Yesterday 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.
While some were coming to terms with more lying from the new Abbott led Coalition government, others in Sydney were making last-minute hasty plans to reschedule their lives which were suddenly thrown into turmoil.
So what brought this on?
The NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, who some of you may remember for signing the pledge to guarantee no cuts in TAFE funding during the election campaign that saw the Coalition form government in NSW made another decision this week.
Mr Piccoli ignored his campaign pledge and as many will remember shortly afterwards and slashed 1800 staff and a huge number of services from TAFE as part of the Coalitions $1.7 Billion education cuts.
This week the decision to make even more cuts was made.
On Monday those who had enrolled at Hornsby and Northern Beaches TAFE for Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses in Visual Arts found out that the cuts weren’t quite done with yet.
Those unfortunate enough to be enrolled in these classes were told by phone this week that the decision had been made to cancel these courses altogether at the TAFE in which they were enrolled.
This news came less than one week before classes were due to commence.
Is this what the Department Of Education thinks is fair warning?
Students were understandably quite distressed at this last-minute change to their education plans, and rightly so too, a few days is nowhere near enough notice for a 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. For those juggling part-time or casual employment this is of course a major drama as they have already organised employment for the days they were not going to be at TAFE. 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 humiliating difficulty of no disabled access or lift to the Visual Arts section of Meadowbank TAFE which is 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 that cited low enrolment numbers for the 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 these courses. However sources from Hornsby TAFE speak of more than 80 students enrolled in these courses.
These were students enrolled in visual art 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.
From Brookvale to Ourimbah which is on the NSW Central Coast is 82.8kms drive, most of it through city traffic, via public transport I would hate to even imagine the ordeal involved.
The Ministers 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 Minster.
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 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.