Mass course au­dits jeop­ar­dise TAFE starts

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - MICHAEL OWEN

A TAFE SA train­ing scan­dal could mean de­lays to the start of hun­dreds of cour­ses as the state gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion in­sists on in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal au­dits of what is be­ing taught in more than 1300 pro­grams to 70,000 stu­dents.

TAFE SA is reel­ing from sig­nif­i­cant rep­u­ta­tional dam­age af­ter 14 ran­domly selected cour­ses last year failed spot checks by the Aus­tralian Skills Qual­ity Author­ity, with four of the cour­ses be­ing dis­con­tin­ued and 10 fac­ing sus­pen­sion pend­ing an ap­peal.

The Week­end Aus­tralian un­der­stands the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s re­main­ing ex­ec­u­tive mem­bers are in­sist­ing on in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal au­dits of ev­ery course of­fered by TAFE SA amid con­cerns more may fail ran­dom checks by the na­tional reg­u­la­tor.

TAFE SA in­terim chief ex­ec­u­tive Alex Reid said a “new qual­ity frame­work is now be­ing ap­plied to all of our cour­ses to en­sure they are up to the stan­dards we ex­pect”.

“This in­cludes in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal au­dits,” he said.

But Mr Reid re­fused to di­rectly an­swer how many cour­ses had al­ready been cleared and how many were yet to go through the process. He said more than 5000 “units of com­pe­tence” would be re­viewed.

Sources within TAFE SA said the pre-emp­tive tac­tic was seen in­ter­nally as es­sen­tial de­spite the risk of dis­rup­tion to staff and stu­dents as the em­bat­tled in­sti­tu­tion could not sur­vive the fall­out of an­other ad­verse find­ing by ASQA.

“We have been told ev­ery course will be au­dited,” a se­nior lec­turer said.

TAFE SA chair­man Peter Vaughan has been re­moved and chief ex­ec­u­tive Robin Murt has re­signed in the wake of the train- ing scan­dal, which emerged af­ter The Week­end Aus­tralian re­vealed a Civil Avi­a­tion Safety Author­ity au­dit had de­ter­mined TAFE SA’s air­craft main­te­nance course failed to meet train­ing and as­sess­ment stan­dards.

While ap­pli­ca­tions for first se­mes­ter cour­ses at TAFE SA this year fell by more than 4 per cent, the public train­ing provider made al­most 9000 of­fers af­ter work­ing with un­suc­cess­ful ap­pli­cants to “change their pref­er­ences to a more suit­able course”.

Classes are due to start from Jan­uary 29. There have been 744 of­fers made in five of the cour­ses af­fected by the au­dit, but the reg­u­la­tor has re­fused to give TAFE SA a guar­an­tee that stu­dents en­rolling in cour­ses fac­ing sanc­tions can com­plete their stud­ies.

Op­po­si­tion ed­u­ca­tion spokesman John Gardner ac­cused the Weather­ill gov­ern­ment of fail­ing stu­dents. “We’ve al­ready seen sig­nif­i­cant im­pacts on stu­dents, and the ef­fects of this scan­dal will be felt across our econ­omy.”

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Su­san Close in­sisted stu­dents were sup­ported, “with min­i­mal dis­rup­tion to their stud­ies”.

‘A new qual­ity frame­work is now be­ing ap­plied to en­sure they are up to the stan­dards we ex­pect’ ALEX REID TAFE SA IN­TERIM CEO

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