TAFE newsflash, 14 May 2020

As you’re aware, the state government has this week commenced the transition of students to schools, beginning with prep-year 1 and years 11 and 12.

Vocational education and training in schools (VETiS) is an essential part of the senior curriculum in Queensland, with the achievement of one Certificate III contributing to a student’s ATAR.

The following advice has been provided to state schools:

Students with questions about how they can demonstrate the practical skills required in VET courses such as hospitality, retail, fitness and sport and recreation should refer to the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) list of frequently asked questions. 

ASQA recommends registered training organisations (RTOs) re-sequence their training and assessment strategies to deliver theoretical training and assessment in remote delivery where they can. Practical elements can then be delivered once face-to-face instruction recommences.  

If an RTO can meet social distancing requirements, it may elect to assess practical elements in person.

Given this broad statement to all RTOs in Australia, of particular interest to our members in TAFE would be the final paragraph regarding social distancing requirements and the re-sequencing of training and assessment strategies.

The advice from the CHO is that the greatest risk of the spread of COVID-19 in a school is from the adults and not the students within the setting. Notwithstanding, we support the continued staged return of students to TAFE with the appropriate safety controls in place, which should include, where practical, the controls set out in the school operating guidelines, which can be found on the QTU website. 

When determining whether they can recommence offering VETiS, TAFEs should consider the following key issues.

  • Institutes need to continue to implement strict hygiene measures.
  • Institutes should continue to follow the latest the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) advice on reducing the potential risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools (NB: While physical distancing measures remain an important consideration in reducing transmission in schools and should occur where practicable, AHPPC provides guidance that physical distancing (i.e. 4sqm per person in an enclosed space and 1.5m distancing otherwise) is not required for students during classroom activities). 
  • Institutes may consider using alternative spaces for learning and adjusting their school day to decrease contact between classes and year levels, to minimise gathering points and to maximise airflow in teaching and learning spaces. 
  • Do not conduct large gatherings.
  • Unwell students are not to attend and if they do they must be sent home.
  • Physical distancing measures for adults remain in place. This includes the requirement that adults should maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres from each other to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19.  
  • Maintain good attendance records and notify the schools/students should someone on the campus test positive to COVID-19 so that the proper self-isolation and contact tracing processes can be put in place.

We understand that the nature of VET education means that there will be times where physical distancing will be difficult, and it may not be possible at all. In these circumstances, we ask that you engage with key stakeholders in a risk-based approach, using a documented risk assessment for the appropriate outcome.  

The department has also advised that if practical subjects are to be conducted, the highest levels of hygiene and cleaning should be in place.

The QTU has questioned the CHO regarding the treatment of 16-18 year old students in the same way as younger students, and other than expecting them to take some responsibility for their health, the advice regarding the students and their attendance was the same.

We appreciate that members need to follow the advice of TAFE Queensland and CQUniversity in these matters, however we thought it important to share this information with you.

 Useful links:

 Authorised by Kate Ruttiman, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union
21 Graham Street, Milton, QLD, Australia, 4064

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