Animal studies

Animal studies is a specialist course intended for students seeking to further their skills in animal industries that are relevant to their local context.

Specialist department-approved elective courses have specific requirements. Due to this, running specialist department-approved elective courses may require substantial investment in areas like staffing, professional learning, school resources, infrastructure, and equipment.

Before considering if Animal studies will be a viable addition to the curriculum in your school, course-specific requirements must be met.


Students in some regional schools have an interest in specific areas that are not covered in the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) courses. The Animal studies course provides the opportunity to extend and develop student interest beyond the scope of the NESA-developed Agricultural Technology syllabus in the specialised fields of Sheep and wool science and Equine studies.


The course develops:

  • an understanding and knowledge of specific animal industries
  • skills and knowledge in the management of a species to meet industry goals
  • safe work practices and management when working with animals
  • an empathy and appreciation for animal wellbeing.

Staffing requirements

Teaching Animal studies requires specialist knowledge, training, and support staff.

Equine studies
  • access to staff with recognised tertiary qualification in an equine course
  • equine management staff.
Sheep and wool science
  • teaching staff with advanced knowledge and understanding of using genetic data to select and breed and manage sheep
  • farm assistant.

School resources

  • Schools must have a property identification code issued by local land services and record all movements using relevant systems.
  • Schools with animals must have a signed Animal Research Authority and follow the guidelines for each species published on Animals in schools.
  • Schools will require specialised facilities, equipment and staff expertise to deliver the different specialised fields in the Animal studies course. An outline is listed below.
Equine studies
  • round yard, fenced riding arena and paddocks
  • stables or covered yards
  • tie up and wash bays
  • automatic drinking troughs
Sheep and wool science
  • enough sheep to prevent overuse
  • suitable yards, race and handler with draft and electronic weighing capability
  • access to Australian Breeding Values for flock
  • shearing and wool management facilities
  • tissue sampling unit, electronic identification reader and worm egg count equipment
  • opportunities to observe artificial insemination and embryo transfer

Work, health and safety considerations

Sheep must be selected for their suitability to the school environment (temperament) and procedures for safe handling understood and followed.

A Horse Suitability Assessment Tool has been developed to assist schools in determining whether horses are suitable for the school environment. This tool must be used every time the horses arrive at the school.

Class sizes

Class sizes for this course are not addressed specifically in the staffing agreement. It is recommended that class sizes should be reduced to ensure the safety of the students.

  • recommend that no class need exceed 24 students for Sheep and wool science.
  • recommend that no class need exceed 20 students for Equine studies
  • when riding horses, it is recommended there be no more than 6 riders per instructor.

Course information for leaders

The Animal studies course has been developed in consultation with schools that previously delivered the course as a school-developed board endorsed course, however, there have been significant changes to the course content and requirements.

Important information:

  • Animal studies may be delivered as a 100 or 200-hour course
  • A set of resources has been published to support the implementation of Animal studies in schools, including
    • course documents
    • sample scope and sequences
    • assessment advice.

Schools may need to consider the following if delivering Animal studies:

  • provision of adequate time for planning and programming
  • resourcing, including
    • staffing
    • new teaching resources and materials
  • budget implications to upskill teachers, including casual release.

The course

Schools must use the Animal studies course document (DOCX 197 KB) to develop educational programs for this course to comply with the Curriculum planning and programming, assessing and reporting to parents K–12 Policy and associated policy standards.

Scope and sequences are flexible documents and may vary according to local school contexts and student cohorts, provided they comply with the course documents.

Undertaking the equine studies focus area requires that any horses being used by students must be suitable for the experience level of the student and be able to function within the school environment. The Horse suitability assessment tool must be used to determine whether a horse is fit for purpose.


Animal studies assessment advice (DOCX 171 KB) is available to assist teachers to select a range of different activities for the purpose of assessing and reporting.

Department-approved elective courses are not eligible for credentialing on the Record of School Achievement (RoSA). Assessment activities should reflect the school's organisation of the course and provide students with opportunities to demonstrate their learning.

Teaching resources

Schools may choose to adapt or modify this content or use other materials suitable to their local context, provided they comply with the course documents.

For more information


  • Teaching and learning


  • Web page

Business Unit:

  • Curriculum and Reform
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