A CENTRAL coast high school has become the first in NSW to enter a formal partnership with a mining company in a bid to boost the quality of the workforce.
Narara Valley High will tweak parts of its curriculum for years 7 to 10 to have school leavers better equipped for the booming coal industry.
However, the teachers' union warned the concept was ''fraught with dangers'', including a less rigorous teaching of climate change and the threat of ''typecasting'' children from mining areas as miners.
Hunter Valley-based Nucoal Resources, which owns the controversial Doyles Creek training mine - the licence for which is subject of the Ian Macdonald-Eddie Obeid inquiry at the Independent Commission Against Corruption - will sink tens of thousands of dollars into the formation of a Mining Academy of Education at Narara, near Gosford.
Nucoal's director of training, Maree Roberts, a former Education Department executive for the Hunter and central coast, said mining companies had been concerned for some time about the numeracy skills of school leavers.
She said the area had a large percentage of maths teachers who had trained in other subjects. As a result, Nucoal would provide coaching and mentoring for teachers when the academy begins midyear.
Science and maths classes would have a greater focus on mining.
For instance, a class on global trade would use the example of coal exports rather than the traditional wool trade.
Students would also be taught the key mining concept of yield per tonne.
Ms Roberts said about 40 Queensland schools had partnered with mining companies as part of the Queensland Minerals and Energy Academy.
The principal of Narara High, Andrew Eastcott, said the program would give some students a better chance of finding base-level mining jobs but would also give gifted students a focus for a career in engineering or geology.
''It will provide motivation for the top academic kids and allow them to set some goals early,'' he said.
But the teachers' union warned of the dangers of losing a ''rounded education'' by bringing corporations inside the school gate.
The NSW Teachers Federation president, Maurie Mulheron, said schools should be producing ''critical citizens not job-ready miners''.
''The whole thing is fraught with dangers,'' Mr Mulheron said. ''Take climate change, for example - the mining industry has in its interests the promotion of burning fossil fuels.
''I'd be very suspicious of any corporation wanting to get into schools. I suspect the real motivation here is a PR exercise.''
If the Mining Academy of Education concept is successful at Narara, Nucoal plans to expand it to other schools in the Hunter and central coast.