to work with other children and to recognise their talents in areas of maths, sciences, english, etc.

So with approval of the P&C and Principal David Stephenson, Deputy Principal Ann Campbell, Coral Foster became the Extension Program Coordinator. This happened in 1997. It was a really great program and with a lot of wonderful enthusiastic children and parents involved. Parents were absolutely wonderful and very supportive of this.

Children were recognised as more academic by their teachers and were asked if they would like to be involved with this program with their parents’ permission.

Children were only recognised from year 5 to year 7. They would attend an extra class, or meet together at lunchtime and after school at someone’s home to practice for the “Tournament of the Minds” competition on weekends. Parents all had turns in doing this at their home.

Petrie State School attended their first [sic] Tournament of the Minds [in 1997] at St Pauls College. I really cannot remember how we did. Or for the next few years. All I remember is that our kids were always great!!! AAA+++ for effort!!!

Mark attended in this program until he left Petrie and I then had little involvement in this until again when my daughter Gemma became involved in this program in 2002.

When Gemma competed in Tournament of the Minds it was held at Albany Creek State High School.

My children also loved their sports and were in Patterson/Yellow, Mark became Captain one year and Gemma was vice-captain one year.”

– Julie Farrington, past Petrie parent and P&C member, recollections recorded 30 May 2014



Today, ‘Tournament of the Minds’ is an international competition.  From their website:


Tournament of Minds (TOM) is a problem solving programme for teams of students from both primary and secondary years.

Teams solve challenges from a choice of disciplines:

– Applied Technology

– Language Literature

– Maths Engineering

– Social Sciences

Tournament of Minds is one of the fastest growing international school programmes with the involvement of thousands of participants.

TOM aims to enhance the potential of our youth by developing diverse skills, enterprise, time management, and the discipline to work collaboratively within a competitive environment.



Other academic and creative competitions have also been added to the school’s culture program from time to time including annual events such as ‘Opti-MINDS’ (, ‘Battle of the Brains’ (



The Extension program was still operating at the turn of this century. Teachers would identify students that displayed certain characteristics in the classroom that might be above and beyond that of the average achieving student, generally at an early age (year 2 or 3).

Once the child had been identified by the teacher, the parents’/guardians’ permission was sought to have the student independently tested by the Guidance Counsellor. During this process the parents were also required to present a report about their child’s abilities and capabilities as background information. The report would address certain criteria such as:


– Has quick recall of information.

– Knows a lot more about some topics than do other children that age.

– Uses advanced vocabulary.

– Began to read or write early.

– Shows unusually intense interest and enjoyment when learning about new things.

– Understands things well enough to teach others.

– Is comfortable around adults.

– Shows leadership abilities.

– Is resourceful and improvises well.

– Uses imaginative methods to accomplish tasks.

Source: From the Collection of Kathleen Cameron


The student would then spend some time with a teacher or aid and complete a series of tests with the purpose of identifying if the child fits the criteria for inclusion in the extension program for academically capable students.

In 2008, one of these tests was the General Ability:



The WISC IV is used to assess the general thinking and reasoning skills of children aged from 6 to 16 years. The test has five main scores: Verbal Comprehension, Perceptual Reasoning, Working Memory, Processing Speed and a Full Scale Score which is a combination of the first four.

The Verbal Comprehension score indicates how well children do on tasks that require them to listen to questions and give spoken answers. These tasks evaluate skills in verbal information, concept formation, verbal reasoning and knowledge acquired from the environment. In a general sense it measures the capacity to think and reason using language.

The Perceptual Reasoning score indicates how well children do on tasks that require them to think about things such as designs and pictures, and to solve problems without using words. These tasks evaluate skills in solving problems, sometimes using eye-hand coordination, and working quickly and efficiently with visual information. It is a measure of perceptual/visual reasoning, spatial processing and visual/motor integration. In more general terms it measure the capacity to think and reason using perceptual skills with only a low-level of language necessary to perform the tasks.

The Working Memory score indicates how well children do on tasks requiring them to learn and retain information while using the learned information to complete a task. The skills required are also closely linked to learning and achievement. The Working Memory Index provides a measure of the ability to temporarily retain information in the memory store and to perform some operation or manipulation with it to produce a result or solve a problem. Working memory involves attention, concentration, mental control and reasoning.

The Processing Speed score indicates how well children do on tasks requiring them to quickly scan symbols and make judgements about them. These tasks measure skills in speed of mental problem solving. These skills may be important in the development of reading and the ability to think quickly in general. Faster processing of information may preserve working memory resources for more complex cognitive tasks. The PSI also measures short-term visual memory, attention and visual motor coordination.

The Full Scale score is derived from the combination of the Verbal comprehension, Perceptual Reasoning, Working Memory and Processing Speed scores. The WISC IV Full Scale score is one way of viewing a child’s overall thinking and reasoning ability and is considered to be the best indicator of general intellectual functioning.

Source: Confidential Guidance Report, 12 March 2008, From the Collection of Kathleen Cameron.


Once the tests were completed and the scores calculated a full ‘Confidential Guidance Report’ was provided to the parents or guardian of the student. This report would outline why the child was referred to the program and general information about the student. The report also described the tests and how the child participated and scored on each individual score.

A summary of the results was provided and a brief discussion noted points about the student’s demeanour and personality, as well as recommendations for the child’s continued support. These may have been inclusion in the Extension Group, monitoring by the Gifted and Talented Committee, regular reviews of their class program to ensure they were continually challenged by the curriculum and/or general guidance based on the individual needs of the child.




“This year, our school will utilise a 23rd teacher to implement a Year 4-7 extension program called Academic Excellence @ Petrie. I welcome Mrs Teresa Paese to the teaching team at Petrie State School. Mrs Paese will be teaching the students in this exciting new initiative.

Students who will work with Mrs Paese have been identified as having strength in the curriculum area/s of English, Mathematics or Science. The program will focus on extending and challenging student’s thinking within a small group of their peers in their area of strength. They will work on various tasks and individual projects, also deepening their understanding of concepts which are being taught in class.”

– Kerry Lofgren, Former Acting Principal (Acting), January 2012-June 2013

Source: ‘Petrie Log’ Newsletter, 03/13, 28 February 2013, Petrie State School,, Accessed 16 September 2014


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