Hunter TAFE teachers ‘buckling’ under stress and battling for basics including toilet paper

HUNTER TAFE teachers say the organisation is “in crisis” and staff are battling for basics like toilet paper, as well as necessary equipment and repairs including on asbestos infested classrooms.

Teachers also say they are “getting sick” and struggling to find adequate time for students, as they meet increasing assessment and paperwork requirements and put marks into faulty software.

TAFE managing director Jon Black wrote to staff last week telling them “it’s time to focus on good fiscal management and consider how we can all exercise greater financial control”.

“This financial year, I’d like us all to be more commercial and considered in how we spend, negotiate and maximise savings opportunities,” he wrote.

NSW Teachers Federation representative Rob Long said the organisation’s finances appeared to be in trouble due to a lack of funding and a problem with the procurement process.

He said the Smart and Skilled reforms –  which opened the education market and included government subsidies only for students enrolled in courses that correlate to a priority skills list –  had failed.

“The state government brought this in in 2014 and was planning for 18 months before that.

“They’ve had five or six years to get it right and it’s gotten worse.

“They need to stop this now and guarantee funding for TAFE students.”

Mr Long said Wyong campus ran out of toilet paper and staff had to run to Ourimbah.

“Some of the equipment that students are using is faulty and dangerous.

“Staff can buy consumables, such as timber and nails, but if a hammer goes missing they can’t replace it.

“We have the lift that’s been out of service at Belmont since April.

“They were recently told it would take 19 weeks to fix.

“Two rooms at Belmont have asbestos and are closed for remediation.”

TAFE Regional General Manager North Susie George said claims were “misleading” and there was no freeze on the purchase of essential items. 

“Repairs on the lift are underway and will be complete within the [next] couple of months or so.”

Mr Long said staff were “not getting the resources to succeed and drop-out rates are increasing”. 

National Centre for Vocational Education Research figures show TAFE enrolments fell by 6.5 per cent between 2016 and 2017, from 617,000 students to 577,200.

Teachers said face to face time with students had been cut and they were being “bombarded” with administrative work and “buckling” under a culture of “fear and intimidation”.

“It’s never been this toxic before,” one said.

“Management have created a culture where it’s us and them. They’re trying to break us down – teachers are targets and they’re getting sick.”

Ms George said TAFE had a “strong and inclusive culture” and “our teaching teams are critical components of that”. 

Fairfax reported last month the state government had cut more than $130 million from TAFE NSW in staffing redundancies and restructuring costs since 2014, according to treasury documents.

A further $8.8 million in cuts is budgeted for this year.