Whitehaven Coal partners with Gunnedah High School to boost agricultural studies

POTENTIAL: NSW Governor David Hurley and his wife Linda (centre) view Gunnedah High School's new agricultural site on their regional tour. They are pictured with science head teacher, Karen Cull, Whitehaven's Tim Muldoon, principal Shane Kelly, and agriculture teacher Nicole Dwyer.

POTENTIAL: NSW Governor David Hurley and his wife Linda (centre) view Gunnedah High School's new agricultural site on their regional tour. They are pictured with science head teacher, Karen Cull, Whitehaven's Tim Muldoon, principal Shane Kelly, and agriculture teacher Nicole Dwyer.

Gunnedah High School has been presented with a unique opportunity.

Whitehaven Coal has offered the school some land on Torrens Road so it can expand its agricultural education.

The 11 acres will be an addition to the existing 2.5 acres agricultural plot on the school grounds.

GHS agricultural teacher, Nicole Dwyer said Whitehaven’s Darryl Campbell pitched the idea to her in March.

“He was really excited,” she said.

“He said, ‘We’ve got this land. We’re not doing anything with it. Would you be interested?’ ”

Mrs Dwyer said a number of meetings followed and together, the school and Whitehaven figured out which parcels of land would suit.

“It’s a huge opportunity for us and them for community collaboration and the potential for student outcomes is enormous,” she said.

“What we’re hoping is to set-up a sheep operation where we might start with lambs to begin with and hopefully move into a sheep stud.

“We could do some cropping out there for livestock fodder and maybe put some bees out there; just diversify what we’re doing at school and do it on a larger scale.”

The teacher said agriculture was a “hugely popular subject” at the school and the Year 11 Primary Industries class was completely full, with a second agriculture teacher to be employed to keep up with demand.

“We’re actually turning students away at the moment,” she said.

“We’ve got a huge interest for Year 9 and 10 students coming in. Agriculture is really strong here.

“With the mandatory technical requirements, we’ll have more students coming through, so we’ll end up with nearly two-thirds of the school doing ag, which is really exciting.”

Mrs Dwyer said the new plot would enable students to pursue agriculture in their studies and would be an incentive for Year 9 and 10 students to pick the subject.

“There needs to be a focus on agriculture because it’s such an important part of Australian society to know where our food and fibre comes from,” she said.

“Because we’re in the heart of the Liverpool, it’s really nice to see so much support from the students and the particular in ag.

“I think we’ll go from strength to strength and we can offer what other schools can’t.”

The ag teacher said she was hoping the new plot could be utilised in the new year but “it’s in the hands of the Department of Education at the moment”.

Principal Shane Kelly said after a 12-month trial, Whitehaven may release as much as 100 acres to the school.

“With the land that we get out there, with the potential of getting more in time, we’ll probably start breeding our own cattle as well,” Mrs Dwyer said.

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