Boarding school students across the country are heading home early to farms and outback cattle stations amid uncertainty over the coronavirus outbreak. Beverley farmer Alan Sattler is more than happy to have his 14-year-old son Henry home on the farm. With a busy rock-picking schedule, the youngster will be also be learning online.
Most farmers would know a thing or two about keeping kids busy and helping them learn outside the confines of four school walls.
But more children than usual will be helping out at family farms this week with nearly all Perth boarding schools closing to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Beverley farmer Alan Sattler is one parent happy to put his son to good use on the farm — in between schoolwork, of course.
His 14-year-old son Henry was one of more than 100 boarding students sent home from Guildford Grammar last week after it closed its boarding facilities on Friday.
Students and families were advised via email just two days before the closure after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said boarding houses were “at high risk of transmission”.
At the time of print on Tuesday, Guildford Grammar’s day school remained open and some senior boarders were staying with family or guardians and attending as day students.
Henry arrived back at the farm on Thursday, but the Year 9 student’s return is far more help than hindrance with Mr Sattler unable to “do some of the things he used to” after a bad car accident last year. Mr Sattler said he and his wife Jo would be able to accommodate Henry’s schooling and joked the upside was that they now had “a month of free labour”.
“I think it is fair enough, the last thing you want is kids locked up in boarding houses,” he said.
“He will still get some formal online education in place, but from home. But hey, you can’t get any better education than farm work.”
Mr Sattler said rock picking would be the first job on the list for Henry, followed by using the airseeder when the Sattlers start an early seeding season on April 1.
The arrival back on family farms of dozens of students comes just weeks before seeding is set to begin across WA and fears about seasonal worker shortages intensify.
Members of WA’s grains industry are facing a battle to find staff due to travel restrictions.
While Guildford was the first elite boarding school in the State to close its facilities, it is unlikely to be the last.
While public schools are expected to keep face-to-face classes running until at least the end of term on April 9, nearly all independent schools have been getting around the government’s requirement to keep schools operational by leaving their doors open but moving all lessons online.
The children of essential workers, such as doctors, nurses and teachers, will complete online lessons at school. Principals’ groups reported that, on average, 50 per cent of public school students were absent on Tuesday.
Henry Sattler, 14, is a Year 9 student who boards at Guildford Grammar School and is back home on the farm in Beverley with his family, including his father Alan Sattler.