TAFE’s future threatened

Jared Beaman

TAFE NSW faces potential staff cuts and shortened course hours if incoming ‘Smart and Skilled’ budget cuts are implemented, according to Australian Education Union and TAFE Teachers Association Federation representative for Muswellbrook, Michael Dyer.

“In January 2015 a new funding model for TAFE NSW is coming in called ‘Smart and Skilled’ and it will mean less money for TAFE which will impact on the funding available to deliver lessons,” explained Michael. “This will lead to a decrease in face to face delivery hours meaning that students will have less classroom time with a teacher compared to what they currently receive.

“It will also mean that because teachers are delivering fewer hours for each particular course there will be fewer teachers required to deliver these hours,” he said.

The ‘Smart and Skilled’ program for 2015 is a restructuring of the NSW vocational education and training system and will come into practice on January 1. However a recent bill, originally proposed by Greens New South Wales in State Parliament’s Legislative Council, is looking to diminish the potentially harmful impact that the program will have on TAFE NSW.

“The NSW Greens proposed a bill in the State Parliament Upper House to put a moratorium on TAFE funding at 2010-2011 levels so to keep funding as it was almost three years ago,” said Michael. “The Labour party and the New South Wales Shooters and Fishers party voted for this bill and it passed the New South Wales Upper House.

“On the 18th of September it went to the NSW Lower House to be voted on and was delayed. If it had of been passed then it would have become a legal requirement.”

The bill is known as the ‘TAFE Changes Moratorium (Secure Future for Public Provision of Vocational Education and Training) Act 2014’ and, among other goals, seeks to maintain government funding at no less than the 2010–2011 level (with adjustments for inflation) and to ensure that current and future course fee’s do not exceed the costs from July 1, 2010 (with adjustments for inflation).

The ‘TAFE Changes Moratorium Act 2014’ was passed by the Legislative Council on Thursday June 19, 2014 and sent to the Lower House for concurrence. However, it was delayed by the in power NSW Liberal-National government and will return for consideration at a later date.

Many supporters of the ‘TAFE Changes Moratorium Act’ expect the introduction of the ‘Smart and Skilled’ program to negatively impact TAFE campuses right around the state, including locally.

In recent years, TAFE New England has seen approximately 28 job cuts and increased course fees. This has impacted upon valuable local campuses such as Tamworth and Quirindi TAFE.

The majority of backers for the ‘TAFE Changes Moratorium’ bill believe that ‘Smart and Skilled’ will only deteriorate the situation.

“Scone TAFE in the Hunter TAFE Institute is losing teachers from Equine and Agricultural studies next year because of the impact of the funding cuts under Smart and Skilled,” said Michael.

Australian Education Union and the TAFE Teachers Association Federation are among the foremost unions working to promote the defence of Australia’s TAFE system. They encourage members of the public to support TAFE NSW in this matter.

“I’d ask community members to contact their local National party member – the Hon. Mr George Souris, member for the Upper Hunter and the Hon. Mr Kevin Anderson, member for Tamworth – and ask them to vote yes and support the NSW TAFE funding moratorium bill,” concluded Michael.

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