Kimberley School of the Air (KSOTA) is one of the five Schools of the Air in Western Australia. It was founded in 1960 and originally communicated with students using the Royal Flying Doctor Service radio based out of Derby Airport. Thankfully, the radio days are behind us now, and students complete their lessons using SABA which is a platform similar to Skype. This means they can booth see and hear their teacher and classmates.
Our students are located in some of the most remote locations in the country and without School of the Air, most would not have access to a Western Australian public school. KSOTA students are located throughout the 423,517 square kilometres of the Kimberley. As represented in our school logo, we have strong ties to the cattle industry; many of our students live on cattle stations. Often these students attend air lessons with teachers and complete their school work between activities like assisting with mustering cattle. Other students live in remote communities, some as far flung as the Mitchell Plateau.
Kimberley School of the Air offers schooling to students from Pre-Kindergarten right through to Year 6. Gifted and talented students in Years 5 and 6 have the opportunity to participate in the Kimberley PEAC program (Primary Extension and Challenge). PEAC students attend weekly Air lessons with their like-minded peers from schools across the Kimberley.
An average day for a KSOTA student usually includes attending air lessons with their class, usually 6-8 students for an hour or so and then working with a home tutor or parent to complete further classwork which is then posted or emailed to their teacher for marking. Teachers at KSOTA have to be very organised and send out a terms worth of work at a time to ensure it gets to students in time.
Our School community gets together 3 times a year on camps. In May our students, parents and home tutors spend four days in Broome together. This allows us to provide home tutors and parents with additional training and for teachers to have face-to-face class time with their students. In Term 3 we hold a camp for our whole school and in Term 4 our Early childhood students return to Broome while our Year 4 to 7 students attend ‘Muster’ in Perth- a week long camp with students from the other Western Australia Schools of the Air. We find often the most valuable part of these camps is the opportunity to socialize and build support networks for our students and families as life can be quite isolated for most of the year.
Our teachers also try to visit families twice a year, depending on the accessibility of roads and weather, to work with students in their home school room, which may be a space in the kitchen or a purpose built classroom depending on the location. Teacher visits are a real highlight for our students. Families are also encouraged to come into school when they are in town and this provides teachers the opportunity to work with students in a classroom environment.
Kimberley School of the Air prides itself on being a strong community where the whole family is a part of the school. In fact, we have students whose parents themselves attended Kimberley School of the Air as children!