Boarding schools call for border clarity ahead of new school year

TAS, NEGS and NSW Senator Perin Davey call for border clarity ahead of new school year

Coronavirus
Boarding schools will be hoping for clarity from Friday's national cabinet meeting. Photo: Shutterstock

Boarding schools will be hoping for clarity from Friday's national cabinet meeting. Photo: Shutterstock

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A decision around student border exemptions is expected to be made on Friday.

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SOME of the state's most prestigious boarding schools are calling for clarity on COVID-19 border closures ahead of the new school year.

Recent coronavirus outbreaks have forced border closures between Victoria, Queensland and NSW, prompting schools such as The Armidale School (TAS) and New England Girls School (NEGS) to call for action on border exemptions.

A decision on border exemptions for students is expected to be made during Friday's cabinet meeting and TAS head of school Alan Jones said "we hope that whatever is decided upon tomorrow [Friday], it will allow our students from interstate to return easily for the start of the school year."

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"The school continues to monitor the situation closely and we will be very interested in what decisions may come out of the national cabinet meeting tomorrow [Friday]," Mr Jones said.

"Families on both sides of the border are rightly keen for clarity so they can make the appropriate arrangements for returning to school.

"The New England and North West region has been free of the virus for many months now, but the school remains vigilant in providing a COVID-safe environment for those who study, live and work at TAS, including our boarders."

NEGS principal Kathy Bishop echoed the sentiments, saying "having clarity for any closures that may occur is imperative for boarding schools."

"This is very important," Ms Bishop said.

"If closures are to occur, parents will need to consider if they have other options available for their children - moving interstate earlier, staying with families or friends, working with the school to arrange accommodation opportunities.

"Whilst NEGS staff and the parent community were exceptional in their management and organisation of closures and implementing online learning last year, our preference would always be for students to have optimal, quality, face to face learning."

NSW Senator Perin Davey joined the calls for the respective state governments to begin planning for students returning across state borders, saying it was crucial to avoid the confusion experienced at times in 2020.

"Last year it was crazy with students unable to return home or return to school and the uncertainty causing unnecessary stress on students and families alike," Senator Davey said.

"We also had the ridiculous scenario where some small regional schools had their operations thrown into turmoil because they had teachers living on the wrong side of a border - yet less than 50km away.

"We cannot leave the planning for school communities to the last minute.

"Families need to know what they need to do to ensure their children can go to school."

Senator Davey said an uniformed approach to students crossing borders was necessary to ensure all kids were able to return to school.

"The new school year is less than a month away and while I hope border restrictions will have eased by then, we must prepare for the worst now and give families time to plan," she said.

"We have already seen absolute chaos on the NSW-Victorian border because the closure was put in place before some local government area exemptions and agricultural workers permits were devised."

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