The NSW Nationals in Government have announced a plan to get public boarding school students back into their dormitory facilities after weeks of learning from home.

Until recently, boarding schools had been unable to return all of their students to full-time face-to-face learning due to Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) guidelines, which outlined that students must either be accommodated in single rooms or a dormitory occupied at no more than 25 per cent of its previous capacity.

NSW Nationals Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell said this meant only Year 11 and Year 12 boarders were able to return to Yanco Agricultural High School, and only 152 of the 320 boarders at Farrer Memorial Agricultural High School.

“Whilst students at Farrer and Yanco have still been able to learn remotely, the NSW Nationals in Government understand how critical it is to get them back in the classroom and back to a sense of normality,” Ms Mitchell said.

“To ensure equity of learning opportunity for the students unable to return to the Farrer boarding facilities, the Government has been able to secure single ensuite accommodation at the Tamworth Flying School, which is operated by the Tamworth Regional Council.

“This accommodation perfectly meets all of the Department’s requirements for security, wifi provision, a health centre, catering and recreation facilities; it was a no-brainer.”

For students at Yanco Agricultural High School, the fast tracking of pre-planned renovations at some of the boarding facilities and adjustments to other existing dormitories such as the installation of partition walls will allow for a staged return for all students.

“I know how important it is to get all of our country kids – no matter where they live – back into the classroom, so I am thrilled we were able to look at infrastructure modifications at Yanco to fast-track their return.”

Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell

NSW Nationals Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson said he was relieved boarding students at Farrer were able to join day students back at school and resume face-to-face learning.

“I have heard from a number of parents eager for their children to return to school, and thanks to some quick and creative thinking the Government has found a solution,” Mr Anderson said.

“I’m grateful we have been able to take a negative situation with the Flying School sitting empty due to COVID-19 and turn that into a positive for the community and students.”