The Department of Education and Communities (DEC) has responded to issues raised by Federation about unreasonable workload demands faced by many VET teachers.
Federation met with senior Department of Education and Communities officers on April 14 to address concerns raised by VET teachers in a Federation survey and by members of the VET Special Interest Group. At Federation’s request the DEC provided a detailed written response. The letter from Secondary Education Director Sharon Ford has been published in tefed ACTION, in correspondence to members of the Vocational Education and Training SIG and on Federation’s website.
Training and/or updating qualifications and skills
VET teachers have been concerned that they have been required to retrain in skills that they have already demonstrated as fully-qualified teachers, certified trainers and assessors and through industry experience.
The DEC’s letter points out that the level of qualifications for each framework is mandated by the National Training Packages. No school system has any control over the mandated qualifications. Where there are identified gaps in skills between the teacher qualifications in the existing framework and the new framework further training is provided so that the teacher can comply with the mandated requirements.
The Department identified 2013 as an “unusual year … in that large numbers of teachers needed to update their qualifications”. This impacted most on hospitality teachers who had “a range of existing qualifications and needed to update to a consistent qualification base”. This consistent base should make future updates “more straightforward”, Ms Ford wrote.
More importantly, the DEC stated: “The Department is keen to work with the Federation as new training is required in 2014 to see how we can better meet teacher needs, including more personalised face to face training.”
Providing system level support
The Department indicated “every school has been provided with a senior pathways contact to assist them”. In relation to Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) audits and reregistration, two of the DEC’s four registered training organisations (RTOs) have been re-registered without an audit. The DEC’s Tamworth RTO will be audited in semester 2 and schools in this RTO “will be given additional support to prepare for the ASQA audit”.
Ms Ford describes the Department’s Quality Management System (QMS) “as a single source of high quality information and support”. She states that the QMS and the four RTO websites provide resources including assessment tasks, checklists and other resources as well as providing the capacity to safely store assessment items. This work is not complete and there will be ongoing revision and updating.
Managing and storing student assessment items
VET teachers have raised concerns about unreasonable expectations around the retention of evidence in relation to student assessment. Issues included unreasonable amounts of photocopying, scanning and uploading evidence of student competency. The letter states the mandatory ASQA requirements in full.
The Department has clarified that the “decisions about how all student assessment records, including VET assessment records, are stored are the responsibility of each school principal” and that “teachers should be consulted”.
VET teachers have been concerned that scanning and uploading assessment records to the QMS is mandatory. This is not the case. The Department’s response states: “Clearly, while not mandatory, the Department’s QMS system provides a high level of security and confidence for principals and teachers.”
Ms Ford states: “The type of evidence retained is to reflect a teacher’s judgement about whether a competency has been achieved”. The letter states RTOs provide assessment task guides and it is “mandatory to use the validated tasks”.
In addition, the RTO and QMS “will ensure there is communication about what constitutes evidence of achievement of competencies” and “generally this evidence will include a check list of skills … made explicit through marking templates”. This work is not yet complete and will be ongoing.
Teachers have also raised significant concerns about expectations that they would photograph, video or film assessments.
Ms Ford states: “The Department does not require teachers to film or photograph students undertaking tasks and/or film or video themselves as they assess students.”
Teacher visits to work placements
Teachers have raised serious concerns about the workload associated with visiting and supporting students in work placements. Many believed these visits were mandated. The Department has clarified that “teachers are required to make contact with each host employer and student, (within 48 hours of a student commencing a work placement would be a good benchmark). This can be done via a phone call or a site visit. Site visits have clear benefits for students, teachers and employers, but are not mandatory. For students in the construction industry, those working outside usual business hours and those staying overnight as part of a work placement, the contact should be on the first day where at all possible”.
Federation will continue to monitor and pursue the issues raised by VET teachers with the Department and provide appropriate advice.