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Management changes and compliance red tape hindering students and teachers
The recent resignation of TAFE Managing Director Dr Caralee McLiesh just nine months after the previous Managing Director moved on has highlighted the problems facing TAFE, its students, teachers and communities.
In a turbulent recent history, TAFE has had four managing directors since 2016, four state ministers responsible for TAFE since 2015, more than 7500 qualified and experienced TAFE teachers have gone though resignation, retirement or redundancy since 2013.
A symptom of the chaos caused by failed government policy during this period is the untenable workload inflicted on TAFE teachers.
Federation continues to demand workload issues be addressed by TAFE management. The growth of overprescriptive compliance red tape must stop to allow teachers to focus on teaching and educating our students to gain skills for work and life.
Federation continues to campaign to restore TAFE as the pre-eminent provider of vocational education in NSW.
The key aim of the campaign is community awareness and support through public forums. Back in October 2017, the Australian Education Union hosted a conference, “Future of Public TAFE Institutions — New Social Policy”, at Federation’s Auditorium in Surry Hills, which considered what TAFE will look like in the future, as anchor institutions in local communities to help people realise their aspirations.
During 2018 and 2019, Federation held community forums focused on key issues of the needs of TAFE students with disability, as well as the specific needs of rural, regional and metropolitan communities such as the Central Coast, South Coast and Western Sydney.
In March 2019, Federation hosted a roundtable with teachers, academics and political leaders to discuss rejuvenation of the public education provider. Speakers called for TAFE to be the anchor of our vocational education system. This requires a new policy framework that secures guaranteed funding for the TAFE system and involves local communities, regions and industries.
During the past 30 years, the TAFE system has suffered from damaging government policies at both state and national levels, however the roundtable participants were enthusiastic about the prospect of fortunes shifting in TAFE’s favour.
Student voucher systems such as Smart and Skilled have seen declining educational quality, neglect of teaching knowledge and learning, and a focus on compliance and qualification. Government policy increasing tax funding to dodgy private training organisations is driving the vocational education system into a race to the bottom.
Professor Leesa Wheelahan (Toronto University) stated at the roundtable that funding to modernise TAFE with social inclusion must be a central goal. Competency-based training must be replaced with a capabilities approach, with increased funding to develop curriculum, not narrow training packages. The 30-year marketisation policies have not worked.
Dr Don Zoellner (Charles Darwin University) was highly critical of the NSW vocational education policy that has seen Government-funded training hours decreased. Smart and Skilled aimed to increase access for local students.; this current NSW Government policy has failed, with student enrolments declining.
Local communities that were meant to benefit from the government funding, where TAFE has had to compete against other low quality providers, has seen local students lose courses. Some towns have even seen their college close.
Both federal and state governments’ response to the failure of the vocational education policy has been to increase the power of auditors and introduce new levels of compliance from the Australian Skills Quality Authority and Training Services NSW. Extra compliance has seen increased student assessment and reduced teaching and learning; new requirements with increased administration of recording qualifications (continual unnecessary upgrade of professional and teaching qualifications); and an audit focus on volume of training and amount of teaching. All these measures have taken teachers away from developing educational programs for students and increased the compliance administrative workload.
Since 2014, TAFE has faced cuts to delivery hours; increased teacher-student ratios; redundancies, resignations and casualisation; reduced administration support; and head teacher positions deleted. Compounding these policies is an increased compliance workload and years of funding cuts which impacts teachers’ health.
Teachers have also been told to remediate their delivery and assessment with increased teaching, while there is no extra funding from Smart and Skilled. These conflicting requirements are not the responsibility of teaching sections, but chaos caused by policy confusion.
Federation continues to lobby against this avalanche of Australian Skills Quality Authority compliance workload. This includes pushing back the update for the Cert IV TAE reimbursement payment for members, and support for individual members.
We now call on the new Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, Geoff Lee, to ensure future TAFE leaders have clear focus on quality education for skill development, not compliance administration driving increased teacher workload and meaningless red tape.