Reimagining VET through expansive public education provision

Federation Senior Vice President Amber Flohm told Annual Conference that ‘opportunities to reimagine the provision of vocational education with the expansion of public education were upon us.’

Announced on 27 June the NSW government prefaced the underpinnings of the Review of Vocational Education and Training as ‘The Review is a NSW Government commitment to restore TAFE to be the best it can, and re-skill NSW’.

Ms Flohm said ‘it provides great possibilities to address issues long plaguing high school VET teachers where the pressures of workload, constant upgrading of training, new curriculums, compliance paperwork and adherence to multiple regulatory administrative requirements etcetera, are ultimately making the teaching of VET most unattractive and narrowing curriculum offerings for our students, outcomes no one wants’.

“That review will bring us a long way to achieving what we need to do in vocational education and training (VET),” she said.

“It’s a vision that could see VET teachers in high schools teach alongside their TAFE teacher colleagues in either schools or TAFEs and ensure our students have access to publicly provided vocational education wherever there is demand, from the smallest country town to the largest of metropolitan locations – what an amazing team they’ll be,” Ms Flohm said.

Qualifications, micro credentialing and the commodification of curriculum through competency based curriculum, as they relate to vocational education, were also reported on by Ms. Flohm.

The terms of reference of the VET review include:

  • rebuilding a strong and sustainable TAFE at the centre of the NSW vocational education system
  • a NSW Skills Plan will be developed in parallel and informed by outcomes of the Review
  • better meet VET and TAFE workforce needs – including addressing teacher shortages, teacher qualifications and teacher career progression
  • examine and recommend adjustments to TAFE recurrent funding and community obligation funding, including other funding sources, pricing and student loans models to ensure different learners and locations are best supported
  • examining best practice of specific TAFE education and training in areas, including supporting students with disability, personal and career counselling, outreach, multicultural and CALD students, corrective services and other equity education provision
  • improving equity, access, literacy, numeracy and language pathways and support
  • defining the role and expectations of TAFE clearly within the system, and across the state
  • recommend opportunities to optimise and collaborate on VET infrastructure, equipment and delivery, and explore improved models for capital investment for TAFE.

Federation will prepare a comprehensive submission to the review.

The vision

Ms Flohm outlined a vision for a high-quality, publicly funded and supported vocational education system in NSW, which was adopted by delegates:

  • demand the only Registered Training Organisation (RTO) working with public schools in VET will be TAFE, including for students completing school-based apprenticeships and traineeships as part of their HSC
  • support enhanced collaboration between TAFE and school teachers in the expanded public provision of vocational education in schools and TAFE
  • oppose any introduction of microcredentialing in schools through VET courses
  • pursue an amplification of the role of qualified teacher qualifications, curriculum and pedagogy in public education provision of VET
  • continue to oppose competency-based curriculum in vocational education
  • abolish the VET Student Loan system and cancel all TAFE student debt
  • expand the Free TAFE Scheme to all TAFE students, not just current skill shortage areas
  • ensure that the shared enrolment of high school students with TAFE does not reduce the aggregate staffing entitlement of the student’s substantive school
  • support the permanent exemption of any reduction in a school’s staffing entitlement as a result of students participating in school-based apprenticeships and traineeships
  • pursue an increase of the minimum qualification required by TAFE to be no less than diploma level in adult education, or another recognised education field. That teachers who do not hold a qualification at this level be supported by TAFE to obtain it.

TAFE funding

Conference asserted TAFE must be restored to its rightful place as the centrepiece of vocational education, and not be relegated to the status of just another provider in the training market. TAFE NSW has been slowly starved of funding and now only receives the same $1.8 billion in funding it received in 2011.

Deputy Secretary (Post Schools) Phill Chadwick said the vocational education and training review “gives us the opportunity to take out what remains of the flawed policies of the former Morrison and former Perrottet governments in the form of our arch nemesis, contestable funding”. Contestable funding is a voucher system where public education funding follows the student rather than recurrent funding allocation to TAFE NSW. The funding is dependent on student completions.

“We must hold NSW Labor accountable for their pre-election commitments, but unless we get rid of Smart and Skilled, there will be no 70 per cent guarantee of funding,” Mr Chadwick said. “Unless we get rid of contestable funding there can be no genuine negotiations for TAFE salary justice. Unless we end contestable funding, we cannot reverse the plague of insecure work for our casual part-time TAFE teachers. Smart and Skilled has to go.”

Campaign strategy

Annual Conference endorsed the development of a detailed targeted strategy to continue to expand campaign efforts, including concerted efforts to abolish student loans, wipe student debt and ensure that all TAFE provision is free and not just contained to skill shortage areas.

Federation will work to formulate the campaign in conjunction with other unions, Australian Education Union branches and peak groups where appropriate, to draw together the widest possible base of support to achieve Federation’s policy objectives.

‘Continuing to work with the NSW government’s Ministers Car and Crakanthorp, and through the Department of Education and TAFE NSW, to achieve our aims for the betterment of public education, its teachers, schools, TAFEs and the communities they serve, was Federation’s ultimate objective’ Ms Flohm concluded.