Blue Mountains MP Trish Doyle has sought clarification over the future of a TAFE course at Wentworth Falls which was specially designed this year to help post Year 12 students living with disabilities.
Ms Doyle raised concerns about the pilot course after parents praised the “fantastic” free and customised Blue Mountains course, but expressed worries about whether it would continue in 2018.
The Certificate 1 course which was delivered was Access to Work and Training (Students with a Disability). It was made possible through a collaboration with TAFE and the National Disability Insurance Scheme, with individual carers looking after up to nine students who attended a day each week. A further three TAFE teachers ran the program.
“This very program is the reason government should invest in TAFE,” Ms Doyle told the Gazette.
“I do worry about the ideological privatisation agenda and cuts to TAFE, coming from government, and being driven by the higher management tier.”
The students spent a semester working on horticulture, literacy and numeracy and another semester learning about hospitality in a commercial kitchen, where many hoped to ultimately gain employment.
Parent Helen Haigh said her 20-year-old daughter Annalise had gained so much from the “outstanding program”. For many of the students the course day – Thursday – was their favourite day of the week, she said. Annalise described the course as “fun and remarkable”.
"I cannot speak highly enough of the staff, teacher Brian Power and the supporting staff from the Horticulture departments who have been so enthusiastic and supportive,” Mrs Haigh said.
“With support our young people are growing into confident and capable members of our community, getting around independently, making friends. These are the life goals of our young people living with a disability. This is a lovely stepping stone.”
The course was developed by TAFE counsellor Stephanie Roper after a parent expressed concerns about young adults with a disability getting access to further education and training beyond school, an option open to most of their age peers. Ms Roper recognised there was a community need and Mrs Haigh said there was also a potential for a TAFE partnership with groups like the Ben Roberts Cafe in Lawson in the future.
Horticulture teacher Meera Jarvis said the students had various abilities and likes and dislikes. “One of the boys really liked the wheelbarrow … I think it’s a good community and the TAFE has always been a community organisation,” she added.
In response to the Gazette’s questions about the course’s future, a TAFE spokesman said they were already looking at training programs in this area for next year and it would depend on demand.
“We’ve got a strong track record for providing training like this.
“TAFE NSW has a proud history of running programs for students with a disability, and this particular initiative is a case in point.
“Congratulations to all who participated – we are sure you have developed skills and experience that will stand you in good stead.
“We’re already in discussions about similar training programs for 2018, and hope there will be strong demand for such a program again next year.”