Port Hedland School of the Air (PHSOTA) provides educational services to children living in remote and isolated locations in the Pilbara region of WA. The school commenced operations in 1964 and is based in Port Hedland. PHSOTA moved into a new, state of the art facility in 1999 reflecting the Department of Education’s commitment to distance education. The school shares this facility with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and is based at the Port Hedland International Airport. The facility is characterised by a high quality, flexible workforce and learning spaces with a major focus on cutting edge telecommunications technology. PHSOTA is the largest of the five Schools of the Air (SOTA) in Western Australia in geographical terms. On September 7, 2014 the school celebrated 50 years of providing educational services to the isolated students of the Pilbara. The school is now in its fifty-second year.
PHSOTA caters for the educational needs of isolated children from Kindergarten to Year 7, across an area of some 560 000 square kilometres, who do not have access to a mainstream school. These children live on remote cattle stations, micro tourism industries, small Aboriginal communities, out-stations and smaller rural farming blocks. The student population can vary across the dry and wet seasons but is generally stable throughout the year. Aboriginal student enrolment generally comprises about 25% of the school’s population. Around 40 students attend the school in 2016. Their locations spread from Cheela Plains Station in the south west, to Warrawagine Station in the east, and to Parnngurr Community in the far south.
Teachers communicate with their students daily via on-line conferencing satellite technology. Students complete learning programmes put together by their teachers and return them to the school for assessment, feedback and incentives. Home tutor seminar, mini camps, teacher home visit, morning muster and the annual SOTA Muster are highlights of each school year. The biennial trip to the national’s capital, Canberra, is something that in highly anticipated by our Year 5/6 students. These are all initiatives truly unique to PHSOTA that make the school what it is.