Nine-year-old Imogen Cadzow starts her day like any other NEGS Junior School student. She puts on her school uniform, grabs her books and her violin for her music lesson and gets ready for a full day of learning. The only difference? Imogen lives on her family’s remote cattle station some 200 kilometres north-east of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
Imogen is the school’s first-ever distance education student, taking part in the innovative program first trialled in 2018 and formally rolled out in 2019. Unlike traditional Distance Education models which typically only have a maximum of 1.5 hours per day of direct contact with peers and teachers, Imogen takes part in a full day of education and activities via video conferencing and Google meetings, even attending assembly and the library through her laptop. She makes friends, learns Mandarin and has to put her hand up to ask a question, just like her primary school peers.
For Imogen’s mum, Bec Cadzow, the program has made an enormous impact. Not only does Imogen get to meet and interact with the cohort of girls she will one day board with at NEGS in senior years, but her daughter can learn independently without the need for full-time parent supervision or a hard-to-find expensive governess. “Imogen has been learning to play the violin via Google meetings with her teacher once a week,” Mrs. Cadzow said. “She has had lessons for only a few months, and already she is doing brilliantly.”
NEGS Online allows students from any location in Australia to participate and interact with teachers and fellow peers, with worksheets and information uploaded through specialised software. Imogen visits NEGS for at least one week a term for NAPLAN and end-of-year activities, as well as participating in camps, swimming, cross country, and athletics carnivals. With 11 places available for Years 3-6, it’s a chance for remote students to learn school etiquette and practice in social situations before they head off to boarding school.
As the first Independent School to offer Distance Education via this model, the program ensures distance is no longer a barrier to quality education. As a rural boarding school, we have wonderful connections with remote families and this program allows us to offer these children the opportunity to experience the quality learning programs that are available at NEGS. As technology opportunities grow for accessible remote communications, we hope to expand this program to more students, right across the country.