Government admits to drop in TAFE enrolments

NSW Budget Estimates hearings have revealed a further drop in TAFE enrolments, when Minister for TAFE Adam Marshall faced difficult questions about his government’s failed Smart and Skilled policy.

Mr Marshall had attempted to hide the drop in TAFE enrolments by not following the normal practice of publishing them in this year’s NSW Budget papers.

During Estimates hearings in Sydney on 5 September, Mr Marshall was forced to admit that TAFE enrolments had dropped by 13 per cent in the past year. Thattranslates to 72,105 fewer students getting access to high-quality vocational education.

The Smart and Skilled policy was introduced in 2015, and has been a disaster for TAFE students, teachers and local communities.

The fact that the Liberal/National Government attempted to hide the real enrolment figures is further proof that the Smart and Skilled voucher system of funding has failed.

Budget Estimates also highlighted a $40 million waste TAFE has had to incur due to its forced transfer to the Department of Industry. The Berejiklian Government made the decision to rip TAFE out of the Department of Education as part of the introduction of the Smart and Skilled disaster.

The $40 million would have been better spent on TAFE students’ education than wasted on transferring 300 department systems.

While TAFE students, teachers and support staff are facing the chaos caused by the failed government policy, the Minister has been traveling to country towns wasting more money on lavish public relations events at openings of Connected Learning Centres and Skill Points.

The Minster must start solving the enormous problems facing TAFE teachers and support staff. The focus should be on increasing the volume of learning for our students by funding increased hours of delivery. Mr Marshall must immediately replace the failed EBS student management system and relieve our members of the software that is not fit for purpose.

Federation calls on the Minister to reintroduce state funding for TAFE diploma students and stop forcing students to take federal VET student loans.

Federation has been advised that TAFE NSW will be short $200 million in 2018 due to the dramatic drop in students taking loans for diplomas. The loan system is broken, rorted by greedy private companies and must be replaced by guaranteed funding for TAFE students.

Mr Marshall also needs to focus on fixing the problems caused by the introduction of ONE TAFE restructuring. The idea of centralising TAFE management and reducing duplication has been poorly implemented and our members are continually contacting Federation about the systems and new delegation problems caused by the ONE TAFE restructure.

The Minister must reverse the increased casualisation of teaching and appoint more permanent teachers, which will assist in alleviating the workloads felt by teaching sections and particularly TAFE head teachers.

He must also increase support for teaching sections in the endless auditing being undertaken by Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA), Training Services NSW and internal quality assurance. Members cannot maintain quality education and skills development with the current complexity of auditing.

The Minister should reject the current TAFE Disability Support review and guarantee that no teacher consultants for students with a disability are made redundant.

Federation will continue to seek consultation with the Minister to fix the problems caused since the introduction of the failed Smart and Skilled policy.