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Workload at tipping point

TAFE teachers are buckling under the pressure of growing teaching and admin loads. Our next campaign will tackle the problem head on. Greg Barclay deputy vice president, TAFE and adult provision


The AEU will sharpen the focus on workload issues over the rest of 2011. We will do this by ensuring that members have clear advice on what their workload entitlements are and understand how they can raise these matters at an individual and sub-branch level. The first step in addressing any issue is to make sure everyone knows it exists. We will continue to raise these problems publicly until everyone accepts that workload pressures are out of control and need to be fixed. The second step is to make sure that individuals understand how workloads are regulated in the MBA and what to do if they believe they are being breached.

students the support they require because of the increased workload. Whatever the reasons, current workloads are clearly unsustainable and unacceptable because of the impact on teachers’ health and the quality of teaching and learning.

What next?

The starting point for addressing workload issues is for each individual teacher to raise the matter formally with their manager. If you need any more information about your entitlements under the MBA, please log in to the AEU website and check out the many TAFE teacher Preparation and correction advice sheets in our members-only area. One area of increased workload relates to the Your entitlements are also set out in the ­misunderstanding about the preparation and ­comprehensive TAFE A–Z booklet sent to all TAFE ­correction allowance in the MBA, particularly as the members last year. shaving of hours increases. If you do not have Teachers report that they are being asked to a copy, you can find perform a wide range of tasks that are clearly not it in the TAFE section what preparation and correction time is designed of the AEU website at for. TA F E A to We have therefore produced a new advice sheet Z TAFE_pay. setting out this allowance and the types duties that For more advice can (and can’t) be asked to be done. You’ll find on what to do a copy included with this newsletter, along with an next, contact your explanation of scheduled and unscheduled duties.◆ local sub-branch ­representative. AU S T R A L



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UR TAFE teacher survey (see page 2) has produced some extremely worrying insights into the state of TAFE since the Skills Reform. Workloads of TAFE teachers have been increasing as institutes find ways to load more work onto teachers. They are now at a tipping point. An alarming 94% of teachers said that their administrative workloads had increased and 81% reported their teaching workloads also increased following the full introduction of the reforms. Next year we will be negotiating for our new MBA, and the Baillieu Government expects any pay increase beyond the 2.5% set in its wages framework to be paid for with productivity increases. One of the fundamental issues we have in TAFE is that the current levels of “productivity” have been arrived at through increased teaching loads (by “shaving hours”) and increased a­ dministrative workloads — neither of which is recognised in teachers’ work plans because then it would have to be paid for. This is a consequence of several factors — not least an ignorance or wilful breaking of the conditions set out in our agreement. New TAFE managers are often not made aware of the regulations and conditions contained in our MBA. Other managers simply ignore these conditions, and push teachers further and harder to see how much more they can squeeze out to meet their budgetary targets. Too many teachers do not know their rights or how workload is regulated in the MBA. Others fear the reaction from their manager if they raise their concerns. And many teachers do extra because they are committed to their students; our survey found 85% of TAFE teachers now believe they cannot give

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The true face of TAFE

Workload is up, quality and student numbers are down, teachers have told the AEU in a survey of the state of the TAFE since the skills reforms.


EU members working in TAFE are fed up with a system that is focused on making profits at the expense of good quality education and training, an AEU survey reveals. More than that, they are prepared to fight for their professional standing and the right of ­Victorians to a credible, public TAFE system. Almost 500 teachers responded to the AEU online survey. Of those, more than four out of five — 83% — said enrolments at their institute had fallen this year. Only 10% said enrolments had stayed steady or risen.

The key causes of the fall were higher fees (identified by 33%) and lack of government support (30%) along with competition from cheaper private providers (18%). The Age newspaper this month reported that while there has been a surge in demand for vocational education in Victoria, the bulk of the increase has gone to private providers. The results of the AEU survey show that TAFE teachers believe the new system is driving down the quality of education across the board as students turn to cheaper private courses.


Something rotten in the state of TAFE

Now it’s time for others to acknowledge it. Greg Barclay deputy vice president, TAP


HE release of our TAFE teacher survey into the impacts of the Skills Reform prompted some interesting responses from other bodies in the training sector. The CEO of the Australian Council of Private Education and Training (ACPET), Claire Field, issued a press release attacking the AEU, TAFE teachers and the results of the survey. She stated: “TAFE teachers … clearly don’t understand what the changes mean.” If TAFE teachers don’t know what the changes mean to the quality of teaching and learning in TAFE, then who does, Claire? Ms Field represents private education and training providers — businesses that are now

able to access funding from taxpayers to build their profits. Maybe this is why Claire has chosen to defend and encourage the expansion of Victoria’s experiment across Australia, because it will generate more wealth for the companies and shareholders she represents. Ms Field’s condescending and patronising dismissal of TAFE teachers’ views about the quality of TAFE today is actually not surprising; in fact it is to be expected. But it’s time to stop pretending that there are no quality issues with education, teaching and learning in TAFE in Victoria since the introduction of these reforms. Some 85% of teachers who responded to our survey said the reforms have had a negative impact. If we are all honest, and acknowledge

that the reforms are not the panacea they were intended to be, it is not too late to repair the damage. Hopefully the government review now underway into VET funding and fees will be the start of an honest exploration of how to fix the public TAFE system in Victoria. tafe teachers care about their students and the future of the industries they will work in. They should be commended for taking a stand and speaking out about what is happening; they are committed to being part of a high quality public education system. The AEU will use every opportunity to draw attention to how we can refocus on quality teaching and learning in TAFE and lobby those responsible to bring about the changes required. ◆



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In making TAFE compete with private providers, which have lower wages and infrastructure costs, TAFEs are under pressure to reduce costs. Despite their best efforts to ensure that students get access to high-quality education and training, TAFE teachers say they are being forced to increase class sizes, reduce the amount of teaching they do, and pass students who might not be ready. The AEU will use the results of this survey to lobby for much needed reform to TAFE. Greg Barclay, AEU deputy vice president, TAFE and adult provision, said: “We want to see changes to the current funding model, including a boost to the overall level of Victorian government funding, and better access to concession places for students. “Education is about long-term futures for individuals and communities. It should never be about short-term budgets and profits.” Some 58% of members said they were aware of “questionable practices” by private RTOs (and some TAFEs), including six-month courses delivered by private trainers in five days for a fraction of the price at TAFE. Others were aware of false advertising around fees and career prospects. One member reported a counselling diploma being delivered by correspondence course. In TAFE institutes, almost two-thirds (64%) were aware of shaving of hours, and 68% said the reduced contact time made it hard for students to successfully finish their studies. Online learning was becoming more common, members reported, with teaching staff becoming “redundant” and suspicions that some students were not submitting their own work. Most damningly, 77% of members said students today receive a poorer education than a few years ago. In the words of one respondent: “Education is the future of our nation and we are doing ourselves a vast disservice by continually ‘dumbing it down’. Education should not be viewed as a moneymaking enterprise — it is an investment in our people.” ◆

When is an hour not an hour?

Answer: when it’s a student contact hour.


UR previous TAFE Newsletter featured an extensive article on the issue of “shaving hours” and institutes’ practice of invoicing Skills Victoria for student contact hours when there had in fact been no contact with the student at all. The AEU is currently seeking information about the extent of shaving hours in the system. Since 2009, institutes are no longer required to report to Skills Victoria on delivery hours that occurred and are now allowed to report on nominal hours instead. The AEU believes that it was this shift in reporting requirements that allowed the practice of shaving hours to explode. With no regulations on the delivery of education and training aligned to the nominal hours and no need to report on actual student contact hours, it is no wonder that institutes shave hours and increase teacher workloads to boost their income. When we receive information about the difference between actual student contact hours and the claimed nominal hours, we will report back to members. ◆

Campaign converts W

E HAD a great response to our June 17 conversion campaign with well over 100 members registering and completing application forms. AEU organisers are now working with institute subbranches to check the applications and forward them to either their institute consultative committee or the relevant HR personnel for processing. As part of the campaign, AEU TAFE councillors took part in training to prepare for any potential disputes that may arise to support members’ conversion applications. Even though this formal statewide campaign is now finished, it is crucial that sessional and fixed-term contract teachers understand that they can apply at any time for conversion, once they meet the eligibility criteria. Fixed-term teachers can check the eligibility criteria at Clause 12.3 of the MBA and casual teachers can check Clause13.7. Full details are at, or you can download the MBA and find other advice sheets in the members’ area of the website. The AEU plans to survey sessional members to establish how we can continue to support them in their teaching roles and any future conversion campaigns.◆

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11/07/11 3:55 PM 3

“Bullying” staff program condemned Incident at Gordon TAFE prompts AEU call for official inquiry as two-thirds of staff say they have witnessed bullying or intimidation.

Greg Barclay deputy vice president, TAP


EU councillors have condemned The Gordon TAFE institute over a staff training program described as “institutionalised intimidation, ­harassment and bullying”. The institute in Geelong has been using the Leading Teams consultancy to run the change management program. Leading Teams has been used by AFL clubs, leading to claims of bullying by former Bulldogs player Jason Akermanis. Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse reportedly described the program as “degrading”. The AEU has called on the Gordon to abandon the program — which uses 360-degree feedback and encourages managers to publicly discuss staff members’ strengths and weaknesses — after an incident at a team-building session last month. The incident led to a formal complaint to management from the union sub-branch. Gordon AEU councillors reported on the June 16 incident to AEU TAFE committee last month. After a long discussion, the statewide committee unanimously passed the resolution: That the AEU councillors from every TAFE institute strongly condemn the practices that are associated with the Leading Teams model being used at the Gordon and demand the program should cease immediately pending an investigation into some of the practices, because of possible OH&S ramifications. The councillors view the program as described as systematic, institutionalised intimidation, harassment and bullying. An emergency AEU sub-branch meeting called at the Gordon on June 21 was attended by 98 members of the AEU and TAFE non-teaching union NTEU to discuss the Leading Teams program. The Gordon AEU sub-branch lodged a formal complaint about the team-building incident and called on the Gordon to appoint an independent


TAFE newsletter | july 2011

external investigator to conduct an inquiry. It also called for the program to be suspended while the investigation is undertaken. The Gordon agreed to the request for an external investigation but not to suspend the program. In order to establish the breadth of concerns about the leading teams program and the extent of bullying more broadly at the institute, the AEU has launched a survey of AEU and NTEU members at the Gordon. As this newsletter went to press, more than 150 members of staff had responded to the survey, with 59% of staff saying they had experienced bullying, intimidation or harassment at The Gordon in the past two years, and 68% saying they had witnessed it occur to a colleague. Around half of these said the bullying had

occurred during a Leading Teams activity or follow-up session. Three out of five staff members questioned the Gordon’s commitment to tackling workplace bullying. The survey paints a picture of rock-bottom morale at the Gordon, with 75% saying morale was falling, 54% saying it was now “low or very low” and 45% saying they felt they had nowhere to turn for support. Only 16% of staff said they had a positive experience of Leading Teams. Thank you to the AEU Gordon sub-branch executive for the fantastic way they have responded to this issue and the way they are advocating for the OH&S interests and welfare of members. The AEU will keep all TAFE sub-branch representatives informed about any developments in relation to this issue. ◆

AEU TAFE Conference October 28

Victoria University Flinders Street, Melbourne Guest speaker: Peter Hall, Minister for Skills


ICTORIAN Skills Minister Peter Hall has agreed to open our TAFE Conference this year. We hope he will be able to report on the outcome of the Essential Services Commission review of funding and fees as well as setting out his vision for TAFE. The AEU has contacted all institute CEOs to ask their support by allowing at least 10 members per institute to attend the conference. We are currently finalising details for the conference, including the workshops on offer. We will circulate full information as soon as it is confirmed, along with details of how to register through our online booking system. Numbers will be limited, so we urge you to make a note in your diary now if you want to be part of this event. Please also let your local AEU sub-branch know. ◆

TAFE Sector Newsletter, Term 3, 2011  

The TAFE sector newsletter for term 3, 2011.

TAFE Sector Newsletter, Term 3, 2011  

The TAFE sector newsletter for term 3, 2011.