Fear Illawarra TAFE cuts to hit HSC course

NSW Teachers Federation representative Rob Long is worried a TAFE review will result in course cuts. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI
NSW Teachers Federation representative Rob Long is worried a TAFE review will result in course cuts. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Illawarra TAFE teachers fear the Higher School Certificate course at Wollongong campus will be next in the firing line as a result of widespread cost-cutting.

The program is being scrutinised as part of a review of TAFE Illawarra's general education offerings - basic skills courses that often serve as a second chance for young people who didn't perform well at school for social or academic reasons.

The NSW Teachers Federation's Rob Long said similar reviews had resulted in the HSC being scrapped from the curriculum of TAFEs in Sydney, the Riverina and at Newcastle, where the equivalent of 4.25 full-time staff were consequently made redundant late last year.

Mr Long said Wollongong was the only campus outside Sydney that still offered the HSC.

"We're worried this review is going to result in cuts like have happened [elsewhere]," he said.

General education is the lowest tier of study offered at TAFE Illawarra, covering literacy and numeracy, the HSC and Tertiary Preparation.

Mr Long said the courses often attracted at-risk youth and people looking to turn their lives around.

"We're talking about the kids that struggled at school, and adults who are illiterate," he said.

More than 90 students completed their HSC at Wollongong TAFE in 2013 and a similar number are expected this year.

Through TAFE, students have the option of combining traditional HSC subjects with a vocational qualification.

A TAFE Illawarra spokeswoman told the Mercury the HSC course would continue to operate at Wollongong this year, with the current review relating to 2015 operations.

"An annual review of the HSC program has been initiated with the objective of strengthening TAFE Illawarra's offer in 2015," she said.

The review comes after almost 400 TAFE staff, including 220 teachers, were retrenched from TAFE statewide last year.

There have also been widespread cuts to teaching hours and course offerings as preparation for the introduction of "Smart and Skilled" reforms.

Under the reforms, funding would follow a student to the college where they enrolled, so TAFE institutes would have to compete with private colleges.

This week documents leaked to Fairfax Media laid bare the link between cuts to courses in South Western Sydney TAFE and the introduction of Smart and Skilled.

"Experience in other states has shown that implementation of these reforms has resulted in a declining market share for public providers," the document said.


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