No warning: NSW Government leaves TAFE students stranded

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Fresh from leaving Christopher Pyne high and dry, NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli has set his sights on TAFE students, cancelling students’ courses a week before enrolment. Peter Wicks from Wixxyleaks reports.

ON WEDNESDAY IN SYDNEY, many were reading their morning papers and digesting the news that the Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne was lying when he said that the NSW State Government was “on board” with his so-called education reforms.

From an article by Matthew Knott in the Sydney Morning Herald:

The NSW government has rejected the $70 million Abbott government plan to encourage public schools to become independent, contradicting claims by federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne that the state was on board.

The rebuff from the nation's biggest state is a blow to the federal government's plan for a quarter of all public schools to become independent by 2017.

Announcing the initiative on Tuesday, Mr Pyne said ''every state and territory, including Labor states and territories, have signed on to the initiative with the exception of South Australia''.

The claim was rejected by the NSW government. ''The NSW government has not signed an agreement with the federal government to introduce independent public schools,'' the state Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said.

While some were coming to terms with yet more deceit from the new Abbott-led Coalition Government, others apart from Chris Pyne were also thrown into turmoil by the NSW education minister.

Before explaining why, let me provide a little background.

Some of you may remember Adrian Piccoli for signing a pledge during the 2011 NSW election campaign guaranteeing no cuts in TAFE funding:

That pledge is ancient history now, because Mr Piccoli shortly afterwards, in 2012, slashed 1,800 staff from TAFE along with a huge number of services, as part of the NSW Coalition Government's swingeing package of education cuts, worth some $1.7 billion.

This week, Mr Piccoli decided to make even more cuts — causing disappointment, heartache and turmoil for many hopeful NSW students and their families in the process.

On Monday, students unfortunate enough to be enrolled in Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses in Visual Arts at Hornsby and Northern Beaches TAFE found out by phone that these courses had been abruptly cancelled.

This news came less than one week before classes were due to commence.

Is this what the Minister for Education thinks is fair warning?

Students were understandably distressed at this last-minute change to their education plans — and rightly so too; a few days is nowhere near enough notice for a life-changing decision like this.

Students from Hornsby were informed that they could enrol to do these courses at Meadowbank TAFE when phoned by their teacher.

What students then discovered was that not only had the course at Meadowbank already started a week earlier, but that it also operated on completely different days, which for the majority juggling part-time or casual employment is, of course, a major dilemma. Many now face the decision of continuing their course and finding new work, or not furthering their education and continue to earn a wage.

For one of the students from Hornsby, who is in a wheelchair, there is the added difficulty of no disabled access or lift to the Visual Arts section of Meadowbank TAFE, which is located on the second floor.

Given the short notice and understandable anger of the students involved, I contacted Education Minister Adrian Piccoli’s office for comment.

I received a response from a senior media officer, citing low enrolment numbers for Visual Arts courses at Hornsby TAFE.

Although no numbers for Northern Beach TAFE enrolments were supplied, Piccoli’s office stated that 34 students had been enrolled at Hornsby in those courses. However, sources from Hornsby TAFE speak of more than 80 students enrolled in these courses.

These were students enrolled in classes such as drawing, painting, print making, and even photography.

Piccoli’s office also stated:

‘Students have also been advised of the option to study at other TAFE locations, including Ourimbah and Kogarah.’

Those who know Sydney and the Central Coast area will understand what a ridiculous notion it is to expect someone to travel from Hornsby to these locations, let alone the Northern Beaches Campus at Brookvale.

Brookvale to Ourimbah, on the NSW Central Coast, is an 86.6kms drive — most of it through city traffic; via public transport, I would hate to even imagine the ordeal involved.

The minister’s senior media officer also stated:

‘The Institute is consulting with directly impacted staff as part of the change management process. Staffing levels may need to be adjusted based on student demand.’

It sounds like more sackings are on their way from that statement, more broken promises from the minister.

For those seeking to further their education by doing these courses the more expensive Option B would have been to seek these courses via private colleges. It is unfortunate however that on top of the added expense, given the late notice most enrolments for these courses have either closed or classes are already full and alas there is no option C.

Yesterday, I also contacted the NSW Shadow Minister for Education, Ryan Park (pictured right), who stated when asked about the matter:

“This is a disgraceful decision that will not only affect the students but also their families as I understand child care and other arrangements had been previously organised by students on the understanding that these courses would be going ahead.”

Ryan Park raises a point that really highlights the consideration and level of community care that has gone into this decision.

The sooner the Coalition understand that these are not just numbers on a spreadsheet — these are real people with real lives and real responsibilities the better off we will all be. Those parents out there who live in the real world know the struggle, the effort and the expense of finding good child care. It would seem those in the Coalition wouldn’t even give those real world issues a passing thought.

For those left high and dry by a government who cares less about education than Gina Rinehart cares about minimum wage, I hope you manage to reshuffle your lives and complete your education.

For those wondering why this had to be rushed through and the numbers couldn’t have been re-evaluated for a decision next year so that appropriate notice could be given to students, I may have an answer for you.

There is a state election in NSW next year.

Students and teachers vote.

Read more by Peter Wicks at wixxyleaks.com or follow him on Twitter @MadWixxy. And express your support for teachers and TAFE students at stoptafecuts.com.au.

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