What are selective high schools and opportunity classes?

Applications are now open for opportunity class entry in Year 5 in 2025.
Applications close 20 May 2024.

Three opportunity class students with arms around each other in front of an Aboriginal mural. Three opportunity class students with arms around each other in front of an Aboriginal mural.
Three smiling high school students walking out the front of school Three smiling high school students walking out the front of school

Opportunity classes are for primary school students in Years 5 and 6.

Parents apply when their child is in Year 4 for placement in a primary school with an opportunity class in Years 5 and 6.

Selective high schools are for students in Years 7 to 12.

Parents apply when their child is in Year 5 for placement in a selective high school in Year 7.

Selective high schools and opportunity classes are one of the ways that the department supports students who have high intellectual potential. These are students whose intellectual potential exceeds that of students of the same age.

You can apply for opportunity classes and selective high schools that are outside your local enrolment area.

Students sit a placement test and qualify for a place based on their results.

High potential and gifted students are supported in every NSW public school. Learn about the many strategies in place at High Potential and Gifted Education.

Video – What are opportunity classes and selective high schools (duration 2:50)

VIDEO: What are opportunity classes and selective high schools? (duration 2:50)

[Female narrator]

The NSW Department of Education is committed to supporting all students to achieve their educational potential.

We recognise that all students require support to optimise their growth and achievement, including high potential and gifted students. One offering that the Department provides for these students is opportunity classes and selective high schools.

So, what are opportunity classes and selective high schools?

Opportunity classes, often called OC classes, are located in government primary schools and cater for high potential and intellectually gifted Year 5 and Year 6 students. There are:

  • 77 opportunity classes across NSW, and
  • Aurora College, a virtual opportunity class for students living in rural and remote areas and are enrolled in authorised host schools.

Selective high schools are government schools for high potential and gifted students. There are:

  • 17 fully selective high schools - where all students attending the school are high potential or gifted
  • 26 partially selective high schools - where a school has a specialist class or classes for high potential or gifted students within a regular comprehensive high school
  • 4 agricultural selective high schools, some with boarding facilities for students from regional and remote areas, and
  • Aurora College, a virtual selective high school for high potential and gifted students who live in regional, rural or remote NSW and don’t have access to a selective high school in their local area.

Opportunity classes and selective high schools help students to learn by grouping them with students of similar ability and using specialised evidence-based teaching methods. These settings aim to meet the intellectual needs of the students by moving through curricula at a faster pace, and allowing students to explore concepts in more depth and with greater complexity.

Research demonstrates that grouping high potential and gifted students together has academic benefits and is also good for emotional wellbeing. The majority of students in opportunity classes or selective high schools report higher levels of satisfaction from learning with, and being friends with, like-minded students.

For further information please visit our website.

[End of transcript]

Video – What do we mean by high potential and gifted students? (duration 2:34)

VIDEO: What do we mean by high potential and gifted students? (duration 2:34)

[Female narrator]

The NSW Department of Education is committed to supporting all students to achieve their educational potential. We recognise that high potential and gifted students require support to optimise their growth and achievement. The department’s diverse settings include academically-selective classes in primary and secondary schools known as opportunity classes and selective high schools.

So what do we mean by high potential and gifted?

Professor Françoys Gagné suggests that potential exists along a continuum, where given the right conditions, high potential can lead to high performance and achievement.

Gagné outlines that students may show potential in one or more areas including intellectual, creative, social-emotional, and physical.

Selective high schools and opportunity classes are specialist settings that cater for students with high potential and gifts in the intellectual domain, as well as meeting the needs of those who have potential across multiple domains.

High potential and gifted students are found across diverse family, socio-economic, language, cultural backgrounds, and different geographic locations. Gifted students may also present with disability.

So what's the difference between high potential and gifted, or even highly gifted students?

High potential students are those whose potential exceeds that of students of the same age. They may benefit from an enriched or extended curriculum and learning opportunities beyond the typical level of their age peers.

Gifted students are those whose potential significantly exceeds that of students of the same age. They typically develop talent and achieve mastery much faster than their age peers.

Highly gifted students are those whose potential vastly exceeds that of their age peers. Highly gifted students may require specific and significant curriculum adjustments to meet their learning and wellbeing needs.

Opportunity classes and selective high schools are specifically designed to provide optimal learning conditions to support talent development of high potential and gifted students.

[End of transcript]

What are the benefits of selective high schools and opportunity classes?

Students get to learn together with classmates who have similar abilities. This allows their teachers to use special teaching methods to move students through the curriculum at a faster pace and in more depth.

When learning alongside other high potential and gifted classmates, students benefit both academically and socially. Students tell us that they love learning with other students who also enjoy asking questions, delving deep into topics and being challenged academically.

Selective high schools and opportunity classes also offer a broad range of co-curricular activities such as sports, creative and performing arts, music and special interest clubs.

A male and female high school student running together on the school oval with a rugby ball. A male and female high school student running together on the school oval with a rugby ball.
Image: It's not all about academics — selective high schools also offer a range of co-curricular activities.

Video – What are the benefits of selective education (duration 2:39)

VIDEO: What are the benefits of selective education? (duration 2:39)

[Female narrator]

Selective education creates a unique opportunity for high potential and gifted students and has the potential to have a positive impact on their educational outcomes and to open new pathways for their future.

Deciding whether to apply for a place in an opportunity class or selective high school is an important choice for your child's education.

Here are some questions to help you decide:

What is selective education and what are the benefits?

Opportunity classes and selective high schools deliver the New South Wales curriculum using specialised evidence-based teaching methods that are proven to support the learning and wellbeing needs of high potential and gifted students. Students will learn at a faster pace and explore concepts of increasing difficulty in greater depth.

Students will learn alongside peers who have similar ability and interests because research shows that grouping high potential and gifted students together is good for their wellbeing.

Like all New South Wales public schools, academically selective education schools provide access to a wide range of extra curricular groups and activities.

What are some of the challenges your child may face?

Some students may feel anxious about going to a school where they might not know anyone. Don't worry, the schools know this and they plan activities to help students get to know each other.

Some students and parents are worried that the school will be overly competitive. Like all New South Wales public schools, our academically selective schools and classes encourage students to focus on learning and wellbeing, not competing.

Students are provided with a supportive environment where everyone is encouraged to challenge and expand their understanding of concepts and develop their skills.

If you feel that an academically selective school would be a good fit for your child, we encourage you to apply.

The introduction of the equity placement model has made these settings more accessible for students from a broad range of backgrounds. To learn more about selective education and how to apply for placement, visit the NSW Department of Education selective education web section.

[End transcript]

Video – Get the whole picture about selective education (duration 3:50)

VIDEO: Get the whole picture about selective high schools

[Transcript of video animation: ‘Get the whole picture about selective high schools’ (3 minutes 50 seconds)]

[Fort Street student 2]
Everyone is super nerdy and always studying.

[Baulkham Hills student 3]
I think everyone is the super nerdy. Yes, we got to an all nerd school. But I think there's a community in that. I'm not even kidding.

[Fort Street student 2]
I think a good balance is what we all have.

[Baulkham Hills student 1]
There is no student diversity.

[Fort Street student 2]
Wrong.

[Caringbah student 2]
It's, you know, people come from all over. And in terms of like diversity, it's a very diverse environment, very in terms of not just like, you know, appearance or culture, but like in terms of who we are as people, which I think is really important. There is too much academic pressure.

[Fort Street student 2]
I think there's a there's a healthy, like, push to get us to perform to our best ability. But I don't think like any of it is, like, too stressful or, like, unwarranted. Like everything is for, our like, best performance yeah.

[Caringbah student 3]
I think with the stigma of this pressure, the teachers try really hard to combat it. They always say, Just do your best. And that's that's it. There's no point always aiming to get 100% because that is not achievable. And if you do your best, really, that's what you're improving on and that's the skills you're building and the skills you're going to keep for life.

[Caringbah student 1]
Everyone is super competitive and focused on beating each other

[Baulkham Hills student 3]
I care about how well I do as like myself. I know a lot of other people do feel this competition is a good opportunity for them and they thrive when they're like competing against others.

[Caringbah student 3]
People love to share resources again, love to make sure everyone else understands the concept and we're just teaching and learning together.

[Baulkham Hills student 3]
It is not a supportive environment. I think it is. I think we are supportive of each other.

[Caringbah student 3]:
It's just a supportive environment that allows everyone to do that best and to, you know, follow their interests.

[Fort Street student 2]
That’s false, I think it is a supportive environment. Yeah.

[Fort Street student 3]
Yeah. We all try and push each other up. We all support each other. We’re all there for each other. We all help each other.

[Fort Street student 2]
The students are all coached. Nope! I’m not.

[Fort Street student 1]
I’m not.

[Fort Street student 3]
Neither am I.

[Baulkham Hills student 3]
No, we are definitely not all coached.

[Caringbah student 3]
The teachers here are excellent at their jobs and they understand what they're teaching very well and they have all the resources to give us.

[Caringbah student 1]
it's hard to make friends. I was a bit scared to come to this school because I didn't know anyone but, um, you click really, really easily

[Fort Street student 3]
I really connected with a lot of people really well, really fast. Better than any other schools I've ever been to.

[Caringbah student 2]
We're all really good friends and there's a really positive atmosphere just in the school. And yeah, I think it's I think it's a really, really good environment to be in.

[Baulkham Hills student 1]
Question is, the students are only good at academics.

[Fort Street student 1]
I mean, we're all here because we're good academics, but that's not the only thing.

[Baulkham Hills student 3]
Well, I mean, even if you look at all of us, we all have extracurriculars. And I think I think everyone in our grade, our school has something outside of academics that they really are good at or they really like putting in a lot of effort and passion into.

[Caringbah student 1]
A big part of doing well in academics is just having like an all around like balance in your life. And I feel like the school's sense of balance is really good. We have, yes, sport creative stuff. We have. Yeah, it's way more than just academic performance. So yeah,

[Fort Street student 3]
Anyone who's thinking about going to the selective schools test, just give it a go. It doesn't matter if you get in. It doesn't matter if you don't get in, give it a go. If you get into selective school, that's amazing. Come join our cool, quirky cohorts. Yeah, You'll find people that you belong with.

[End of transcript]

Is a selective high school or opportunity class the right fit for your child?

We recommend discussing the option with your child and looking through the information here together or on the relevant Student Resource Hub.

Your child may have high academic potential if they demonstrate some of the following:

  • enjoy learning
  • have intense curiosity
  • display a good memory
  • ask complex questions
  • enjoy learning new and often complex ideas or skills
  • require fewer repetitions when learning new things
  • are creative
  • become intensely focused in their area of interest or passion.

Note: Not all high potential and gifted learners will display all of these characteristics, for example, due to lack of opportunity, disability or disadvantage.

Learn more about the department’s High Potential and Gifted Education Policy.

Video – Is selective education the right fit for your child? (duration 1:59)

VIDEO: Is selective education the right fit for your child? (duration 1:59)

[Female narrator]

It's important to consider:

Your child's characteristics:

  • Does your child enjoy learning?
  • Are they curious and creative?
  • Do they ask complex questions?
  • Or do they have a well developed memory and deep focus on their areas of interest or passion?

Your child's personality and temperament:

  • Are they more motivated when challenged?

Students who worry too much about not being the 'best' or are regularly comparing themselves to other students and their achievements, may not find an opportunity class or selective high school is the right choice for them.

Your child's preference:

Does your child want to attend an opportunity class or academically selective high school? If you feel that an academically selective school would be a good fit for your child, we encourage you to apply.

The introduction of the Equity Placement Model has made these settings more accessible for students from a broad range of backgrounds.

Remember, opportunity classes and selective high schools are not the only option for high potential and gifted students.

High potential and gifted education is part of every school, and there are many specialist New South Wales public schools, in the areas of sport, music and performing arts, that may also be good options for your child, and your local school may also offer enrichment programs.

No matter which New South Wales Public School your child attends, their learning and well-being needs will be met.

To learn more about selective education and how to apply for placement, visit the NSW Department of Education selective education web section.

[End transcript]

Student resource hubs

Encourage your child to visit the student resource hub for opportunity classes or selective high schools.

Here they can:

  • find out about the benefits of selective education
  • learn more about whether it might be a good fit for them
  • take interactive quizzes
  • practise example test questions
  • and lots more.

Category:

  • Teaching and learning

Topics:

  • High school
  • Online tuition
  • Primary school

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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