Catriona at Katherine School of the Air.
Inside the school.
The small township of Katherine is the base for the School of the Air. It covers 800,000 square kilometres, making it the world's largest schoolroom.
For 30 years, the small township of Katherine has been the base for the School of the Air. It covers 800,000 square kilometres, making it the world's largest schoolroom at three times the size of the United Kingdom.
There are currently 240 students enrolled with the school, living in many different locations in the Territory mines, camps, cattle stations, Aboriginal communities and even some on yachts. Students at more conventional schools are probably envious that the children of the School of the Air don't have to wear a uniform, there is no detention, they never miss the bus and can eat their breakfast in the schoolroom! However, it does require a lot of self-discipline.
All lessons are via radio and correspondence, and once a year teachers and students meet face to face for a week of classes held in Katherine. It is a really exciting time for everyone, and the children enjoy ordering their lunch from the canteen and being able to walk to school.
Children enrol the same way as children in other day schools. There are two studios used for radio lessons, which run for 30 minutes, starting at 8.30am and ending at 2.30pm. Apart from the radio lessons, students participate in a correspondence program and forward their assignments to their teachers by e-mail.
They are grouped according to their geographical locations into "clusters". Each cluster has around 15 students of different ages. Each week, they have a cluster lesson, and the rest of the week is for peer lessons.
There are around 20 teachers at the school, and a very important full-time technician to fix problems. Sandy Talbot takes one-hour tours of the school headquarters, starting in the tourist room, which has huge glass windows opening into the main studio. Part of the tour involves watching a video of the school's history, and viewing an impressive map with hundreds of pins depicting where students live.
When there are no lessons, you can walk through the school building, see where correspondence lessons are received and visit the library, which has 10,000 books for loan.
Tours run from mid-March to mid-December, including public and school holidays. They are flexible and will accommodate visitors whenever possible.