School of the Air

We were up early this morning and back to school but this is not your normal school. It is a very special school – the School of the Air. It was started in Broken Hill in the early 50’s to teach children who live many miles away on remote farm stations. For years these children had no formal education. A lady teacher named Mrs Gibbs in Broken Hill realised that every farm had radio communication for the flying doctor service so she could communicate with them all and try to teach the children over the air. She was an art teacher so the mind boggles as to how the first lessons went. The trial was successful and so there is now a full satellite link to each farmstead teaching several hundred children on a daily basis.

A few visitors a day are allowed to book in at the school, have a talk about how it all started and then sit in on the first half hour lesson of the day. This still takes place in the same room as where the first lesson was taken in 1956. In the classroom the teacher has a video link where each child can see her. Another camera films paperwork like a blackboard. A child can ask a question by pressing a call button on his or her computer. We listened in on a kindergarten lesson and heard the roll call, their little voices crackling over the computer from hundreds of miles away i.e. this is Alice from Salisbury Downs – over. Charlie from Tundulya never did make contact. The actual lesson was very interesting. Each child only gets a few hours of lessons per week, the rest of the work being posted to them which they return for marking. A teacher visits each child once per term and the children also get a group get together once a term. This brings it home to you how big Australia is and how remote some of the communities are.

At the end of school we left Broken Hill on a 300 km outback journey.

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