SCHOOL OF THE AIR
60th Anniversary Documentary
PARTED BUT UNITED
From the early 1900's, the education of isolated children across Australia was catered for by the Correspondence Schools in the capital cities of their respective states. Lessons took days and sometimes weeks to reach their destinations and by the time the completed lessons were dispatched to their teachers, marked and returned to the children, months could have elapsed. As these children rarely had an opportunity to visit their teachers at the Correspondence School, the children inevitably completed their entire schooling without ever meeting their teacher or schoolmates.
The aim of School of the Air was to bring isolated children out of the silence and give them a sense of belonging. The first "School of the Air" in Australia was established at Alice Springs on 8th June 1951. The radio network, maintained by the Royal Flying Doctor Service, was used by the school to make two-way broadcasts to the children in that area via HF Radio.
Following a visit to Central Australia, the Hon. R.J. Heffron, M.L.A, former Premier of NSW, and at the time, Minister for Education, decided that the far west of NSW should be served by a "School of the Air" similar to that operating at Alice Springs.
Since many children in the distant parts of NSW were pupils of the Correspondence School at Sydney and within broadcast area of the Royal Flying Doctor Service at Broken Hill, there was a unique opportunity for the development of a "School of the Air".
In 1955, Phyllis Gibb was teaching a remedial class at Broken Hill North Public School when she was approached by the Deputy-Director of Education and offered the position as the first teacher and to establish the School of the Air in Broken Hill. During her nine years at School of the Air, she was awarded the MBE for services to children.
On the 23rd February 1956, School of the Air at Broken Hill was officially opened on behalf of the Premier, by the then Director-General of Education Dr Harold Wyndham. The school serviced isolated children in Southern Queensland, South Australia and over half of NSW and in the late 1980's had an enrolment of over two hundred.
In 1991, decentralisation of Distance Education in NSW occurred with other "radio schools" or Distance Education Centres being established at Tibooburra, Cobar, Bourke, Hay, Walgett and Dubbo. Families now enrol at their closest Distance Education Centre. Today, School of the Air Broken Hill services an area of approximately 0.8 million square kilometres and has an enrolment of eighty students.
Courtesy of the Dept of Education