TAFE cuts a rough deal for Kempsey community, say union reps

THE announcement of 800 job cuts at TAFE will have dire consequences for the quality of education in Kempsey, local representatives of the teachers' union said this week.

NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli revealed the plan on Tuesday that also includes the freezing of funds to Catholic and independent schools.

The government aims to cut $1.7 billion from the education budget across NSW.

John Myers is the NSW Teachers' Federation delegate at Kempsey TAFE.

He says the new education measures, which include a nearly 100 per cent increase in fees for concession students from $53 to $100, are driven purely by financial concerns.

“The O’Farrell government has tried to dress the changes up in language which give the impression the changes are about efficiency, but the facts are that you can’t provide the same education with fewer resources,” Mr Myers said.

Mr Meyers said it was particularly disappointing given the support Deputy Premier and local MP Andrew Stoner gave to the TAFE teachers while in opposition.

“Mr Stoner and Andrew Piccoli both signed a pledge in 2011 to guarantee TAFE funding, invest in permanent TAFE teaching positions and ensure affordable access to all,” he said.

“The government would like you to think that all they are doing is cutting staff who sit in an office all day doing nothing productive.

“Nothing could be further from the truth.

"I have seen over the years the reduction of support staff for teachers result in an increase in the amount of clerical and support work the teachers are required to do."

A spokesperson for Mr Stoner said the government had to make tough decisions to ensure NSW was living within its means.

“A review of central support functions and efficiency improvements in institutes will result in a reduction of about 800 positions in TAFE NSW over the next four years,” the spokesperson said.

“In addition TAFE NSW will increase fees for government subsidised courses by 9.5 per cent next year (from 1 January 2013) and increase the concession fee from $53 to $100.

“We know that increases in any fees are hard on households, however it should be noted that the increases will result in fees that are still within national averages for TAFE fees.

“TAFE NSW will continue to provide generous fee exemptions, for example Aboriginal students will continue to be exempt from paying fees and students with disabilities will continue to be fee exempt for one course per year.”

Beris Derwent is the women’s contact officer for the NSW Teachers' Federation at Kempsey TAFE.

She says the reduction of services at TAFE will have a social impact on the community.

“Students at TAFE are often having their second go at an education and are trying to improve themselves and their lives,” she said.

“This provides all sorts of benefits to local communities through increases in employment and in people becoming role models in their communities.

“Education is not a cost, it is an investment in the future.”

An alliance of unions is being formed to fight the changes.

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