Information for high ability practice leaders on the nature of the Victorian High-Ability Program and reasons for its existence.
The Victorian High-Ability Program (VHAP) is an enrichment program that addresses the needs of high-ability students to engage with challenging material in either English or mathematics, and also to meet and exchange ideas with other students like themselves.
All Victorian government school students in Years 5 – 8 (inclusive) are eligible to be selected by Student Excellence in the Department of Education to participate in the Victorian High-Ability Program.
Each course runs for ten weeks each term with nine synchronous lessons and one asynchronous lesson.
Virtual School Victoria (VSV) schedules and runs the classes.
Near the end of each term’s course, high ability practice leaders (HAPLs) are encouraged to collaborate to organise a
masterclass for students in the same course and region.
In the final week of each term, students who have fulfilled the criteria for attendance and participation in their course are awarded a certificate. See
Certificates for Victorian High-Ability Program students for more information.
The nature of the Victorian High-Ability Program
High-ability students in Years 5 – 8 are enriched and challenged through the Victorian High-Ability Program, which is an online virtual program run over the course of a school term. Almost 48,000 students participated in the program from September 2020 until December 2022. A further 57,000 places are available for students between Term 1, 2023 and Term 4, 2025.
The program has four courses:
- Primary English
- Primary Mathematics
- Secondary English
- Secondary Mathematics.
All four courses are offered each term and are delivered by Virtual School Victoria. Students have one virtual lesson per week. This includes nine consecutive ‘synchronous’ lessons with their course classmates and one final ‘asynchronous’ session that may be done in the students' own time.
Lessons are undertaken in school hours on school premises, and schools are required to have direct supervision over students participating in the program.
The program includes project-based, self-directed learning and out-of-hours tasks and activities that complement and enrich students’ learning. See Courses in the Victorian High-Ability Program for specific information on each subject’s content and structure.
The content of the courses is the same each term, so students may only participate in each course once unless there are exceptional circumstances.
As an adjunct to the program, students take part in a masterclass with other participating students from their local area. Face-to-face masterclasses are encouraged. Masterclasses consolidate the new knowledge and relationships built through the virtual program.
High ability practice leaders organise the masterclasses and collaboration with other schools is encouraged. The Masterclass lists on the front of the Victorian High-Ability Program/Virtual School Victoria Portal (VHAP/VSV Portal) provide contact information for high ability practice leaders in schools which have students participating in the same course that term. The contact information is organised according to course and the schools’ geographical areas.
Schools have flexibility in determining the timing, duration and location of masterclasses. Schools can use their Student Excellence Program funding for costs associated with development and delivery of masterclasses.
Information about planning and running a masterclass in your school or collaboratively with other schools in your area can be found in
Masterclasses for students in the Victorian High-Ability Program.
VHAP masterclass resources to access professional learning videos, running sheets and sample activities.
No cost to the student or the school
The Victorian High-Ability Program is an optional program that is offered in addition to the standard curriculum. There are no fees for participation in the virtual classes. Schools may request parents to pay and arrange for transportation to masterclasses as per the department’s parent payments policy and Student Excellence Program funding may be used for this and for any other associated costs.
Selection of students for the program
The selection of students is conducted centrally by the department and is based on NAPLAN and teacher judgement data. Priority of place is provided to high-ability students who experience social or economic disadvantage, identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders or reside in a regional/rural area. See Selection and nomination of students for the Victorian High-Ability Program for more information about selection and eligibility criteria.
The selection of students is an invitation, and high ability practice leaders may request that a student’s name be withdrawn if they consider that the student is not ready or able to complete the program.
Nomination of students for the program
Student Excellence appreciates that teachers have the most current knowledge and data about their students, and respects and values teachers’ judgement. Nominations by schools of their eligible high-ability students who were not selected by the department are warmly welcomed for consideration by Student Excellence.
See Selection and nomination of students for the Victorian High-Ability Program for detailed guidance on how principals and high ability practice leaders can nominate students for inclusion in the Victorian High-Ability Program.
Each term the finalised list of selected students is uploaded to the
VHAP/VSV Portal, managed by
Virtual School Victoria. In the portal, schools are required to register by the due date that parental/caregiver consent has been provided for the student to participate. This action enrols the student and automatically generates their class and content login details to be sent to the high ability practice leader. See
Parental/caregiver consent for Victorian High-Ability Program students for information on how to register parental/caregiver consent in the VHAP/VSV Portal.
Victorian Challenge and Enrichment Series
Students who participate in the Victorian High-Ability Program are also welcome to participate in activities within the
Victorian Challenge and Enrichment Series (VCES).
Parents with enquiries should contact their child’s school’s high ability practice leader.
We invite high ability practice leaders to email
firstname.lastname@example.org with any parents’ queries.
Practical support for high ability practice leaders administering the Victorian High-Ability Program
Practical support is available through a variety of sources for high ability practice leaders who are managing their school’s cohort of students participating in the Victorian High-Ability Program.
Technical support, including issues and information about login details and access to the Victorian High-Ability Program/Virtual School Victoria (VHAP/VSV) Portal for high ability practice leaders and students can be obtained by emailing VHAP Support at
VHAP/VSV Portal contains links to resources that provide information and support. These include, for example, links entitled HAPL Help, Technical Requirements, Nomination Guidelines and Primary and Secondary Masterclass lists.
For more information, see the ‘Practical support in administering the Victorian High-Ability Program’ section in High ability practice leaders - nomination, role and support.
Reasons for the Victorian High-Ability Program
The Victorian High-Ability Program is intended as an enrichment program, although not an acceleration program, where students can interact with like-ability peers and explore new approaches and ideas in English and/or mathematics. This supports their need to engage with their peers who have similar or greater ability, as well as their need to experience challenge and stimulation in their learning.
High-ability students’ learning needs
There are four key learning needs associated with high ability in the intellectual domain. The Victorian High-Ability Program addresses all of them. They include:
- Challenge: high-ability students need challenging tasks and resources at their point of need.
- Interaction: high-ability students need opportunities to interact with other high-ability students.
- Higher order thinking skills: high-ability students need opportunities to extend their thinking, problem solving and metacognitive skills.
- Appropriate task goals: high-ability students need appropriate and explicit realistic goals with clear outcomes. Tasks need to contain appropriate depth and complexity.
The importance of interactions with like-ability peers
High-ability students need interactions with like-minded and like-ability peers. These interactions can increase engagement, effort and satisfaction in an activity. The Victorian High-Ability Program provides an opportunity for students to meet with their like-ability peers in a safe learning environment.
Research on the importance of high-ability interactions shows that:
- Access to peers of the same or greater ability is important for all students, but it is especially important for high-ability students.
- Like-ability interactions can increase learning growth for these students.
- High-ability students may prefer the company of peers at similar stages of development.
- If high-ability students do not have access to similar-ability peers, behavioural and emotional problems may occur.
- If high-ability students do not have opportunities to work with like-ability peers, they may hide their ability in order to be accepted by their classmates. This is known as masking and it can affect students’ learning, achievements and wellbeing.
Like-ability interactions for more information.
In this video, staff and students in Victorian schools reflect on their experience with the Victorian High-Ability Program at their school. This video demonstrates the positive impact that VHAP is having on the learning of high-ability students in Victorian schools.
For questions about the content of the Victorian High-Ability Program courses, or for technical support, please contact Virtual School Victoria at email@example.com.
For other enquiries, please contact Student Excellence at firstname.lastname@example.org.