FISTS OF FURY: Grafton TAFE students joined organiser Kathy Nicholson, Greens NSW MLC John Kaye and federal Greens senator Lee Rhiannon to protest cuts to TAFE services. Photo: Adam Hourigan
FISTS OF FURY: Grafton TAFE students joined organiser Kathy Nicholson, Greens NSW MLC John Kaye and federal Greens senator Lee Rhiannon to protest cuts to TAFE services. Photo: Adam Hourigan

Greens and teachers protest to protect TAFE training

PUBLIC money for public education; not for the profit of private corporations.

That was the mantra invoked by Greens representatives and NSW Teachers Federation organiser Kathy Nicholson at two 'Stop Privatisation Before it Stops TAFE' protests in Grafton and Trenayr yesterday morning.

Greens NSW MP John Kaye said his party held very real concerns about the future of regional TAFE colleges due to the implementation of the 'Smart and Skilled' regime.

"While the cuts haven't bitten as hard on the North Coast as they have elsewhere, we're beginning to see courses being shortened, students pushed into inappropriate online learning and fewer courses available," Mr Kaye said.

"With Trenayr effectively being closed at the end of this year and the land at risk of being sold off, we see that as the beginning of the end for small regional campuses and Grafton itself will be next in the firing line."

North Coast TAFE director Elizabeth McGregor said there would be no service delivery impacts for students or employers involved with the consolidation.

"The facilities will be 'mothballed' but no programs will be reduced," she said.

"This consolidation is very deliberate - North Coast TAFE is investing to consolidate and set up facilities that deliver customer value and position us to grow into the future."

Ms McGregor also noted 2014 was a year of record enrolments for North Coast TAFE and enrolments so far in 2015 were on par with those figures.

She said more than ever, customers were seeking flexible and mobile training options.

But Mr Kaye said it was a very different story they were hearing from students and teachers on the ground.

"On paper the North Coast institute is doing really well, in reality it's doing really badly," he said.

"A lot of students are being pushed into online learning whether they have the learning skills or not. The growing cost of TAFE is a huge concern; across NSW there are 83,000 fewer students now who have effectively disappeared from the system."

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon said the funding structure needed to be changed, and she plans to take the issue to the Federal Election with an aim to secure at least 85% of contestable funding available for TAFE.

"We're trying to keep government money public and change national agreement so vocational education is delivered by a public TAFE system, not private companies who only aim to make profits," she said.

The Upper House of the NSW Parliament has established an inquiry into Vocational Education and Training

To make a submission to the inquiry, go to http://j.mp/TAFEinqSub before August 14.



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