Published: August 13th 2012August 13th 2012
What a funny start to our day and maybe for two reasons.
Andy’s alarm went off and thus signalling it was time for him to get up, alas it was still quite dark, so he checked his watch it was 3.15am. I was awake too and checked my phone it said 3.15 am, and we could not work out why but his phone seemed to have reverted back to the time in Canberra, where they are 2 hours ahead.
It felt like only 5 minutes later when Andy woke me it was 6.30am and time to get up, Andy is off to work today but we are on a mission this morning to visit the Kimberley School of the Air (KSOTA).
Usually Andy has gone by 6.00am but as we were going to the School of the air he could afford to have a little lie in then he had promised me breakfast as always something to tempt me out of bed early!
Mornings up here in Derby are fantastic, it is winter and the days are around 30+ degrees the mornings are sunny and warm which is a real
incentive to get out of bed, though summer here is very hot and humid.
First stop is coffee and breakfast at the Indulgence Café in Derby, it is about 7.15 and already this place is a hive of activity, we sit in the morning sun and enjoy the warmth of the early morning whilst eating breakfast.
Just before 8.00 we turned up at the Kimberley School of the air, the tour had just started and there were several people there already, it seems that tourist information told me the wrong time, they said 8.00 but the tour actually starts at 7.45, no matter we had not missed very much.
David Felstead one of the teachers, explained the background to the School of the Air and showed us a video of the student and teacher participation, gosh this man was passionate about the service they delivered to the kids in these remote locations and we were fascinated how he knew all of the children, their families, the names of their pets, the stations they were on etc.
These kids are so remote, they treat their schooling as a link with the “outside world” and a sort of
youth club, as they link with other children over the school of the air network and not face to face we did.
David did say the children did seem to take their schooling very seriously and the School of the Air did seem to turn out some very high achievers, I would guess it is because they don’t have the distractions in, dare I suggest, mainstream schools. The children, tutors and parents have to be strict in the regime to carry out the lessons.
This was an image I had in my mind of a child sitting around the HF radio doing their schooling, this is what we saw on Skippy the Bush Kangaroo when we were kids.
The Official History of school of the air, (Thanks to Wikipedia)
The Reverend John Flynn had established the Royal Flying Doctor Service after recognizing that there was an urgent need for medical and health care to people living in remote communities. In response to this need the RFDS, under the guidance of Flynn, had established a radio network across the vast centre of the country. This
One of the teachers of KSOTA
network was powered by another great Australian innovation – Alfred Traeger's pedal-powered radio7
In 1946, Miss Adelaide Miethke8
was the vice-president of the South Australian wing of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) and a former inspector of girl's schools. The idea for the School of the Air was born when she noticed how outback children were all taught to use the RFDS radio service. She saw that there were other ways this network could be used.
Until the 1950s, children living in remote communities would either have to attend a boarding school, or complete their lessons by mail. This meant that students were either separated from their families or they had no interaction with their teacher and other students. Due to the delays in mail delivery, it also meant that many of these students would fall behind in their lessons. Something had to be done, but what?
In 1948, the Alice Springs RFDS base, was used to broadcast the first school lessons to outback children. Just a few years later, the School of the Air (SOA) was officially established. In 1956, the SOA program spread to New South Wales with
The old HF radio's are gone
To make way for computer based learning
other states and territories following soon after. In the late 1960s, the SOA gained international fame when featured on the popular Australian television program Skippy the Bush Kangaroo9
In 2005, there were more than sixteen schools of the air located around Australia, a network covering more than 1.5 million square kilometres. In fact, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory are the only states who do not have a SOA. As well as teaching children who live in geographically isolated areas, these schools also teach children who are travelling around Australia or who can't, for medical or other reasons, attend a regular school.
It was mentioned that on a previous tour someone asked how remote the students are. Put in simple terms, Perth in Western Australia is the remotest city in the world, Derby is 2,500km from Perth (making Derby remote in itself) and the students can be 900km or more away from Derby on one of the many stations in and around the Kimberley area, let’s not forget just how big some of these stations are, Anna Creek station in South Australia ,the Largest Station in the world, is 24,000
School information packs
This is what get s sent out to the kids
Square Kilometres large, or the size of Israel, just to put things in to perspective, the UK will fit in to Australia 32.8 Times
The School of the Air is a vital connection for children on these stations and although some have tutors and parents may also tutor their kids, the KSOTA provides the support and the materials needed to those tutors and the children.
The HF radio network was replaced in 2006 in favour of a Satellite based internet system, David said that he felt that shifting from the old radio network seemed to loose, the “Community Feeling” but it was good for the kids, the transmission of images and data is now instantaneous, which cannot be done over the radio.
We had a look around the school itself and whilst most schools we have seen have plenty of classrooms, this one doesn’t there are studio’s with computer equipment that the teachers use to communicate with their students.
We are shown the software that is used by the teachers and students, it is all very impressive.
We buy a couple of souvenirs, they are for our 4 wheel drive club raffle, just to make
BP Road Train
The view from our room
it interesting and make a donation to KSOTA as do other people on the tour, it is now only 9.00am and it is time to leave and let the teachers get on with their day.
Outside, we head back to our hire car and say goodbye to a family who are just heading back to the caravan park to pack up and hit the road, Andy and I both comment to each other about how lovely it would be to be on the road again and do that big journey.
We had parked alongside everyone else on the verge at the front of the school, and this is where it gets interesting, Andy goes to reverse out and believe it or not, our hire car is stuck in the fine sand! How embarrassing, for all the equipment that we have with our truck in Canberra and for all the training that we have had, the hire car is not having a bar of it.
Fortunately this family realise our dilemma, I am now in the driving seat and with a big effort from the family and Andy pushing, we are very quickly back onto hard standing. Phew,
try and explain that one to the hire car company, or worse still our friends in the 4 wheel drive club, that would be a hard one to live down.
Andy drops me off at the hotel and he heads off to work, my day is my own again.
There are more photos below