Scone TAFE campus sale is concerning for future of agricultural education in NSW, says teacher | Ralph-Lauren

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A veteran teacher has raised concerns about the New South Wales government’s plans to sell a specialist rural TAFE campus, warning you cannot properly learn key agriculture skills from books or online.

Bob Sim has been teaching the Certificate IV Farrier course at Scone TAFE for 25 years.

“This is not just a thing you can teach online,” he said.

He urged the government to abandon its plan to sell the campus.

“If they’re going to do it to us, how many more are they going to do it to?” Mr Sim said.

The only other TAFE that delivers the farrier course in NSW is Sydney’s Richmond TAFE campus.

New learning model proposed

The member for the Upper Hunter, Michael Johnsen, said courses could be offered through the new TAFE NSW Connected Learning Centre (CLC) in the Scone CBD, with practical training on local farms.

He also said a condition of sale included a lease-back arrangement for approximately three years so courses could continue on-site.

“The existing courses remain, the existing staff remain,” Mr Johnsen said.

Man hits a molten horseshoe with a hammer held above an anvil.
Teachers at Scone TAFE fear losing their custom-built facilities, including the farrier shed.(ABC Upper Hunter: Bridget Murphy)

Bob Sim said the proposed new learning method simply was not practical.

“We have all the anvils here, the steel, the forges,” he said.

“They’re all specific and on-site to teach these guys to forge and shape [horse] shoes.”

Interest stronger than ever

Applications and enrolments for agriculture courses are at a high across Australia.

An exterior shot of Scone TAFE with 2 Flemington Drive in the foreground.
The Scone TAFE campus in the NSW Upper Hunter has been listed for sale.(ABC Upper Hunter: Jake Lapham)

TAFE NSW Managing Director, Steffen Faurby, said he “can guarantee” TAFE meets demand for courses after the Scone facility is sold.

“We know that most employers, including the studs in the area, have a preference for us using work placement.

“The students get into a real-life environment, and they get as real training as possible.”

Wider impacts

Man pouring powder on a molten horseshoe resting on an anvil.
The Scone campus is the only TAFE that offers farrier courses in Regional NSW.(ABC Upper Hunter: Bridget Murphy)

Mayor of neighbouring Muswellbrook Shire, Martin Rush, worried that selling the Scone TAFE could see courses for several agriculture-related industries disappear from the region.

“I’m talking about things like wool classing, for example, or abattoir skills.

“If they remove TAFE, the affordable public deliverer of agricultural-specialist services … it will be a retrograde step.”

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