The Federation is deeply concerned that the Department will allow private providers to compete with TAFE for the external provision of a range of Board of Studies Teacher Education Standards Vocational and Education and Training Courses.
The estimated value of the tender for all of the courses is $200 million.
Indications of the move emerged in the Department’s proposal of “a “procurement event, due for public release on 31/3/2016”.
Media reports over several years of “rorts” by some private providers suggest that this is a risky move. Many private VET providers are badly regulated and have inferior facilities and teaching standards and poor completion rates.
Through the tender process the Department will identify a panel of providers across 10 major industry areas. TAFE will have to compete with private providers to be part of the “panel” of providers.
Schools will then have to choose providers from the panel to deliver EVET (externally-delivered VET for secondary school students) courses. The tender states that courses will be delivered in “facilities meeting industry standards and/or flexibly using a range of technologies”. Clearly, this includes online learning. There is also a requirement to have “help desk facilities” to support both the system and the students.
At present, schools fund the delivery of TVET (TAFE-delivered VET) courses through a process where the Department deducts a portion of the funding from the school’s staffing entitlement to cover the cost of the courses. The number of students attending TVET courses from a school results in a reduction of the school’s staffing entitlement.
In this context, Federation’s Careers Advisors Special Interest Group (SIG) has raised serious concerns about EVET provision by private providers, with questions over:
- supervision and ongoing monitoring of students undertaking online or other non-face-to-face courses in private providers’ facilities and/or in schools
- student safety and the providers’ compliance with Work Health and Safety Standards and other legislative requirements including child protection issues
- supervision and ongoing monitoring of students during both work placements and normal course delivery
- graduate outcomes and course completion rates for students
- the ability to meet BOSTES requirements through so-called “flexible delivery”
- access and support for students with disabilities and/or special needs
- the increased workload associated with enrolment, monitoring and BOSTES entry requirements for students in these courses.
In addition to these concerns it is clear that the government’s Smart and Skilled policy, which has created a “new policy model” for TAFE courses, has already had an impact on the availability of TVET courses.
Students who begun a two-year TVET course this year have not been affected by the changes. Schools are reporting, however, that most students have only been able to access one TVET course. In previous years, many students were able to access more than one course.
The changes imposed under Smart and Skilled in 2016 have forced TAFE colleges to examine their capacity to deliver TVET under the new pricing model; a number of TVET courses are no longer being offered by TAFE despite being in demand by school students.
It is unclear whether the funding available under the procurement process will be sufficient to offer the same number, range and quality of courses.
It is also likely that TAFE will be unable to compete with low-cost, low-quality private providers in the tender process. This will force schools to further consider in-school arrangements for students.
The effect of the changes will be monitored by Federation together with the VET SIG and Careers Advisors SIG.
Issues raised will be followed up in meetings with the Department, focusing on the impact of the procurement policy and Smart and Skilled in terms of school students’ access to TVET courses this year and issues arising from tendering out EVET provision in 2017.
Federation will also hold meetings with TAFE to discuss the importance ensuring high-quality vocational education and training for NSW high school students.
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