The online school Haileybury Pangea has recruited its first NT student.

Story Kate Newsome Photo Kate Fulton

Charli Fulton, 12, was with her family on its weekly grocery shop an hour’s drive away in Katherine, NT, when another younger girl tugged her mother’s sleeve and pointed first to Charli and then to posters plastered on the wall. The advertisements showed station kids on hay bales wearing purple shirts like Charli’s.

It’s a new school uniform to the town – and to the Territory. Emblazoned beneath the crest are the words ‘Haileybury Pangea Online School’, and Charli is the first NT-based student to enrol.

Haileybury is a co-educational private school with 4 Victorian campuses, a Darwin school (issue 148, p136) and educational programs across the Asia-Pacific. The online school was launched last year, offering a full, online curriculum for Victorian and NT students from years 5 to 12, who will graduate with the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE).

“Recognising the challenges faced by families in remote areas, we saw an opportunity to bridge the gap by offering a comprehensive online schooling solution,” says Joanna Baker, head of campus at Haileybury Pangea.

Charli joined Haileybury Pangea in August last year after her family moved from Echuca, Vic, to the town of Mataranka because her dad was offered a job managing a local melon and pumpkin farm. “[The pandemic] made us realise that we can live away and technology has kept us connected,” says Kate Fulton, Charli’s mother. “We took the plunge while Charli’s still young.”

Charli enrolled in the town’s local, supportive school, but the family began exploring other schooling opportunities to further challenge Charli – particularly as she approached high school age. Kate says, “We didn’t know this was an option until it popped up on my [social media] feed.”

“After I figured out more about [Haileybury] Pangea I thought, ‘Well, why don’t we give it a go’,” Charli says. “It’s gonna give me more opportunities. It’s gonna challenge me. I can try new things and get more friends.”

Haileybury Pangea’s curriculum combines live instruction, video content, one-on-one and small group time. This blended learning model allows Charli to connect with her classmates and consult her teachers while working from home or at the Mataranka Roadhouse – Kate’s workplace – where a backroom was cleared by the owner to serve as a study space.

Outside of classes, Charli helps write and edit a student-led magazine, takes part in the school’s ‘mini MasterChef’ (“I get the night off cooking – it’s fantastic!” Kate says), and has represented Haileybury Pangea at an Isolated Children’s Parents Association sports day.

“Haileybury’s decision to establish Haileybury Pangea stemmed from a profound commitment to providing quality education to students regardless of their geographical location,” Joanna says. “We believe that families across the NT should have more choice in their schooling ... and the flexibility to choose an option that suits their child.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #155

Outback Magazine: June/July 2024