LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Nothing beats TAFE’s practical touch

TAFE helped my brother whose energy at high school went into sports but his academic results were woeful. He completed an electrical fitter’s certificate course and worked in the trade for many years. Finally he began a business of his own and made double the money my sister and I both made during our working lives as primary school teachers.

TAFE has always been an essential tool for tradespeople. It is criminal to make it expensive. We must make it accessible to all our young people. The opportunities it creates outweigh any cost to the government.

The taxes and GST these people pay during their working lives far outweigh the cost of educating them.

Ideally, TAFE should be free and compulsory for all school leavers. We need a skilled workforce and TAFE admirably fulfils this need.

My daughter completed the HSC with an average result. She decided that university would be too hard so went off to TAFE to do graphic design. She thoroughly enjoyed the comprehensive course which developed all the skills she would need as a graphic designer. She especially appreciated all the practical workshops where she learned how to use the many complex computer programs used in the design industry.

When she completed her certificate course with excellent results she had the confidence she needed to tackle university (which her parents felt would make getting a job easier and get her more pay).

We were all very surprised when the university course turned out to be far more theoretical and the computer programs were never “taught”. She helped many of the kids who had not been to TAFE to understand the programs so they could complete assignments.

I feel that Michelle was able to walk into a job in graphic design straight out of university because she had the best of both worlds: the practical side of TAFE and the refined theory of university.

When she had been at Foxtel magazine for three years she was headhunted by New Idea and given a promotion and better pay. I believe that without her TAFE certificate she would not be in such a strong position in the workforce.

Irene Helderman
Retired

Thanks for back pay effort

I’d like to express my gratitude to the Officers in the Industrial/Research section and all people concerned for their successful resolution of the back pay claim for executive staff in the Saturday School of Community Languages. We were never going to get all the money owed us but Federation stuck out for the best deal possible. Despite the large chunk of tax taken out, the money I received from the settlement will go a long way to fulfilling my disabled son’s wish to visit San Francisco and ride the cable cars.

R. Linkiewicz
Woolooware HS

Consider the many

I fully endorse Alan Torrens’ comments regarding the Teachers Health Fund paying rebates for homeopathy (“Fund wastes money on homeopathy”, Letters, July 27) when there is no evidence base to support this.

These funds could be used to increase rebates in areas where there exists evidence regarding the positive benefits of a service. It is time the health fund considered its wider members.

Gordon Broadhead
Casual

A rich and full life as a TAFE art graduate

I am an honours graduate from the Art Diploma Course at the old East Sydney Technical College (now National Art School). Not only did I do a five-year full-time course, but it was 36 weeks a year and 30 hours a week (in the 1950s), double what it is now.

The fees ranged from £6–17 per year — that is, if we did not win one of the many scholarships then offered. The training was excellent, with talented professional artists who combined to offer an in depth course.

I went on to become a professional artist and the qualifications gained from TAFE enabled me to become a full-time teacher in TAFE NSW. I then became a senior head of a large TAFE art school with a staff of 80 including seven full-time teachers (Meadowbank TAFE).

TAFE art students over the years have had successful careers in art-related roles such as art gallery staff, newspaper graphics, art travel guides, art material advisors, art archive restoration, primary and secondary art education etc.

Now, in my retirement from TAFE, I am a full-time artist with a professional gallery and studio. I continue to give freely of my skills to many artists and also young artists who can no longer afford the large TAFE fees (even if they can find a TAFE art college in this reduced option climate).

Please help to save TAFE.

Jocelyn Maughan
Retired

Money talks but says nothing

In response to Tony Morrissey’s comments (“Mike Baird, history-maker gone wrong”, Letters, July 27) about the repercussions of the state government’s Smart and Skilled program on TAFE, its students and teachers , I attended a Careers Expo at Moore Park in Sydney.

The expo was filled with private providers encouraging students to take on courses that did not require obtaining an ATAR; some called it a gap year — it was like “Yes, you can enrol in this course and if you pass that well then we can enrol you in our other classes”.

Whilst I understand the ATAR does not always need to be a necessity, a gap year to see if you can handle study — interesting.

While talking to these private providers, I would then ask how much a particular course cost. Interestingly, no one knew. What they did say is that it could be paid for through VET FEE-HELP. The fact that a student who enrols in a course on that basis would find s/he has to pay back $9000 over time was clearly not information the providers thought was important to convey.

I’m going to ask permission to reproduce Tony’s letter and put it into our local regional paper.

You should too. It clearly shows how education is about money-making.

Melina Ragusa
Griffith HS

The same rules apply

The cry from coastal communities that sharks have to be controlled or eliminated from the water at surfing beaches occurs every time there is a shark attack.

There is a strong and easily recognised analogy to be drawn with that problem for pedestrians being killed or injured when crossing the street.

Stepping off the footpath onto a busy street is no different to diving into the ocean from the shore.

In both cases, responsibility will fall on the individual making such a decision, and must always include a consideration of any likely outcome.

In each case there is a very obvious and perceived threat to personal safety.

No one yet has called for vehicles to be culled from the streets to reduce that threat to personal safety.

Bill Barwood
Retired

Part pension rules blow

In late June, a bill passed the Lower House and Senate in Canberra that has a detrimental financial impact on a retiree receiving a defined benefit superannuation scheme (SSS) pension who also receives a part Commonwealth Aged Pension.

My understanding is that under the rules prior to the change, defined benefit pension recipients received a discount amount to establish their assessable Centrelink pension eligibility, equivalent to the percentage proportion of their service prior to the SSS defined benefit Superannuation scheme being closed off in 1983.

This discount amount has now been changed to a blanket 10 per cent for all recipients.

The outcome of this change means that tens of thousands of defined benefit scheme retiree couples in receipt of a part aged pension will see their part pension cut from January 1, 2016 by $200–$250 per week — a cut of about $10,000 a year per household or, in real terms, about a 15 to 20 per cent drop in disposable income overnight.

Many retirees have made financial decisions based on the rules that were in place when they retired, which included the eligibility of a partial Commonwealth aged pension as part of their decision on whether to take a lump sum, a partial defined benefit pension and part lump sum or a full defined benefit pension.

The retrospectivity of this change, selectively applied to those electing a part defined benefit pension and part Commonwealth Aged pension, means that these plans are now destroyed, with no ability for these retirees to change their original decision.

I am hoping this letter alerts many readers to the impact of this change, avoiding them receiving a rude shock in early January 2016. I also ask what actions Federation is taking about this matter in light of its blatant attack on those in the community who can least afford it.

Garry Grant
Life Member

Carbon copy

Cuts to HSC TAFE courses an educational crime

Sydney Morning Herald

I have worked as a teacher in TAFE for 25 years. The decline in the past two years has been dramatic, driven by a government determined to privatise education in the training sector.

Under the Smart and Skilled policy, the entry of private providers has been accompanied by redundancies of full-time permanent teachers and a dumbing down of qualifications; TAFE fees have increased while funding has decreased.

Private providers are profit-driven and therefore employ the cheapest people to deliver the courses. TAFE has always delivered training packages that have value. Students receive additional support to complete their studies.

I teach in the HSC program at Randwick TAFE where cost-cutting has reduced our delivery hours by 33 per cent this year. Our students are those who could not finish the HSC at school for a variety of reasons; they are often disadvantaged and need support and very dedicated staff to finish their credential.

Last year, we had 168 hours to deliver a year 12 subject. This year, we have 112 hours to deliver a year 11 and year 12 subject (combined) to our vulnerable students. This is an educational crime. Second chance education is important for all of our children.

I cannot understand why governments do not support TAFE, a quality public education and training provider, and why the many managers in TAFE fight harder to cut costs rather than preserve quality.

Erin Petersen
Randwick TAFE College

Piccoli's teacher plan a laughing stock

Sydney Morning Herald

The Education Minister Adrian Picolli says teachers in NSW will be offered 20 hours a year of professional development, or 30 minutes a week, in order to improve educational standards and consequently improve NAPLAN results for students (“NSW still years behind world’s best: Piccoli”, August 19). The Finns, seen as the benchmark for high quality education, would be laughing.

In Finland, the school day finishes two hours earlier than in Australia, and two hours a day are set aside for teachers to collaborate, reflect on, plan and undergo professional development. In Singapore, time is set aside for teachers to research, collaborate and investigate educational issues arising from their practice.

When the minister suggests that 30 minutes a week is sufficient for teachers to undergo high-quality professional development, and time to research, implement and evaluate their teaching, and their students’ progress, no wonder results are flatlining in high schools. I might add that much of the professional development on offer now must be paid for by teachers themselves, and attended in their own time. Not really a groundbreaking solution for complex educational problems is it?

Vanessa Tennent
Oatley

Sydney Morning Herald

I trust the Education Minister will be attending all future sessions of parliament to help lift our educational performance.

John de Bres
Fort Street HS