Optima Programs

High potential and gifted academic and social-emotional framework

Here at Saint Stephen’s College, we take a multifaceted approach to accommodating the needs of High Potential and Gifted (HPG) students. HPG students have unique social, emotional and academic learning needs, which should be recognised, valued and catered for appropriately. Saint Stephen’s is committed to meeting the needs of this unique group of students through The Optima Program.

The Optima Program framework is based on the theories of Gagne and recognises the four domains of High Potential and Giftedness: Intellectual, Creative, Social-Emotional and Physical.

What is the Optima Program?

The Optima Program offers students the chance to work in learning situations which are structured for highly motivated and gifted students with above average ability, who are willing to work in a challenging environment within their domain/s of potential or giftedness. The Optima programs gather together students who have demonstrated both ability and a willingness to participate actively in College life. Students will demonstrate their ability to work both independently and in productive partnerships.

How does a student gain entry to the Optima Program?

Consistent with the Saint Stephen’s College High Potential and Gifted Framework, a transparent and ethical process using multiple criteria and tools appropriate to the College community will be used to identify students for the program.

Successful Academic and Social-Emotional Optima students are characterised by high levels of aptitudes and skills, evidence of which include:

  • Above average results in key areas
  • An inquiring approach and independent, autonomous learning disposition
  • Being a reader by choice
  • Expressing ideas and information confidently and creatively in a variety of communication modes
  • Interest in gaining in-depth knowledge and understanding of their strengths
  • NAPLAN and academic competition results
  • Showing thoughtful consideration of their learning

Key elements of the Optima Program


Optima students will be identified in their specific area of high potential or giftedness. These students will be catered for through an accelerated, broadened or differentiated curriculum. Optima students will be identified to staff within their class and provided with appropriate data to allow them to make informed learning pathways for these students.

Grouping and Extension

At times, Optima students will be taken out of the normal classroom setting and grouped with students of similar ability and focus to undertake challenging and educationally appropriate programs to meet their specific needs.

School, State, Nationwide and Global Competitions

Optima students are encouraged to participate in a range of competitions within their High Potential or Gifted domains.

Acceleration within the Current Class – Curriculum Compacting

This allows students to remain in the same class but accelerate through the normal curriculum, allowing them to advance in their relevant subject area.

Subject Acceleration

This is a developmentally appropriate placement of students ahead of their chronological age or their chronological peers in one or more subjects or by one or more whole years of learning, if the timetable can accommodate it.

Talent Workshops

Workshops or clinics for identified students in specialist areas are available.


These are embedded programs that provide opportunities to enhance, extend and enrich students’ education outside the regular classroom.


Where appropriate, students may be paired with a mentor to assist their potential and support their unique needs.

Partnership with External Agencies

Identified students are linked to university partnerships for enhanced learning and progressive pathways.

Independent Study

High Potential and Gifted students often achieve greater success and higher levels of engagement using independent study.

Differentiated Homework

Homework can be tailored to meet the needs of Optima students.

High potential and gifted Performing Arts Framework

The Performing Arts Optima Program begins with the Chamber Music Excellence Program.

This Program features our most talented senior strings students alongside other musicians in invitation and auditioned groups including duos, quartets, and quintets. It is aimed at those students pursuing excellence on their instrument to perform and compete at the highest level. Students participate in the Chamber Music Excellence groups on top of their already busy co-curricular activities and rehearse professional level repertoire.

Past performances include Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Major, Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1 and the challenging String Quartet No. 14 ‘Death and the Maiden’ by Schubert. Our Senior String Quartet has consistently placed at the Gold Coast Eisteddfod, competing in the ‘open’ category and often as the only group with members all from the same school.

Students will strive to be part of the Chamber Music Excellence Program by taking part in the Emerging Chamber Music Program. As part of this program, students from Years 5 to 8 participate in junior and intermediate quartets to learn the craft of chamber music and develop their ensemble skills.

The Chamber Music Excellence Program is coached by our Strings Coordinator, Mr Sam Konise. Sam is a violinist originally from New Zealand. He has completed his studies at the University of Canterbury, San Fransisco Conservatory of Music and also Schola Music, the training ground for members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Prior to joining Saint Stephen’s College, Sam was the head of the Performance Program at the University of Waikato and leader of the Turnovsky Trio, one of New Zealand’s most renowned chamber music ensembles.

Alongside the Chamber Music Excellence Program, Saint Stephen’s College has delivered industry specific courses, enabling students to complete qualifications relevant to the music industry. Normally only available through external providers, the Certificate III in Music (Performance) course is delivered on campus by our qualified teachers. Students in Year 10 undertake this course to hone their performance skills, learn about the music industry and develop their musical careers. As well as rehearsing and performing in our purpose-built Recital Hall, students have access to a working recording studio and learn how to set up for sessions and record their class band. In partnership with the Queensland College of Music, the Certificate III in Music (Performance) encourages students to spread their wings and prepare for a life in the music industry.

Alongside the Optima Chamber Music Excellence Program, we have also begun development of the Optima Voices. This program features a small group of our most talented Senior College vocal students, who learn and perform repertoire with a focus on musical theatre. Students audition for places within the Optima Voices and must be a minimum equivalent AMEB grade requirement. They will learn and perform repertoire with a focus on musical theatre and contemporary music, participating in extra choral rehearsals each week as well as undertaking specific vocal technique sessions to develop their skills. As part of our Optima Pathways, students in Years 4 to 6 will also be invited to audition for our Optima Emerging Voices. These students will learn and rehearse alongside those in the Optima Voices who will also act as mentors for our younger singers.

The Optima Vocal Program is led by our vocal tutor and Senior College Musical Director, Caroline Taylor. Caroline studied Musical Theatre at Central Queensland University and later obtained her Master of Music Studies (Voice) from the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. She has been a regular performer and vocal coach on the Gold Coast for a number of years and has worked on musicals such as Grease, Mamma Mia, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and many more.

High potential and gifted Sports Framework

Optima Sporting Programs

Saint Stephen’s College has four Optima Sporting Programs. Our Basketball, Cricket, Soccer and Netball programs have been selected to meet the needs of our high performing students. At the College, we use a Long-Term Player Development Model and structure our sporting programs around this model to help our student athletes develop and achieve short and long term goals.

The Optima Sporting Programs are available for students in Years 4 to 12. The purpose of the program is to develop the overall athletic ability of each child whilst focusing on their specific sport. Students in each program have one compulsory speed and agility session, one compulsory strength and conditioning session and one compulsory field session in their chosen sport. Each session is tailored for students’ needs and abilities by our expert staff.

Students in the programs will also be exposed to nutrition in sport, high performance training, recovery and injury prevention and management through various experiences.

The programs’ goals are to have students achieving individual success through selection in representative teams as well as team success through APS sport and other school-based competitions.

Head of Basketball

Our Head of Basketball is Adam Tyrus. Adam is a current teacher of the College who teaches in the Health and Physical Education department. Adam’s basketball playing and coaching background is outstanding. Adam has played in the QSL for various teams and was head coach of the North Gold Coast Seahawks QSL team. Adam is an old scholar whose passion as both a student and staff is second to none.

Head of Cricket

The Head of Cricket is our current Director of Sport, Ryan Soars. Ryan’s playing and coaching background is extensive, coaching school representative teams and most recently as a club coach of the Coomera Hope-Island Cricket Club. Ryan is also an old scholar who takes great pride in seeing the cricket legacy of the College continue.

Head of Netball

The Head of Netball, Rebecca Lombardo, brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. As she is widely sought-after across the Gold Coast for her coaching ability, we are very excited to have her working with our students. Rebecca was an outstanding player reaching a high level before turning to coaching. Rebecca has volunteered her time for numerous years with our club teams and we can’t wait to see what she can do with our talented netballers.

Head of Soccer

Our Head of Soccer is former International Soccer player, Scott McDonald. Apart from the incredible achievement of representing his country, Scott has played in many major soccer leagues including the Scottish Premier League and A-League. Scott has now turned his hand to coaching where he is currently the coach of the Gold Coast Knights. Scott is a current parent of the College who is invested in developing in student’s skills.