Meekatharra School, in Of The Air Geraldton
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| BRIEF HISTORY|
In 1959 Meekatharra School of the Air was established with one teacher, who was Teacher in Charge, but under the direct control of The WA Correspondence School in Perth. The enrolment was 27 pupils. In 1979, twenty years after its inception and twenty years after it was first suggested at a Parents and Citizens meeting, Meekatharra School of the Air became an autonomous school with its own principal.
The original school site was on the grounds of The Royal Flying Doctor Service where it remained until 1975 when it moved to its present site adjacent to Meekatharra District High School. In 1995 the existing school building was enlarged and upgraded to its present state.
There has always been a strong alliance with The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). Initially Meekatharra School of the Air utilised the radio frequencies of the RFDS. In 1975 the School of the Air received its own radio frequencies : 5260 megahertz (MHz) and 4880 MHz. In 2004 the school began delivering lessons via a state of the art ICT Satellite based system known as SatWeb.
With a current enrolment of 49 students (Term 1, 2005), Meekatharra is the largest of the five Schools of the Air in terms of school population. The boundaries of its 540 000 square kilometres stretch east of Wiluna to the Northern Territory border, north to Newman, as far west as Mullewa and in a southerly direction almost to Wubin.
The school caters for students in preschool (four year olds) through to Year 7, with most of the students enrolled living on stations.
The staff at Meekatharra School of the Air consists of the Principal, 6 full time teachers, a Library Support Officer and a Registrar. A teacher is also attached to the school in the role of STL ( Special Teacher Learning ) to support and assist staff in developing programs specifically suited to the individual needs of students in isolated situations.
Staff are appointed to the school through a merit selection process.
Home Tutors play a vital role in the type of schooling provided by MSOTA. Home Tutors supervise the students as they work, organise materials and play an active role in the learning process. The Home Tutor may be the mother, father or a governess who is employed to take on this important duty.
Teachers communicate daily with their students through the ' SatWeb ' satellite communications system. These lessons are still referred to as 'Air lessons' for sentimental reasons. An air lesson may vary in length from 20 minutes (4 year olds) to 45 minutes. Families have the option of air lessons or non-air lessons. If they choose the non-air lesson option, they do all the same written work, but miss out on the daily contact with the school.The materials for all lessons are sent out at the end of the previous term, to ensure students have the necessary learning experiences and activities for each lesson in the coming term.
Clubs or options are also offered over the air. These may include Choir/Music, Art and Book Club.
Students utilise written materials produced by the West One, which is based in Leederville (Perth), in conjunction with individualised educational programs written by their teacher.
The children return a completed 'set' or unit of work each fortnight. These sets are marked by their teachers and returned with a report. The turnaround time for a set can be three weeks or more, depending on when or how often the mail is collected and the route it must take to arrive at its destination.
CONTACT WITH STUDENTS
Face to face contact is made at various times throughout the year. Teachers visit their students' families up to three times per year. To do this, they travel through isolated areas using the school vehicle (4WD), supplied by the Department of Education and Training. This vehicle is equipped with a satellite phone, so that contact can be made with the school when necessary. Teachers normally travel accompanied by other staff, however this is not always possible.
In addition to home visits contact with students occurs in a number of ways:
* Mini Camps and/or Activity Days are held at least once per term.
* An annual Learning Seminar is held for all Home Tutors and students. This seminar provides the opportunity for Home Tutors to further develop their teaching knowledge and skills.
* A camp for all School of the Air students (including those students from Kalgoorlie, Port Hedland, Carnarvon and Derby) is held annually at the PCYC Camp School in Rockingham.
* Students and families are always welcome to visit the school.
SCHOOL DECISION MAKING
The school has a School Council consisting of 4 community members and 2 staff from the school. There is a Student Council consisting of Senior students who meet regularly with the Principal.
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