TAFE students protest cuts to 35 courses

PROTESTERS rallying outside Wheeler Place were told yesterday that cuts to 35 courses at Hunter TAFE will affect more than 500 students and dozens of teachers.

NSW Teachers’ Federation organiser Rob Long said the changes were linked to state government funding cuts, with more than 30 courses either completely deleted, or with hefty reductions in student numbers.

‘‘This will mean hundreds of students will be denied access to TAFE education and significant job losses for teachers and staff,’’ he said.

The list of affected courses includes music, hospitality, information and technology and engineering.

A spokeswoman for Hunter TAFE said the ‘‘minor adjustments’’ reflected decreases in student demand in certain areas and the training needs of industry and business.

The courses that will now be offered next semester reflected the TAFE’s ‘‘focus on providing for strong employment and high-demand skill areas’’, she said.

But teachers say courses such as music and fitting and turning are being cut despite increasing demand for places.

Bruce Schneider, a music teacher at Hunter TAFE for the past 11 years, told the crowd he was now out of a job.

Others in the firing line include Silverchair’s former music teacher, and the Screaming Jets’ Grant Walmsley, who also teaches at TAFE.

Full-time students like Matt Liebeck, 23, of Mayfield, who was set to continue with his music studies at the TAFE next semester with a view to applying to the University of Newcastle’s Conservatorium of Music, are in a quandary.

‘‘We are stranded, we have got nothing else to study and pretty much no chance of getting into the Con now,’’ he said.

A delegation of TAFE teachers met with State MP Tim Owen at 2pm who agreed to take their concerns to Hunter TAFE management.

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