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Privatised to death

Monday, 21st December, 2015

Government policy ‘wrecks country TAFE’

A teachers’ union says an upper house inquiry into vocational education and training has done little to reverse the “destruction” of the NSW TAFE.

The general purpose standing committee inquiry into vocational education and training (VET) released its report last week, listing 25 recommendations.

The six-month inquiry report did not, however, call for the scrapping of the government’s contentious “Smart and Skilled” reforms.

Teachers’ Federation president, Maurie Mulheron, said teachers, students and their families would be bitterly disappointed that their concerns had been largely ignored.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence that the privatisation of the VET sector is failing students and the community, the inquiry ignored the root cause,” Mr Mulheron said.

He said TAFE NSW has had its budget cut by almost half as a result of the introduction of contestable funding, with much of the money re-directed to “dodgy” private colleges.

Under this policy, private companies may receive government money to deliver courses that TAFE teaches. 

The policy has resulted in the sacking of more than 4600 TAFE teachers and support staff since 2012, courses being axed and increased student fees.

“The level of funding that is now contestable is growing exponentially each year and has led to huge inequalities, rising student debt and the loss of course provision.

“The inquiry recognised this but only recommended weak protections for some isolated rural and remote areas.”

In its report the committee said it received compelling evidence that the contestable training market under Smart and Skilled “is not working” for country towns. 

It suggested the government consider placing a cap on the level of contestable funding for areas where there was limited training providers.

It also recommended additional funding be allocated to TAFE institutes that operated in these so-called ‘thin markets’, and that annual reviews be carried out to identify those markets and their funding needs.

Shadow Minister for Skills, David Harris, said the inquiry report confirmed the government was putting “quick profits for shoddy providers” before the interests of students.

He said the report confirmed that fees were too high, that teacher positions have been cut drastically and that enrolments have fallen.

“It’s a disaster that is entirely of the Government’s own making.

“The situation has been made all the worse by the disastrous failed IT program that resulted in students being unable to enrol, receive marks for course work, and pay their fees or even graduate.

“The public expects that TAFE is properly supported as the number one provider of vocational education.

“It’s clearly not too late for the Baird Government to significantly change direction and ensure our vocational education system restores the position of TAFE, supports quality RTOs through restricted contestability thereby promoting quality outcomes for students instead of quick profits for shady providers.”

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