Blake and Wyatt Lorraway in their home classroom.
Blake and Wyatt Lorraway in their home classroom. Amie Lorraway

Distance ed not just for bush kids, meet the island students

WHEN you think of distance education, you think of students living on isolated cattle properties hundreds of kilometres from civilisation.

But for four year-old Blake, his home is Great Keppel Island.

"We are the different ones when we come here, the kids are the Island boys," Mum Amie said.

"They all say you came to school on a boat, that is so cool."

Amie and her husband, Brett, own GKI Adventures, and they involve their children heavily in their everyday life.

The students mix with classmates from all over when the school holds mini-schools and events.

"Being on Keppel we meet a lot of people from different demographics and background and they were already used to that so that has helped," Ms Lorraway said.


Lorraway children in their home classroom.
Lorraway children in their home classroom. Amie Lorraway


The mother-of-three has two children enrolled in distance education with her eldest son, Wyatt in grade 1.

Living on Great Keppel Island, distance education was the only choice for the children's schooling.

"To be honest we would have always done distance education, we get to spend more time with the kids and they can be a part of our lives," Ms Lorraway said.

Now in her second year of teaching her children, Ms Lorraway said she is starting to feel like she has a handle on it.

"It is challenging, we run a business as well but it is good we are able to do it in our environment," she said.

With a whole island to explore, the beaches and bushland are their classroom (and playground).

"The kids are very outdoorsy and when it comes to things like maths, rather than counting counters, we count hooks and sinkers," Ms Lorraway said.

"So it is pretty flexible in that way."

CSDE Principal Ian Bielenberg has been with the Rockhampton and Emerald based schools for the past 10 years.

This year, enrolments are through the roof.

"Huge, we have had a significant enrolment growth," he said.

The school has gone from just short of 800 students in 2017 to 1, 450 students enrolled for 2018.

"Just the support of rural and remote programs, LOTE and driven by a high level of parent satisfaction," Mr Bielenberg said.

Nine years ago, the school had 220 students.

"It has been a steady enrolment growth over a 10-year period," Mr Bielenberg said.

Students come together for mini-schools once a term from all over the region and further.

"We have a vast variety of students, geographically isolated, small communities, medical students, families who are looking for an alternative education," Mr Bielenberg said.

"From people who are working on boats, fencing camps, classrooms set up, it is one extreme to another.

"Families travelling all around Australia for work and they drop in when they are on their way through."

The school even caters for international students.

"We have quite a few from overseas, Indonesia, Japan and Africa, they do their lessons online," Mr Bielenberg said.

"We had a family come from Africa for the minischool and they are coming back in Term three."

Mr Bielenberg has been working in distance education schools for the past 26 years and has seen the growth of technology.

"I've seen the migration from HF radio to telephone, now to the internet for interactive online lessons," he said.

"It's been wonderful migration and we are now able to deliver real time lessons, it's revolutionised our business."

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