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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Katherine School of the Air, Northern Territory

Covers 1.3 million square kilometres

Katherine School of the Air began operating on 12 September 1966. There was a need to educate isolated children living with their families on stations in the Northern Territory. Because it was impossible for children to attend classes at a real school, children would gather at home every morning and interact with their teacher through the Katherine School of the Air by a crackley, old fashioned radio.

Today they have IDL (Interactive Distance Learning) - it's all done with computers. Someone will fly out and install the satellite dish in one day, the only requirement being that the family promises to stay put for at least 12 months.

Every pin represents a student and colour denotes class

The IDL workstations include a P4 CPU with CD burner, 17" monitor, printer, camera, scanner, graphics tables, headphones and a modem. The computers are permanently connected to the Internet via high speed two way satellite

Currently there are 27 teachers, including the Principal, Assistant Principal, three Senior Teachers, a Special Education Teacher, a Teacher Librarian, an ESL Teacher (English as a second language) and 18 class teachers. There are also eight support/administrative personnel including a Technician, Registrar, Information Communication Technology Co-ordinator, Print Room Operator, Receptionist, two Mailroom Clerks and a Tour Operator.

What the student sees

The Home Tutor plays an important role, 80% are mothers, 10% are retired teachers who volunteer their services and the other 10% are usually young teachers employed by the owners of the cattle station.

Teacher giving class lesson

They carry out the teacher's instructions, liaise with the teacher, organise the classroom and supervise school work. They spend face to face time with the student and observe their day to day progress in the classroom. What an adventure it would be for a retired teacher to stay at one of these far flung stations for an extended holiday. Many of the students will later be sent away to boarding school and then go on to university. Only 20% of students are Aboriginal.

The annual school camp is held in August/September and it's a great time for students, home tutors, families and staff to get together and have some fun.