BOARDING school students from regional areas will now have better opportunities to cross state lines to return home for school holidays thanks to a new code of conduct.
Agreed to by all of the states' Premiers during last Friday's National Cabinet meeting, the new code will provide consistent border regulations for students to return home during COVID-19-enforced border closures.
The decision comes as school holidays begin in several states and after months of lobbying by several educational groups including the Isolated Children's Parents' Association (ICPA), which had been fighting to help families reunite and help limit the mental stress caused by border closures.
"ICPA federal and state councils across Australia pulled together and we all worked tirelessly with government to find a solution for rural and remote families, following prolonged border restrictions that have seen interstate boarding students separated from their homes and families in the bush," ICPA Australia president Alana Moller said.
"For many rural and remote students, boarding school is a standard means of accessing education, especially in the middle and senior years.
"Providing long-term, nationally-consistent guidelines for families whose students must traverse state borders to access education is essential to temper the uncertainty they've experienced throughout the pandemic."
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ICPA NSW president Claire Butler echoed Ms Moller's sentiments saying that while the decision was too late for some bush kids trying to cross state lines for school holidays, the news was welcome nonetheless.
"We have just had three students come out of hotel quarantine in Victoria and whilst this news is too late for them, we see this code as a way forward that gives people clear rules and a right of appeal," Ms Butler said.
"It has been a very difficult time for our families, sandwiched by three states with three completely different rules and one of the biggest issues was not having a clear contact to deal with in health departments.
"This code brings transparency and certainty, which is very pleasing."
Nationals Senator Perin Davey said the new code would provide states and territories with principles to develop a consistent, national approach to help boarding students and their families travel across intrastate and interstate borders during school holidays and throughout school terms.
"Everyone has had to contend with a lot of uncertainty due restrictions on travel within states, let alone travel across state and territory borders," Ms Davey said.
"But these travel restrictions have left some students effectively stranded with no means of being able to return to their families, adding to the pressure and uncertainty they've been experiencing.
"The mental wellbeing and resilience of these students has been seriously tested and unfortunately, I know some students who have decided to withdraw from school rather than face continued uncertainty.
"This decision recognises the unique circumstances of boarding school students, their families and of boarding schools and their staff."
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