More children in regional and remote areas will get to meet the iconic Healthy Harold, thanks to the Nationals in Government.

The Life Education mascot has helped generations of school children learn important health lessons, but they now have an even greater reach with new pop-up inflatable classrooms.

Deputy Premier and NSW Nationals Leader John Barilaro said the Government would commit $191,000 in funding for Life Education to help the organisation purchase three new pop-up inflatable classrooms, hire four new part-time educators in regional communities, and subsidise the cost of classes in the state’s most disadvantaged schools.

“Life Education and its mascot Healthy Harold have for nearly 40 years been part of the fabric of health education in our schools,” Mr Barilaro said. “This funding for the new pop-up classrooms will allow the organisation to reach an extra 5000 children in the first 12 months of the program. The unfortunate truth is that children in regional areas are more likely to be overweight and experiment with drugs and alcohol, and right now, they’re also dealing with the emotional impacts of a devastating drought, so this sort of positive health education could not be more important.”

The new domes, which look like a giant black inflatable igloo, can be erected in about 10 minutes, comfortably fit an entire class, and then fold down to fit in the back of an educator’s car.

Life Education NSW CEO Kellie Sloane said while the organisation would continue to use its fleet of vans to deliver classes across the state, the new pop-up classrooms were much more cost-effective, and could be used in schools that couldn’t accommodate a large vehicle.

“This innovative learning space means we can reach more regional children, faster, and in an exciting and memorable way,” Ms Sloane said. “At about $20,000 each, the domes are approximately one-fifth of the price of a new van, will cost less to maintain, and eliminate rigid towing schedules. The pop-up classroom will still include much-loved features of the van including the stars on the ceiling, touch screens, cutting-edge technologies and of course Healthy Harold.”

Assistant Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said programs like these were invaluable to students in regional NSW.

“Everybody knows how much of an impact a Life Education class can have on a child, and students should not miss out on this opportunity just because they live in regional and remote areas,” Mrs Mitchell said. “I am proud the Nationals in Government continue to partner with organisations like Life Education to ensure that every child – whether they are from Terrigal or Trangie – has access to these kinds of crucial resources.”

The three new domes will visit a variety of areas across regional NSW over the next 12 months including the South Coast, Snowy Mountains, Orana, South West, Mid and Far North Coast, and the North West.

Life Education is Australia’s largest provider of preventative health education in schools, and visits approximately 290,000 NSW students each year.

The Deputy Premier and NSW Nationals’ Bronnie Taylor MLC are also overseeing the roll-out of a series of youth roundtables across regional NSW. The forums, which will be facilitated by the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People, will involve real and raw conversations about drugs, mental health, suicide and unemployment. The conversations will help shape a new Regional Youth Policy.