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Inside Teaching : August 2010
www.atra.edu.au | firstname.lastname@example.org FEATURE 7 As the mist rises on a crisp August morning at the Woodford Showgrounds, an hour’s drive north west of Brisbane, the fnal preparations are being made for the commencement of the annual agricultural show. Emerging from the trailers and caravans surrounding the site, men and women of the travelling show go about their work setting up rides and entertainments, as they do every week in a different location around Australia. Travelling showmen and women often inherit their business from their forbears and pass it on to their children, but here’s the problem: itinerant parents have children to educate, and for as long as travelling shows have been on the road the enduring problem of delivering quality education to the children of show families has been an ongoing concern. Attempts at distance education and homeschooling in the past have been haphazard, providing disjointed educational experiences that have led to long-term disadvantage in the travelling show community. This morning, though, the 10 children accompanying the Woodford Show have the classroom come to them. Unique not only in Australia but the world is the Queensland School for Travelling Show Children (QSTSC), which is, today, successfully delivering an education to itinerant and equestrian families travelling with the agricultural show circuits throughout Australia. From the inside, the classroom is like any other, and on this chilly winter morning, teachers April Maybury and Renée Callaghan are in early to fnish off some laminating and lay out resources ready for the children’s arrival. ‘We only have a small group of kids with us this week because there aren’t too many groups around us at the moment,’ explains Callaghan, who teaches Years 4 to 7, ‘but next week in Redcliffe we’ll have upwards of 30 kids in the classroom as it’s a pretty big show there. ‘We plan our schedule based on where the most children will be at any time in the show calendar. That way we get to see the most children for the greatest amount of time.’ Callaghan, now in her fourth year with the QSTSC, is always amused by the reaction of friends when she explains to them where she teaches. ‘Everyone thinks we’re teaching these kids to juggle or tightrope walk. They don’t get that it’s just a state school like any other Education Queensland (EQ) school. I do my job just like I would if I had a regular class of kids in an ordinary school.’ The QSTSC is, of course, anything but ordinary. Funded jointly in 1999 by the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, two purpose-built mobile classrooms – essentially semitrailers – were constructed to provide continuing education for the primary school-aged children whose families are occupational travelers. QSTSC began operations in 2001. The two mobile classrooms work a northern and southern service across Tasmania, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, the Northern Territory and Queensland, delivering the EQ curriculum to all their students. Each classroom is staffed by two teachers who follow the trailer by four-wheel-drive to a new location every week. An operations manager drives the semi, and sets up the mobile classroom on arrival. Ideally, the classroom is deployed on the grounds of the nearest local state school in order that the students of the QSTSC can share facilities and interact with other children from the host school. When this is impossible The men and women of the travelling show travel the length and breadth of the country, so how do their children manage to attend school? SAMANTHA JEFFERSON went on the road to fnd out.