WA - School of Isolated and Distance Education Celebrates a Century of Innovation

In 2018 the School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE) celebrates 100 years of distance education in Western Australia. SIDE is located in Leederville, an inner city suburb in the Perth metropolitan area and provides K-12 education to remote, rural and isolated students. It continues a tradition of educational service begun by the Correspondence School when it was established in 1918.


When the Minister for Education established correspondence classes for outback children in 1918, he had little idea of the way in which enrolments in these classes would grow to provide educational programs for rural and isolated students in diverse situations, and that these programs would be so responsive to the changing needs of students in WA.

Western Australian distance education schools have responded to the needs of children by creating teaching programs which make use of and extend available technologies. In 1918, handwritten and manually-typed print materials were reproduced on gel duplicators, with two to six week turnarounds of student work through the postal service. In 2018, web-based online lessons and instantaneous downloading and uploading of lesson materials and student work are the norm.

Activities and Events

Activities throughout the Centenary year celebrate the contribution of teachers, parents and students to the success of distance education, culminating in an Open Day in December 2018 at SIDE Leederville. Although SIDE is located physically in Leederville all teaching and learning activities take place online, so the Centenary activities will have a strong online presence, allowing former and current members of the SIDE community to participate.

The Centenary celebrations can be tracked on a purpose-built website: www.side.wa.edu.au/centenary

The history and changing nature of distance education in WA is documented in a timeline on the website. It includes the various names of the school(s), their changing locations, logos, subject offerings and enrolments. When the Minister, Mr Colebatch approved the establishment of the school, it was assumed that enrolments would be small. In a period of limited schools in rural areas, however, families welcomed the opportunity to access standardised teaching materials. World events (such as war) also had an impact on distance education and the changing nature of subjects and enrolments. The history timeline will be launched on the website in March 2018.

To support the History Timeline a Sharing Stories project was initiated in 2017 to document the recollections of students, staff and parents and their involvement with SIDE and distance education. The SIDE archives were combed, and previous members of the SIDE community were contacted to identify individuals who could shed a personal light on our history. Some families living in more distant locations sent videos to be included on the website. Some based in Perth were interviewed and recorded in the SIDE studio at Leederville. This collection of memories will grow as the Centenary year progresses. The initial videos include the recollections of whale researchers whose children studied on their boat, a family from the Kimberley region, and an overseas family whose children were about to return to Australia. Previous and current members of the schools’ staff and students have also shared their stories.

Still images from Sharing Stories videos

A separate part of the website will allow former and current members of the SIDE community to share their memories of their time with SIDE. The website will include a submission area where documents, images and videos can be uploaded and added to the school archives. In addition, themes in the school history such as changes in teaching and learning will be highlighted and featured on the website and in displays around the school.

Other events celebrate the current and former student population. A Time Capsule will be created by current students and coordinated by the Humanities and Social Science team. An Honour Board will provide recognition of former students’ achievements while attending SIDE and an Honour Roll will be established to recognise the post-school achievements of former students. These activities will have a physical and virtual representation so that as many people as possible can view them.

More tangible reminders of the Centenary will be seen on the SIDE Leederville campus in the form of a Centenary Garden and attractive seating for the many students who visit the school. The artist involved in this project will work with the school providing opportunities online to discuss artworks and their development with students in the Saba Classroom.

The Centenary represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievement of our rural and isolated students, their families and our teachers. Distance education has evolved over the century to meet the needs of rural, remote and isolated students who may otherwise have missed opportunities in formal education. This has meant exploration and innovation, adapting changes in pedagogy to the distance context, and creating better teaching and learning environments using advances in technology.

We invite you to join us and to follow our celebrations online at http://www.side.wa.edu.au/centenary


Amy-Jo Hamilton or Cathy Scott at centenary@side.wa.edu.au