At Catholic College Wodonga in Victoria, Australia, students pursue their own individualised learning paths within a close community environment. “Following the Horizon learning model, students aged 14 to 18 create their own timetable based on their individual passions,” says Principal Darta Hovey. “These can be changed from day to day as their interests evolve.”

As part of the programme, students tackle a weekly task, posing questions they aim to answer by the end of the week. They also work on a continuous “passion project” based on a skill or subject they want to pursue. The third part of the programme involves working together in pairs or small groups on a collaborative project. Reflecting the college’s roots as a Sisters Of Mercy school,
this project is connected to a Catholic social teaching and have a local focus.

Faith underpins all aspects of life at Catholic College Wodonga. “Inspired by Mercy Charism – ‘charism’ meaning a spiritual gift – we strive to be a spirit-filled educational community that allows our students to engage in a pathway to success,” says Hovey.


A nurturing environment

Community values provide a supportive structure for learning, while an emphasis on pastoral care creates a nurturing environment for personal growth. With some 1,170 students across years 7 to 12, children and staff are broken down into six communities that span age boundaries. This helps the children feel connected, supported and valued in a big school. Life within each community is built around various activities, including sports carnivals, reading challenges, subject competitions and leadership programmes. Each community has a Wellbeing Team to oversee the students’ psychological development, and a Learning Mentor Program and Diverse Learning Needs Unit to cater for the educational requirements of each child.

As well as taking part in community activities, students also participate in a CCW Day each year, coming together to celebrate the history of the school and building a sense of belonging, both within their immediate environments and as part of the wider student body. Charitable pursuits are also encouraged, with students contributing to the college’s commitments to local organisations such as Carevan, Border Regional Cancer Centre and Caritas.

“We acknowledge that we are not just a local community but also a global community,” says Hovey, pointing to opportunities for students to broaden their horizons and experience different cultures through immersions in France and Japan.


Bright futures

Around 80 per cent of Catholic College Wodonga graduates go on to tertiary education, while the remaining 20 per cent follow a work-based pathway. The school is located within easy reach of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, all of which have world-renowned higher-learning institutions. And during the course of their studies, students can participate in mainstream education classes and vocational courses linked to work placements. “This way every student, regardless of their talents, still has an opportunity to follow their passions as adults into the future,” says Hovey.

Over the coming years, the school plans to expand the alternative pathways into tertiary education for its students in its ongoing development of a flexible learning environment that allows each child to achieve their personal potential.

“We’re excited and inspired by the potential growth over the coming five years as we explore different curriculum structures,” says Hovey. “This will include further exploration of our Horizon model, as well as building on the established success of our traditional pathways.”