Consultants aim to push
MPs to review TAFE policy

Robert Long
Kathy Nicholson

Federation campaign course fires up consultants.

TAFE teacher consultants for students with a disability came away from a recent Federation campaign course geared up for ensuring the future of TAFE is a key state election issue.

Since the course, the consultants have participated in community action for the Stop TAFE Cuts campaign at various festivals and made appointments to visit their local MPs to voice their opposition to the State Government’s Smart and Skilled policy that will cut funding to TAFE.

Course participants reported TAFE institutes are planning different levels of cuts to services to students with disability across the state. The cuts are driven by the inadequate 15 per cent loading for students with a disability under the Government’s Smart and Skilled privatisation policy. Institutes are advising members that teacher consultants’ salaries and Institute operational funding need to be extracted before funding for service delivery arrives at section level.

TAFE teacher consultants for students with a disability assist students with course selection advice, enrolment, welfare, education, learning and assessment. Traditionally, they specialise in particular disability areas such as vision, hearing, psychological, neurological or intellectual disability. North Sydney Institute and South Western Sydney Institute are planning redundancies for specialist teacher consultants and intend to replace them with a smaller number of generalist disability support officers. North Sydney Institute is implementing its change management program to prepare for Smart and Skilled funding cuts and will cut nine permanent and one permanent part-time teacher consultants down to four generalist positions.

No other institute is formally discussing redundancies for teacher consultants, but there are threats that jobs might go in 2015. At the other extreme Western Institute recently recruited and appointed two permanent teacher consultants for students with a visual disability and students with an intellectual disability.

These conflicting responses to Smart and Skilled funding cuts has left our members in a state of frustration and anger.

Teacher consultants for students with a disability are extremely concerned about the loss of specific educational tutorial support programs for their students. Historically, they have offered their students a flexible range of tutorial support that suited the student’s educational needs. The course discussed pre-emptive cuts to tutorial support budgets during 2014 and threats to cut all tutorial support in 2015. Funding for 1:1 tutorial support is disappearing and there is pressure to deliver group tutorials.

Regional colleges have experienced dramatic cuts to support services for students with disability including no half-day or part-time offerings, plus fewer course choices.

The Smart and Skilled policy will not fund tutorial support but only offer base loadings for students in courses identified on the NSW skills list. Teacher consultants feel they are being left in the dark about budgets for 2015. Some Institutes are stating Community Service Obligation funding will cover staff costs while other institutes are threatening more job cuts.

The Stop TAFE Cuts campaign is vital to ensuring the world class TAFE disability services are not dismantled. If you have students who are impacted by the cuts please contact your Organiser for advice at postschools@nswtf.org.au and encourage students to join the campaign at www.stoptafecuts.com.au.