THE NSW Teachers Federation is hitting back at new reforms announced by the state government.
In a statement released yesterday the Federation said an announcement of Smart and Skilled Reforms for TAFEs across the state betrayed the bush.
Federation TAFE regional organiser Kathy Nicholson said similar policies, already rolled out, had led to thousands of job losses and the closure and subsequent sell off of rural and regional TAFE colleges in Victoria.
“The TAFE rungs on the ladder of opportunity have been broken. Now it is clear in the future people in our community won’t be able to go and do a TAFE course of their choice,” she said.
“Only some courses will be supported by government funding.”
Ms Nicholson said the future of TAFE students would be “mortgaged” as a result of the reforms.
“Students will be forced to go into debt if they want an education. Instead students will pay to go to private colleges who are more interested in profit and delivering returns to shareholders than ensuring that students are scaffolded into a better future.”
Ms Nicholson said the announcement was a backpedal by Minister Piccoli.
“He had said: ‘We want to protect the viability of TAFE; we don’t want to do anything that’s going to jeopardize the viability, particularly of regional TAFEs. Victoria has moved a long way down their path of contestability and their regional TAFEs are in financial trouble, and we’re not going to do that in NSW’,” she said.
Ms Nicholson said prior to the last election several National Party members, including the Minister Piccoli and Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson signed up to “Invest in TAFE”.
“They pledged to back the workers and teachers in TAFE, to make sure their jobs weren’t contracted out, and to govern for the common good and ensure that everyone in NSW had affordable access to a TAFE education,” she said.
“Every one of these promises has been broken. Education budgets in NSW have been slashed, including savage cuts to New England Institute of TAFE.”
Ms Nicholson said jobs were being slashed and pushed into the private sector.
“Students now have a tax on their futures through fee increases and loan debt,” she said.
“Finally, the privatisation of vocational education in NSW has positioned education as a commodity for profit creation rather than a vital tool for delivering equality, harmony and critical skills for business and the economy of our communities.”
Ms Nicholson suggested it was “becoming difficult” to believe Minister Piccoli.
In his original statement Minister Piccoli said Smart and Skilled would give people the skills they needed to get a job and advance their careers.