Our History 1979 – 1984
In 1979, 20 years after it’s inception, and twenty years after it was first suggested at a P&C meeting, the Meekatharra School of the Air because an autonomous Class III school. No longer an appendage of the W.A. Correspondence School, with a Principal (promotional position) instead of a Teacher-in-Charge, the school came of age. Not that the new situation wasn’t without its difficulties. In the past the Teacher-in-Charge had taught in the school for at least one year previous to her appointment. Now we had a more experienced Principal, but the experience did not include anything to do with a School of the Air. On one hand, the P&C relinquished some authority, but on the other undertook to carefully and tactfully steer the new Principal in the accustomed directions!
The following year “Distance Education” came under one umbrella heading. For some reason the new title covering, as it did, all aspects of correspondence education, seemed to give Distance Ed (as it is now known) a new respectability. The Superintendent of Distance Education, responsible alike for the Correspondence School, the Isolated Student Matriculation Scheme, the Schools of the Air and Pre-School Correspondence seemed to acquire authority and influence in keeping with the new scheme of things, while his various Principals were freer to get on with the job.
These two changes, which on the face of it seem quite cosmetic gave our school new vigour. The Principal of the school had more authority, but so too did the teachers. They had more responsibility for their lessons and more personal autonomy as well. With the advent of the photocopier in 1981 they were devising more of their own lesson material and in some cases even writing their own courses. As a result, the school was able to develop in a way not possible in the seventies, when so much had to be referred to the Head Master of the Correspondence School.
1982 saw the advent of the federally funded pilot loan video scheme, with all School of the Air children being provided with a video unit and television, and video tapes from the ABC Department of Education (via the Department of Audio Visual Education). This innovation had, in the opinion of the majority of parents, proved to be a very successful teaching medium. Because the tapes were not integrated with School of the Air lessons, teachers were less aware of the benefits incurred and had to take the word of parents, who see first hand their childrens horizons being widened and a corresponding increase of interest in life beyond the boundary fences. Video seemed to be a natural extension of School of the Air – it brought the ourside world within the realms of curiosity.
In 1983 W.A. Distance Education and the National Centre for Research into Rural Education together hosted a National Workshop on Distance Education. The purpose of this conference was to bring together, from all states, home tutors, distance education teachers and administrators, with a view to pooling ideas and encouraging improvements. The main prongs for discussion and research were how to make the best, and most cost effective use of new communication technologies and how to best support the home tutor. It was pleasing to the role of the home tutor (formally known as the supervisor, and before that the governess or teaching mother!) given such pre-eminence, The overall purpose of the workshop was to discuss ways and means of best delivering the curriculum to an isolated student.