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 How is Alatus different from other schools offering gifted programs?

Alatus is a proposed new primary school in Melbourne, Australia specialising in gifted learning.

Many schools offer a range of options for gifted learners which are in addition to differentiated classroom learning. Examples include enrichment and extension programs, special projects, higher-order thinking competitions, talent development and Individual Learning Plans (ILPs). Some schools also offer mentoring programs, counselling or social / emotional programs and acceleration or grade-skipping in special circumstances.

Alatus is different because the Alatus Learning Approach™ is specifically designed for gifted learning.

The Alatus Learning Approach is based on extension and enrichment principles such as developing depth of understanding and going beyond the curriculum. The learning involves creativity, higher-order thinking, open-ended challenges and problem solving. Learners do not belong to a class based on their age; rather, they attend a range of workshops at their level to learn concepts and skills. The ratio of learners to mentors at Alatus is low with workshops being dynamic and small. Alatus learners have regular individual-mentor sessions where they are highly involved in designing their learning pathway.

 How can I tell if my child might be suitable to attend Alatus - and will there be any eligibility criteria for enrolment?

We believe that children who stand to benefit the most from the Alatus Learning Approach would have an aptitude assessed in a recognised IQ test as being in the top 5% of their peers in one or more sub-scales (eg. Comprehension, Matrix-Reasoning, etc.); and as being in the top 20% in all other sub-scales.

They would also be able to read and write at (Victorian Curriculum) Level 2 or above and be autonomous, thoughtful, fast-paced learners; be, or desire to be, highly-engaged in their learning; be open to being challenged; and be able to work independently in a co-learning environment.

It’s also important that your child is keen on the idea of attending Alatus and likes the idea of how children will learn here. Accordingly, there will also likely be an interview with the parents / guardian and the child, together with a submission by the child.  

Like all schools, we will have a finite number of places each year at Alatus. We will likely never be a large school, however, we expect to progressively increase the overall number of children enrolled at Alatus in at-least the first five-years of the School’s operation. Many Independent Schools have eligibility criteria for enrolment and Alatus expects to as well - these will be disclosed in the Enrolment Policy & Procedure and aligned with helping the School identify which children would benefit most from, and are highly suited to, the Alatus Learning Approach.

 A school specialising in gifted learning sounds elitist. Gifted kids have it good enough just by being clever don't they...?  

Sometimes it appears as though all gifted children find life and learning easy. It’s easy to assume that they don’t have any challenges to contend with. However, gifted learners are placed in the category of ‘special education needs’ for good reasons.

Though generalist teachers are doing their best, the very nature of having high intellectual capacity brings a range of learning needs that can be difficult to provide for in the regular classroom. For example, gifted learners often need a faster pace of learning, much higher curriculum content and more opportunities to explore complex concepts than other learners. If gifted learners are regularly restricted from learning in their natural manner, they can become extremely frustrated and lose their motivation and confidence in learning. In the long run, these gifted learners often underachieve and sometimes develop secondary problems as a consequence.

Being gifted can also bring emotional and social challenges that most of us don’t ever face. For example, many gifted children exhibit excitabilities which are ways in which they experience the world with far greater intensity than others. This can have a negative impact on their experience of the world and their ability to integrate with others.

As Annemarie Roeper* puts it, if we believe that the real purpose of education is to not just help children reach their potential, but help them become the person they want to be, then this changes how we run our schools.

*In Educating Children for Life, 2006, Royal Fireworks Press, Unionville, NY.

For these reasons, it’s critical that gifted learners have access to a different learning approach, and this is exactly what Alatus provides.

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 My child is not gifted in every subject. Will my child receive a comprehensive education at Alatus?

Gifted learners are usually asynchronous in their abilities and development and it’s far more likely that a gifted child will have high aptitude in just one domain of learning than being gifted in several areas. 

In other words, they may have different levels of aptitude and interest in different subjects and be learning at different levels in the curriculum.

The Alatus Learning Approach is designed to allow learners to advance in each subject at a pace that suits them. Overall, every learner will sequentially and systematically work through the curriculum for each subject.

 Can you provide for my Twice Exceptional child at Alatus?

We recognise and celebrate the giftedness of Twice Exceptional children.

We have a finite number of places for all children at Alatus and aim to provide for a number of Twice Exceptional children within our overall enrolment each year.

We will consult with the parents / guardian of any Twice Exceptional applicants to assess the School’s capability – on a case-by-case basis – to reasonably provide for them.

 What about when my child moves to another primary school, or goes on to secondary school?

The Alatus Learning Approach enables children to learn at curriculum levels based on their readiness.

This means that during their time with us, many of our learners will be learning curriculum at levels higher than their current age. This may include secondary levels, even though we are a primary school. We are aware of some primary and secondary schools that will enable children coming from Alatus to continue their learning pathway at the levels they have achieved. However, we understand that, at this time, there aren’t many schools with these provisions.

Subject to subsequent amendment to our registration by the VRQA, Alatus currently anticipates extending to Years 7, 8 and 9 (ie. children turning 13, 14, & 15 years old) from the year 2024 onwards. This means that Alatus learners will have the choice to commence their secondary education at Alatus should they wish. From Year 10 onwards (ie. children turning 16 years and older) , we encourage families to consider the range of schools providing specialised gifted programs for Years 10, 11 and 12.

In cases where a child is to transition from Alatus to another primary school, the child will arrive at their new school having covered the relevant curriculum that any other school would normally expect of a child of their age and learning ability. We encourage parents to discuss a suitable learning pathway for their child with potential new schools to ensure a smooth transition from Alatus.

 When will Alatus open and where will it be located?

Alatus plans to commence its first classes in Term 1, 2020. This is subject to Alatus receiving registration as an Independent School by the VRQA (Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority) in 2019.

We are presently looking for suitable premises in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Our goal is to have our initial premises within the grounds of an established “host” school and we are currently in active discussions with a potential host school that meets our priorities. Whilst certainly promising, there is much for us still to work through together in-order to reach agreement - which we aim to do by 31 July 2019.

We recognise how important it is to parents who are considering Alatus for their child to understand where the School will be located! It is important to us too and we obviously can’t open applications for enrolment until we all know. We will thus provide a further update here, in our Newsletter, to those who have expressed interest, and on social media, in July 2019.

 What will your fees be?

Subject to registration, Alatus will charge fees as an Independent School.

We need to secure our premises before we can finalise our fees. Per above, we are aiming to secure our premises by 31 July 2019 and would expect to finalise our fees on the same date and disclose them as part of the Enrolment process. There are a number of factors to be considered but we are mindful of accessibility and are striving for our fees to be in the mid to upper-mid range of all Independent Schools in Victoria.
Needs-based access to education is an important principle to the Co-founders of Alatus. In time and with support from parents and the broader community - we aspire to commence a program where-by parents in need would become eligible for discreet fee or school-materials assistance distributed via the School. We are also looking at potential scholarship structures. These remain under exploration; however, such measures are unlikely to be in-place in time for the initial intake.

 When and how do I enrol my child?

Applications for Enrolment will open after the School has secured our premises and confirmed our fees. We aim to do each of these by 31 July 2019 and then, if so, open Applications for Enrolment in early August 2019. When that time comes, the enrol page will be the place to start the process.

Initially, only applicants who are Australian citizens will be eligible to apply to enrol, and proof of status - and age of the student - will need to be provided.

High-level Enrolment process^ and timeline^^: 

Early August 2019: Applications for Enrolment open. Everyone who has expressed interest will be notified of this event and given access to the Enrolment Policy & Procedure, the Alatus School Handbook and the necessary Application Forms. General notification will also be given here on this website, in our Newsletter and on social media. As previously communicated, people who have expressed interest will be personally notified when Applications for Enrolment open - but will not be given priority over anyone else in the ensuing process. 

August & September 2019: Satisfaction of the Eligibility Criteria and the requirements for enrolment. Amongst other elements, these will include fully-completed Application for Enrolment forms, the payment of an Administration Fee and submission of a recognised IQ test* for the child - administered by a qualified psychologist. The Co-founders are aware that waiting times to see a child psychologist in Melbourne can be up to 6-months. Accordingly, prospective applicants whose child has not had an IQ test are strongly encouraged to consider making a booking with a psychologist now - for a test to occur immediately after Applications for Enrolment may open. Also during the months of August & September 2019, the Interview Panel will meet as required to determine which applicants (both parent/s and child) to interview, following receipt of all application requirements.

1 October 2019 (and / or earlier, at Alatus’ discretion):  The Selection Panel meets and determines to whom to make an initial round of up to twenty (20) offers. Offers will then be made, including relevant Policies and the Enrolment Agreement for offered applicants to sign and return within 14-days of the date of the offer.

1 November 2019 (and again subsequently, at Alatus’ discretion): The Selection Panel meets and determines to whom to make offers to for the balance of places. Offers will then be made, including relevant Policies and the Enrolment Agreement for offered applicants to sign and return within 14-days of the date of the offer. 

From the date of the Selection Panel first meeting through to registration as an Independent School by the VRQA: 'Pre-enrolled’ status will be confirmed to those applicants who have validly accepted their offer of enrolment within 14-days of the date of the offer. Pre-enrolled applicants are guaranteed a place at Alatus once we have received registration** as an Independent School by the VRQA, subject to the applicant then completing the requirements to progress to “Enrolled” status. 

Following registration as an Independent School by the VRQA: “Enrolled” status will be confirmed to Pre-enrolled applicants - subject to the return of an Enrolment Details Form and the payment of a Deposit against Term 1 fees within 14-days of the date of advice being issued to applicants that Alatus has been registered as an Independent School by the VRQA. Any Pre-enrolled applicant not fulfilling these requirements will lose that status and forfeit their place at Alatus, together with the Administration Fee paid.

^ This will be formally confirmed in the Enrolment Policy & Procedure but is outlined here meantime - in this FAQ and also in the schematic flow-chart below.
^^ Assuming we secure premises by 31 July 2019
* By way of example, acceptable IQ tests include: The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC), Wechsler Preschool & Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI), and the Stanford-Binet. The attending psychologist will determine and administer the appropriate test/s. 
** Such an offer of registration to Alatus could indicatively be expected to occur between September and December 2019 inclusive. It may, however, occur later - or it may not occur at all - and prospective parents should remain aware of all these potential outcomes as they consider schooling options for their child for 2020 and consider having alternative plans in-hand.

Closing date for enrolments

Depending on the size of the actual premises secured by 31 July 2019, Alatus currently anticipates enrolling up-to 35 children in the initial intake (ie. for Term 1, 2020). Prospective applicants are thus encouraged to apply to enrol early. Applications for Enrolment will remain open until all available places have been offered and validly accepted and, as such, may close at any time from 14-days after the initial round of offers is made. That said, the priority of the Interview and Selection Panels will at all times be identifying the children who stand to benefit the most from, and are highly suited to, the Alatus Learning Approach.   

Points to note regarding fees:

> An Administration Fee of $150 will be payable upon submission of an Application for Enrolment. This fee will be deductible from the first Term’s fees upon their payment by the due date and fully refundable in the case of Alatus not being registered as an Independent School by the VRQA in sufficient time to open for Term 1, 2020. This fee is otherwise non-refundable - no matter the enrolment outcome.
> A Deposit of 25% of Term 1 fees will be payable upon returning the signed Enrolment Details Form and form part of the requirements of moving to the status of being “Enrolled". This Deposit is non-refundable. Should registration of Alatus as an Independent School occur after 5:00pm on 6 December 2019, Alatus reserves the right, at its discretion, to withdraw the requirement for a Deposit and instead require payment of full Term 1 fees - less the Administration Fee - by 8 January 2020.
> Assuming a Deposit was required and paid, payment of the balance of Term 1 fees - less the Administration Fee and the Deposit - will be payable by 8 January 2020.
> Thereafter, fees will be charged and payable in advance, by Term, on dates to be communicated by the School, providing reasonable notice to parents.
> A surcharge will apply to any payments made via credit card. 
> Again, Alatus will finalise the amount of its fees for the 2020 school year - and for Term 1 - upon securing our premises and disclose them as part of the Enrolment process and ultimately on this website.

Points to note regarding changes to this process since the launch of Alatus:

If you have been with us - reading these FAQs - since the launch of Alatus in November 2018, the following points have changed from those originally published here:

> As was foreshadowed as being a possibility, Alatus has now decided that there will not be a "Pre-application" process - this will instead be replaced with one Enrolment process.^ This will be simpler for parents and for Alatus.
> Accordingly, there will not now be a notion of “priority” arising from a Pre-application process. Instead, applicants who validly accept their offer of enrolment within 14-days of the date of the offer will be said to be “Pre-enrolled”.  Pre-enrolled applicants are guaranteed a place at Alatus once we have received registration** as an Independent School by the VRQA, subject to the applicant then completing the requirements to progress to the status of being “Enrolled".
> The "nominal fee” previously referred to has now been confirmed as being the Administration Fee of $150

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alatus enrolment process schematic flow-chart

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Alatus' Blog
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The Co-founders of Alatus publish a Newsletter when they have news to share with friends of Alatus.

You can read the the first issue (2-pages) - published in March 2019 - below.

alatus newsletter #1 p.1
alatus newsletter #1 p.2

You can read the the second issue (2-pages) - published in April 2019 - below.

alatus newsletter #2 p.1
alatus newsletter #2 p.2

You can read the third issue (1-page only) - published at the beginning of June 2019 - below.

alatus newsletter #3

You can read the fourth issue (1-page only) - published at the end of June 2019 - below.

alatus newsletter #4

Copyright © 2018-19 Penny Willoughby per the Co-founders. All rights reserved.
The name "Alatus School” and the integrated butterfly device are Registered Trademarks®. The name "Alatus Learning Approach” is a Trademark™.
Alatus School® is subject to registration as an Independent School.