TAFE NEWSLETTER SUPPLEMENT TO THE AEU NEWS •APRIL 2010
These changes cause
Media reports and our own survey have revealed students deserting TAFE diploma courses, and teachers under more stress than ever. It’s time for the Brumby Government to listen. Jo Fogarty vice president, TAFE and adult provision
UR TAFE4ALL campaign was relaunched before Easter to a spectacular media response. The Age newspaper, Campus Review and regional television services all reported the effects the Brumby Government’s Skills Reform Policy is having on students and TAFE enrolments. Several Victorian Opposition parliamentarians have also issued media releases calling for the Brumby Government to abandon fee increases. The AEU statewide survey of TAFE teachers revealed the widespread nature of the impact: • 182 teachers were aware of course cancellations this year due to lack of enrolments • 295 teachers knew of courses with decreased enrolments • 204 teachers were aware of job losses due to falling enrolments or cancelled courses • 295 teachers were aware of reductions in teaching hours due to decreased enrolments or cancelled courses • 225 teachers knew of courses where delivery hours have been reduced. The changes have had an even greater impact in regional areas; the proportion of regional TAFE teachers reporting cancelled courses is a third higher than in metropolitan areas. March 24 saw media reports that enrolments in diploma and advanced diploma courses have fallen by as much as 45% in the metropolitan area and up to 60% in regional Victoria. According to The Age, William Angliss Institute in Melbourne has seen some 45% fewer enrolments in diplomas and advanced diplomas; Box Hill has had
17% fewer and one regional TAFE was reported as suffering a drop of more than 60%. These figures are strong evidence that the choice of signing up for a contingent fee loan — VET Fee Help — is no choice at all for many students. This, of course, is no surprise to those of us who understand the low socio-economic backgrounds of many of our TAFE students.
Peter Hall, Shadow Minister for Tertiary Education and Training and Nationals leader in the State Legislative Council, said in a media release that these figures “show the Brumby Government’s ill-conceived TAFE reforms are discouraging students from pursuing higher education.” He added: “This is an embarrassment for the Government considering John Brumby’s TAFE reforms were actually meant to help improve skills shortages in the state.” So, what does all this mean? These figures paint a grim picture of a TAFE sector and public education being slowly choked to death. They indicate clearly that the Skills Reform Policy is not achieving its goal — the “skilling-up” of Victorians. Enrolment figures suggest that students are opting for lower certificate levels where they still receive a concession rate or pay lower fees. The AEU is also hearing reports that teachers are not enrolling for Certificate IV TAA and Diploma of
VET Practice courses, as they are no longer eligible for a government-subsidised place and have been hit with full fees of many thousands of dollars. Contract teachers are not having their contracts renewed and are being offered sessional teaching. The employment section of one regional newspaper on April 17 saw a regional TAFE advertise for casual teachers in four departments! TAFE institutes are also being forced to close courses that are no longer seen as profitable, even if the course meets social and community obligations. In every TAFE institute I have visited this year I hear a similar story. Teachers are stressed, tired and under pressure from managers to do more and more. They are expected to find students to enrol. Many tell me that they are also lacking leadership and direction as managers grapple with the new policy. TAFE teachers are in a state of post-audit “burn out”. Morale is at an all time low and teachers feel devalued. I have not seen this since Kennett ripped into TAFE; in fact, I think this is worse than Kennett’s slashing. The AEU has begun discussions with the Government about the effects of the skills policy. There will be a review, which is expected to start by the end of April and finish by the end of May. To date, no details of the terms of reference have been released. The AEU is not opposed to skilling up Victorians but this has to occur within a policy that is underpinned by the principles of access and equity; a commitment to adequate resourcing and funding for the public VET system; and an understanding and respect for the professionalism of TAFE teachers. The AEU urges the state government to use the review as an opportunity to amend the skills reform policy to reflect these principles. u
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What to do in a dispute There is a strict procedure to be followed when it comes to instituting grievance procedures. Mark Hyde deputy vice president, TAFE and adult provision
EFORE the last TAFE council meeting, our industrial officer David Colley led a professional development workshop on dispute resolution. It was well supported by the local sub-branches and members of their institute consultative committee. Councillors discussed issues ranging from identifying grievances or disputes and ways of resolving matters in the first instance, to the procedures to be followed if the matter is still unresolved. For that reason, it’s useful to set out the process here. TAFE dispute resolution procedure A dispute or grievance arises when a TAFE institute (the employer) takes a decision or action, or fails to make a decision or act in relation to matters that arise out of, or are incidental to, matters covered by the Victorian TAFE Teaching Staff Multi Business Agreement 2009. The grievance may affect one or a number of members of the teaching workforce at the institute.
Step 1 The sub-branch executive attempts to resolve the matter with management at the local level, which may include the ICC. Step 2 The organiser and AEU central office are advised of the unresolved matter via the grievance form. Step 3 The AEU office evaluates the issues and determines if the matter should proceed to formal grievance; this advice is provided to the sub-branch. Response will be given to sub-branch within seven working days. Legal advice will be sought if necessary. Step 4 If the matter is to proceed with AEU support, the sub-branch appointed representative and the central office nominee lodge the notice of dispute with the institute. Step 5 The dispute resolution procedure as outlined in Clause 10 of the TAFE Agreement is then followed. ◆
The importance of the ICC
OUR Institute Consultative Committee — ICC — plays a crucial role in implementing the TAFE Agreement or MBA. It is through the ICC that the industrial principles are adhered to. The AEU sub-branch must ensure that its representatives on the ICC accurately reflect the views of members. This requires good communications with members and effective sub-branches. The ICC should meet at least once a month, and more frequently when required. Make sure that you know who your workplace AEU ICC representatives are, and keep them informed of any industrial issues you may be experiencing in the workplace. ◆
Catch the WAVE
OMEN in Adult and Vocational Education is a group that campaigns for reforms to the VET sector to ensure women’s learning needs are met. AEU vice president Jo Fogarty will address the next WAVE meeting on May 5 with an update on the TAFE 4 All campaign and how the TAFE changes affect women. Alison Bean Hodges, manager of the Royal Women’s Hospital’s Gynaecology Assessment Clinic, will present important information to keep you and the women around you happy and healthy, and outline ways to support The Women’s valuable work. And WAVE will launch its new policy paper, Women and VET — Key priorities for genderinclusive VET participation. All this, plus a celebration of work, health and life to mark No Diet Day and the upcoming Mother’s Day. More on WAVE at www.wave.org.au. When: Wednesday, May 5 from 6pm Where: Gallery Space, Building D, William Angliss TAFE, 550 Little Lonsdale Street (enter through The Angliss restaurant foyer) How much: Gold coin donation — free drink on arrival. ◆
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TAFE’s critical state
Two reports in one day have confirmed the national squeeze on TAFE, with a 12% cut in funding and students turned away by cash-strapped institutes.
Gillian Robertson deputy branch secretary
HE grim findings of the AEU’s national State of our TAFEs survey were rendered even more sobering by the release the same day of research into TAFE funding. The study, by the Centre for the Economics of Employment and Training (CEET), found that across Australia, funding per hour of public VET provision had fallen by nearly 12% in real terms between 2003 and 2008. This was despite the education targets set by the Council of Australian Governments (CoAG) to halve the number of Australians without a Certificate III or higher, and double those with a diploma or better, by 2020. Little wonder, then, that the AEU’s own study found that seven out of 10 TAFE teachers believe their institute does not have enough resources to satisfy student and industry needs. Clearly a substantial increase in funding from both state and federal governments will be required in order to meet the CoAG targets. The CEET report estimated that an extra $200 million will be required in each year between 2009 and 2020 to hit the goal. Over 600 Victorian TAFE teachers were among the 2,600 who responded nationally to the State of Our TAFEs survey, released in March in Canberra. It revealed the effects of the funding shortfall identified by CEET, including a large number of respondents reporting unmet demand for places. Nationally, nearly 58% of respondents reported having to turn away potential students in the past two years. These were mainly in the industry areas of engineering and related technologies (20%), education (13%) and language, literacy & numeracy (13%). Reasons given for turning students away included a lack of places (70%), a lack of resources (29%) and, almost paradoxically, insufficient students (37%). Interestingly, the proportion of Victorian teachers reporting unmet demand (at 47%) was
significantly lower than that of the nation as a whole. Unfortunately for the Brumby Government, however, this does not represent a tick for its demand-based funding model. Victoria was the only state where less than half the respondents reported an increase in demand — at 47%, against a national figure of 56%. It’s not hard to argue that Victoria’s Skills Reform Policy is stifling demand by increasing costs to students. Although the cut in funding per hour for public VET provision in Victoria was lower than in other states (the ACT actually increased its funding), Victoria was still the lowest funded state in every
year between 2003 and 2008. And the survey confirmed that Victorian teachers were suffering for this under-investment through their relative lack of ongoing or permanent employment. The proportion of Victorians in casual or fixed-term positions was an atrocious 44% higher than the national figure. Under the Brumby Governments’ demand-based funding model, with its full contestability, the proportion of TAFE teachers employed on a casual or fixed-term basis is likely to increase. ◆ Download the AEU survey findings at bit.ly/df3EKz and read the AEU media release at bit.ly/9UezaG (both PDFs).
Disability newsletter Y
OU will notice that we have included a copy of our Disability Sector Newsletter with your TAFE Newsletter. We wish to draw your attention to action the AEU is involved in. The work of our disability services colleagues is underpaid and undervalued and, as a consequence, the AEU Vic branch is a joint applicant in a pay equity case between unions and the Federal Government. We are also signatories to a memorandum of understanding requesting employers to pass on a 3.25% pay rise to employees. Our disability sector members need your support in these important campaigns for fair pay. ◆ — Jo Fogarty vice president, TAP www.aeuvic.asn.au
Real stories, real damage
The TAFE 4 All blog continues to run stories from students and teachers who have been hit by higher fees and falling enrolments.
FEEL trapped and I am sure a lot of other people do too.” So writes one student at a metropolitan TAFE about the impact of the Brumby Government’s skills reforms. She has been saddled with a $6000 fee for a two-year diploma — and then fined when she paid an instalment late. Recent weeks on the TAFE 4 All site have featured a stream of stories from students and teachers about the impact the Government’s changes are having on their students. The most heartbreaking came from this metro student, who wrote that, as part of the first cohort of students to pay full fees, she was “the lucky one” because her fees were only $6000. “Some in my class who have a higher degree are paying in excess of $19,000. I find this disgusting. Most of those paying more are also paying for rent/ living expenses as they are not able to live at home. “People have already dropped out, and will continue to.” But her story gets worse. The student — who asked to remain anonymous — added that she had been charge $178 by the college for not paying the latest instalment of her fees on time. “They are expecting us to find something like $1,448 in three weeks.” Meanwhile, as predicted by many in the TAFE system, hours are being shaved from courses and her college wants to take some subjects online. “This is absurd: we are paying for the practical experience,” she writes. This is a student whose ENTER scores were not high enough to get into university. TAFE is her only option. One teacher on an Indigenous education program at a metropolitan institute said he had
simply axed his diploma program this year, which had served as a pathway to higher education for students who had completed a Certificate IV. “My reason? If a young person wants to change their career path in a couple of years’ time and requires the appropriate qualifications such as
Read the latest entries at tafe4all.org.au a diploma (maybe in management or hospitality) they’ll be up for $10,000–$15,000. “I would hate having that responsibility and burden on my shoulders. Some young people are still exploring their options and it is too early to make those big choices, a choice that could cost them dearly in a few years’ time.” A social worker wrote about the impact on women, citing one client who used TAFE as a route out of welfare after going through a tough patch in her life. She studied as a driving instructor and now runs her own business. “It is amazing what I’ve seen people do when given the support to grow and prosper,” she wrote on the TAFE 4 All blog. “Let’s be honest here, who is going to be
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affected by the new changes to TAFE fees? People who don’t have money! People for whom the door to employment is only slightly ajar and has often been slammed in their face. “These are single women ... people from a non-English speaking background, those from low socio-economic backgrounds, those who have a disability, refugees and asylum seekers, mature age people, people without family support, people who have faced trauma and anyone who has ever faced an issue that impeded their ability to access employment.” The picture was the same in Ballarat, where an arts teacher wrote on the blog how students were “scrambling to get as much of the program finished as they can while they have access to concession based enrolment.” “The majority of these students are mature age or come from disadvantaged backgrounds. In many cases they carry existing qualifications which make them ineligible for Vet Fee Help and any aspirations of future study will be simply unaffordable,” he wrote. When this last cohort of eligible students has passed through the system, he predicted dire consequences for courses in regional TAFEs. “There will almost certainly be a major impact on numbers which will threaten the viability of arts education at diploma level in this region.” The fall in enrolments comes on top of 10 years of cuts, with staff numbers already reduced from four full-time ongoing staff to one. More courses were being moved oneline, he added. “Completing the course on this campus is increasingly difficult for those students looking to stay in the region.” Do you have a story to tell about the impact of the TAFE changes? Add a comment on the TAFE 4 All website or email firstname.lastname@example.org. ◆
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