Smart and Skilled policy slammed at Senate inquiry

Robert Long
TAFE Organiser

Participants at the TAFE Senate inquiry forum in Wollongong with Senators Lee Rhiannon (4th from left) and Sue Lines (5th from left).

AEU NSW members slammed the NSW Government’s Smart and Skilled policy at recent TAFE Senate inquiry forums.

At the Wollongong hearing Federation members delivered a damning prediction of the negative effects Smart and Skilled would have on student equity services.

Senators were told that in preparation for Smart and Skilled in 2015 multicultural education support had been cut at the Illawarra Institute and some students with a disability had complained about cuts to services.

AEU NSW members explained how the flawed policy would have a loading for students with a disability, but it would not cover the cost of providing support services such as interpreters, and note-takers for deaf students.

The inquiry heard that current TAFE students with a disability were unaware of how Smart and Skilled would increase fees in 2015. Smart and Skilled fees for diploma-level courses would no longer be waived for students with a disability. It is believed that people retraining after injury would be particularly hard hit with fee increases. The NSW Government has not adequately consulted with these students.

At the Sydney forum AEU NSW members gave evidence about the impacts on TAFE Outreach courses and Adult Basic Education (ABE).

Members explained how TAFE had invested extensively over the long term in Outreach community development education, and in a professional workforce in TAFE equity services. They were concerned Smart and Skilled would lose these services and some or all of these professional teachers.

The inquiry heard TAFE needed funding to continue to support people to move from homelessness to engagement with the community.

Members also outlined to the Senators the needed for maths and literacy support to assist students to complete vocational courses. They expressed concern that Smart and Skilled would increase class sizes, reduce the number of courses available, increase fees and lose experienced teachers. In Sydney TAFE Adult Basic Education courses have already reduced as management tries to prepare for Smart and Skilled. Also in preparation for the policy the HSC is no longer offered at Ultimo and Gymea TAFEs, and Wollongong TAFE is the only regional college in NSW to offer the HSC.

Federation members are encouraged to join the campaign against Smart and Skilled at www.stoptafecuts.com.au.