Port Augusta School of the Air celebrates 60th birthday

BIRTHDAY: Students Lily Hatcher, Lucy Parker and Jessica Haydon at the School of the Air's 60th birthday celebrations.
BIRTHDAY: Students Lily Hatcher, Lucy Parker and Jessica Haydon at the School of the Air's 60th birthday celebrations.

The Port Augusta School of the Air (SOTA) community came from far and wide to celebrate the school’s 60th birthday at the West Augusta Football Club on Wednesday, May 16.

Students past and present reminisced on their time with SOTA by looking through old photos and memorabilia, before listening to stories from teachers and parents.

Former student Petie Rankin organised the event and said it was an important milestone to celebrate.

“This is the only distance education school in South Australia, so for these rural and remote isolated children this is all we’ve got,” Mrs Rankin said.

“A lot of the School of the Air community has gone full circle where their parents did it, they did it and now their children are doing it.

“For all of these people, it’s a big part of their lives. They might’ve only gone to School of the Air or taught for a couple of years, but it’s in your blood and you just don’t forget it.”

SOTA has seen a lot of changes over its 60 years, with students initially receiving their curriculum in the mail and keeping in contact with teachers and fellow students through a radio system.

But SOTA students now get to see their classmates every day using video chats, while also gaining immediate access to their grades and new assessment tasks via email.

Mrs Rankin, who has two children enrolled in SOTA, said it has been amazing to see how quickly the technology has progressed.

“Everyone remembers how amazing it was with the radio, and they were good times, but you have to move with the times,” she said.

“We now use a platform where you can see the other students, you can see the teacher, you put things up on the screen and it’s all very quick.

“We can do our school on the run and how many kids can say that? How many kids can jump back in class on a Monday morning and say, ‘I had to go help dad muster up the cows out on the motorbikes’?”

SOTA students have face-to-face school events five times a year, getting the chance to catch up as a class in person.

Year 5 students James McIntosh and William Clifton agreed that the catch-ups are the best part of SOTA.

“It’s so good. You get to see your friends after ages,” James explained.

James said he loves SOTA because “you get to stay at home”, while Will said he enjoys the projects and getting to “turn on your camera and see all your classmates”.

The birthday celebrations were officially opened by Deputy Mayor Brett Benbow and federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey.