National TAFE Council AGM: Critical workload issues in TAFE
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 127 No 6, 12 August 2022, page no. 19
The recent Australian Education Union (AEU) National TAFE Council (NTC) AGM received a report on the 2021 “State of Our TAFE” survey, which gave TAFE members Australia-wide a chance to provide feedback on how their working lives had changed over the two years of the pandemic.
Notably, face-to-face teaching decreased from 82 per cent to 51 per cent since the pandemic began, while blended delivery increased from 8 per cent to 12 per cent. Online delivery jumped from 10 per cent to a whopping 36.5 per cent.
Interestingly, 60 per cent of respondents’ preference is to return to entirely face to face delivery, with 33 per cent preferring a blended or hybrid model.
According to the survey feedback, these substantial shifts to online and blended delivery created significant challenges. As a result, full-time TAFE teachers worked an additional 9.7 hours per week above contracted hours on average, with minimal support. 65.4 per cent indicated that their workload was unmanageable, and 43.3 per cent indicated class sizes had increased. 87.9 per cent stated that admin increases were the largest component proportionate to total work time.
Sadly, some 80 per cent of survey respondents indicated that the quality of education today was below the standard students had received prior to the pandemic.
The above trends makes one question why members are accepting having to work unpaid hours over and above their contractual agreements as if it is normal practice?
The responses revealed a minefield of ongoing workload pressures.
- Often, new teachers are unaware of their working conditions, so they tend to accept extra workload as the norm or in an attempt to avoid any suggestion of under-performance.
- New 2022 training packages lack guidelines as to the hours specific units should take to deliver and assess.
- Educators are currently given minimal hours to deliver and assess multiple units, with outrageous numbers of assessments to be completed in insufficient time. This has massively increased workloads for both students and teachers alike.
- The “flipped learning model”, implemented to compensate for compressed delivery times (students spend a minimum of one hour in “self-directed activity time” at home for every hour in the classroom) has failed and cannot be validated.
- The contraction of federal and state funding for TAFE and the push to privatise TAFE in opening VET to a fully contestable market results in a lack of funding that generally equates to less delivery hours, poorer equipment or infrastructure, and a reduction in the workforce, which can increase workload and result in courses being shut down.
- Teachers are often mandated to use master product resources that are often flawed and developed as standalone units, denying educators the ability to cluster units to reduce the volume of assessment.
- ASQA compliance and RTO standards are blurred, while activity types that maintain currency in industry and VET practises should be clear, relevant, and unambiguous without adding to an individual’s workload.
To address these concerns, the National TAFE Council considered a national approach to reducing or eliminating the source of workload pressures.
- Ensure the federal government honours its election commitment to dedicate 70 per cent of funding to rebuilding with TAFE.
- Review training packages and development of master product, considering extending overall package delivery times and re-imagining of relevant industry project assessments.
- Develop a national guide to restore unit nominal delivery times, to assist in better estimation and planning of delivery and assessment.
- Revise national regulation, the Australian Skills Quality Authority, and the national standards to provide clarity around RTO compliance and relevant knowledge and skills currency activities aligned with industry needs.
- Deliver “Know your rights at work” training sessions around unpaid overtime and programming issues.
- Hold managers to account for any industrial breaches via dispute resolution mechanisms.