About Alatus… 

Children will feel at-home amongst many like-minds

We’ve all experienced that dislocating sense of not belonging or not fitting in from time to time. But knowing we belong somewhere, gives us a sense of stability in the world. For our gifted children, we want them to know that they truly belong in their school, that their mentors and other kids “get" them, and that it’s safe to be themselves. Alatus is a place that gives this to gifted learners and supports them as they begin their flight.

Parents will know that their child is happy, and being extended and challenged

What do parents want most for their child? Often, it’s simply for their child to be happy. A gifted learner who craves learning and instinctively knows their innate potential, will experience a deep sense of contentment when they are enabled to learn the way they love. At Alatus, your child will struggle with challenges and emerge knowing they are capable and tenacious. They will carve their own learning pathway and feel the exhilaration of realising their heart’s desire.

Mentors will love and embrace their roles

Those of us who are passionate about enabling gifted learners to excel know how important it is to be supported by our school and work alongside others with the same vision. Alatus mentors will thrive in an environment that values and celebrates their talents. Each day will bring the deep satisfaction of knowing that the children under your care and guidance are experiencing the learning approach and environment that they deserve.

Alatus’ Co-founders

Penny Willoughby

Penny Willoughby

Penny was herself a gifted underachiever. After almost failing her HSC (VCE), she was convinced she wasn’t very smart. Since then, Penny has overcome a range of obstacles, including low confidence and a tendency to perfectionism, in order to turn her experiences into a success story. This is why Penny is exceptionally qualified to open a school specialising in gifted learning and guide young learners on their journeys as they explore their potential.

After a rewarding career in the corporate sector, Penny achieved a Bachelor of Education (First Class Honours) and was awarded the University Medal for Outstanding Distinction. Going from strength to strength, Penny held a range of educational roles including classroom teacher, teaching leadership and Vice President of the Victorian Association for Gifted and Talented Children (VAGTC). Penny went on to found Thinking Outside The Box professional education services, providing innovative educational programs for gifted children, professional learning for educators, individual tutoring for children and support services for parents across Melbourne.

Penny is passionate about the rights of all children - including gifted learners - to have their learning needs met, be understood and accepted for who they are. Penny has affinity with gifted children that ignites their passion for learning and enables them to achieve new heights and exceed their expectations. She empathises with parents as they seek to advocate for their gifted child’s learning needs. Penny campaigns for better understanding and provision for gifted learners. Her vision is to fundamentally reimagine how a school can work for the gifted child and to inspire educators around the world.

Rhonda Ooi

Rhonda is a consummate educator who tirelessly seeks to meet the needs of gifted students. She taught in the South Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne for seven years prior to joining Thinking Outside The Box in 2014, where she facilitates and develops education programs for gifted children. In 2017, Rhonda pursued her passion for educating gifted children by completing a Master of Education, specialising in Gifted Education.

Rhonda cruised through school as a child. Because of this lack of challenge, when she first attended university she had no study skills and no direction. She left university to pursue a career in finance, after which she was called to teaching. She returned to university with a passion for teaching and direction and achieved a Bachelor of Education and was on the Dean’s List (top 10% of students).

Rhonda is a parent who understands the challenges faced by parents advocating for their gifted children. She is creative, open to new ideas and ever-evolving as a teacher. Rhonda is excited to be the co-founder of Alatus School - a new primary school in Melbourne, Australia which will specialise in gifted learning. Rhonda’s vision is to establish a learning environment that supports the learners' social, emotional and academic needs and to help change the future of gifted education for a whole new generation of Australia’s future leaders.

Rhonda Ooi

Alatus School® Board

The Co-founders understand the importance of high-quality, committed governance of Alatus School for its long-term success and for the benefit of all stakeholders. The initial Alatus School Board is currently being actively assembled and information about its composition and role will be provided here in due course.

boy with aeroplane wings


All gifted children will be exhilarated by learning, fearlessly face challenges and find their place in the world.


We will achieve our Vision by:

Fundamentally reimagining how a school can work for the primary-aged gifted child

  • > Designing and facilitating learning that meets the cognitive, social and emotional needs of gifted learners, facilitating them to explore their potential; and

  • > Enabling talented educators to understand and support their learners, model and inspire passionate learning, nurture the whole child and support learners to ‘find their wings’.

Refusing to accept the status quo in education

  • > Putting authentic learning at the centre of what we do,

  • > Creating a learning community that partners educators, para-professionals, learners and parents,

  • > Encouraging learners to pursue their passions with abandon; and

  • > Giving prominence to thinking and creativity.

Embracing human nature

  • > Celebrating diversity,

  • > Respecting the individual,

  • > Prompting learners to take active roles in both the School and wider community; and

  • > Supporting children’s journeys to find their place in the world.

Inspiring educators around the world

  • > Sharing our journey,

  • > Encouraging conversations; and

  • > Challenging the notions of what education can be.


The Alatus philosophy behind all our learning and relationships:

Research tells us that gifted people generally learn differently to others (Sousa D, 2009, How The Gifted Brain Learns, Hawker Brownlow Education, Australia), and as such, benefit from a different educational approach. Given an optimal environment, gifted learners are likely to be excited about, and richly connected with, their learning. Alatus School has been thoughtfully designed to cater for these special learning needs by providing unique opportunities for learners.

girl fascinated

Gifted education

At Alatus, we have designed the learning approach based on what gifted learners typically need. The Alatus Learning Approach™ allows for a myriad of variations depending on the individual needs of learners, and includes:

  • > Learning activities that are engaging, purposeful and relevant, such as open-ended, problem-based and investigations

  • > Individualised amounts of revision, with minimal routine and drill

  • > Regular opportunities to learn new concepts and skills

  • > Moving faster thorugh the curriculum where appropriate

  • > Opportunities to take responsible learning risks and move outside comfort zones

  • > Deep immersion in personal interests and passions

  • > Development of rich thinking habits and creative processes, eg. problem solving strategies

  • > Being a vital part of a like-minded community and being accepted for who you are

  • > Engaging with mentors (our expert teachers) who understand and are trained in providing for gifted students

  • > Participation in decisions about your learning journey and goals

Individualised Focus

Individuality and the needs of gifted learners will be at the centre of Alatus' learning, interactions and activities. We will honour this by:

  • > Supporting all learners to develop a Dynamic Learning Map (DLM) with short and long-term goals and a plan for their future learning pathway

  • > Dynamically assess each learner’s achievement of curriculum skills and understandings

  • > Planning learning based on individual learners' current levels and needs

  • > Providing a range of individualised variations and options

  • > Enabling individual time with mentors through small group workshops and one-to-one mentor sessions

  • > Mentors knowing each learner thoroughly and wholistically

  • > Regular individual mentoring sessions for extension, challenge or acceleration

Relevant Education

With the rapid changes occurring in society, work options and the world in general, our children’s future is difficult to predict. At Alatus, we aim to prepare our learners for the future by encouraging them to be:

  • > Creative thinkers

  • > Problem solvers

  • > Autonomous learners

  • > Entrepreneurial

  • > Community minded

  • > Self-aware

  • > Relationship-aware

Behaviour Management

The foundation of our behaviour management approach at Alatus is individuality, growth and productive relationships. Where a particular behaviour, such as unsocial, uncooperative and disruptive behaviour, has a negative impact on another learner’s or mentor’s experience at Alatus, we will address the behaviour and encourage personal growth. We understand that unusual behaviours can be affected by:

  • > Emotions that are overwhelming or out of sync with a child’s intellectual maturity

  • > Confidence in self, social settings or learning capabilities

  • > Health issues for the child, or in their family

  • > Sense of belonging and acceptance

  • > Environmental impacts including physical, social or academic challenges

  • > Past and / or present experiences and expectations

  • > Personal situations inside and outside of school

Openness to Input

Alatus encourages and recognises the value of input from our whole community, including learners, parents, educators and others who are connected to us. We will openly consider and give feedback on constructive suggestions and requests. Alatus aims to create an environment that continually improves, and which fosters productive learning and interactions. We plan to do this by:

  • > Building relationships on a foundation of honesty and mutually-earned respect

  • > Providing opportunities for reflection on experiences and input to future learning

  • > Providing opportunties for mentors to be involved in the School’s development

  • > Holding forums at-which parents can have input into Alatus’ future

  • > Involving all members of the community in shared activities


These are the values we S P E A C at Alatus:

Having the skills and know-how to work well with other people is invaluable. We value collaboration in our community when it is of mutual benefit and produces an outcome greater than could be achieved individually.

Being passionate brings purpose, excitement and energy to our lives. We aim to honour and support everyone (children and adults) in our community to discover and pursue their interests and passions. We will continually develop a team of passionate educators who, in turn, will enable our learners to dream and be passionate.

There are a certain number of rights and responsibilities that everyone has, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, academic ability or any other trait. Alatus aims to honour those rights and fulfil those responsibilities in everything we do. In particular, Alatus seeks to fulfil the right of gifted children to be supported to reach their potential. All members of the community (children, educators, leaders, parents and others) will have a say in matters that affect them.

We value people who are true to themselves and others. We value learning that is meaningful and purposeful. We aim to bring authenticity into every aspect of Alatus.

Community Engagement
Our community includes, our family, school, country and the world and Alatus values engagement with those communities. This engagement involves being more than just empathetic. It invites active involvement in solutions, being open to both giving and receiving, and most importantly, developing relationships.

Alatus planned timeline

planned timeline schematic

+ Subject to premises being secured by 31 July 2019 
* Subject to successful assessment - conditional or otherwise - by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA)
^ Subject to registration by the VRQA as an Independent School

Alatus premises

We are presently looking for our premises in the suburbs of Melbourne, Australia.

Our learning space will:

  • > Be fun and welcoming

    > Be exciting and stimulating

  • > Be structured for purposeful learning

    > Have flexible areas to cater for different learning needs

  • > Inspire the pursuit of excelllence and passions

Meanwhile, here is an artistic impression of how Alatus may look!

artistic impression of Alatus School

Statement on Democratic Principles

Alatus’ programs and teaching will be delivered in a manner that supports and promotes the principles and practice of Australian democracy. These principles include a commitment to elected government, the rule of law, equal rights for all before the law, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and association, and the values of openness and tolerance.

Copyright © 2018-19 Penny Willoughby per the Co-founders. All rights reserved.
The name "Alatus School” and the integrated butterfly device are Registered Trademarks®. The name "Alatus Learning Approach” is a Trademark™.
Alatus School® is subject to registration as an Independent School.