by Rachel Whalley

VLN Primary School - Look out here they come

If you thought online learning was only for independent self motivated senior secondary or university students - think again!

There has been a big drive for digital connectedness in New Zealand schools over recent years, fuelled by the government’s significant investment in Ultra Fast Broadband, improved network infrastructure in schools and the establishment of  N4L (Network for Learning) tasked with providing a managed schools network and services. Schools are joining the digital drive by implementing one-to-one and BYOD schemes to put devices in the hands of their students, some working with their local communities to extend access to school networks into students homes. Many teachers are becoming more confident and capable in using digital technologies in the classroom, and are opening up to connecting and collaborating with others. All of these factors are a potential recipe for making meaningful change for our young learners.

Within this landscape of change in the schooling sector sits the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) Primary School whose aim it is to provide equity and access to educational opportunities through virtual learning

The VLN Primary is a schools’ led initiative, governed by a charitable trust and supported in part by the Ministry of Education. Initiated in 2008, through the needs of small and rural schools, the VLN Primary School set out to provide language learning opportunities for Year 7 and 8 students. It was clear from the outset that there was huge potential to extend this scope across the curriculum and to target specific needs of students across New Zealand schools through virtual learning opportunities. In 2008 one French class was run between three schools, led by Principal Rick Whalley from Matapu School in South Taranaki. By 2020 this had grown to include more than 50 schools (including many town and city schools), and with students participating in a wide range of programmes. The VLN Primary learning environment consists of Zoom webconferencing for synchronous weekly programmes, and Google Classroom or SeeSaw.

Summer from Halfmoon Bay School talks about learning online with the VLN Primary School. — Image by: Halfmoon Bay School

Our current programmes can be found here

Our story in Virtually Connected - AKO magazine

Rural & Remote Schools Project

Over the Back Fence

VLN Primary school website

Here are our latest statistics from 2019:

(Downloadable file below)