TAFE & Adult Provision BKI dispute continues

  • By Rachel Power
  • This article was published more than 3 years ago.
  • 4 Jul 2021

Since the current Victorian TAFE Teaching Staff Agreement was introduced in 2018, the AEU has been working with members to implement new mandatory workplans, agreed between teachers and managers, by 1 March each year. Workplans are designed to address the complex nature of teaching and learning at TAFEs, and an individual teacher’s required duties. Ideally, they should support teachers and management with their planning and organising, minimise disputes and protect staff from work overload.

Teachers’ overall 1200 hours are broken down to a maximum 800 hours per year of teaching delivery and supervision; and 400 hours of preparation, planning, curriculum development and assessment. In other words, every hour of teaching should be accompanied by a half-hour of preparation. 

This work remains a key focus for the AEU, but will be more challenging in the short term following the Fair Work Commission’s decision regarding the delivery of courses at Bendigo Kangan Institute’s Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE). On March 26, the FWC handed down its decision on the “proper construction”, i.e. interpretation, of two clauses (32.5 and 32.10) in the Victorian TAFE Teaching Staff Agreement 2018 related to how duties are classified in workplans. 

The AEU contends that BKI has failed to understand that competency-based training means ‘assessment for learning’ – as opposed to ‘assessment of learning’ – involving continuous constructive feedback for students to achieve competency.

In skills education, teaching and assessment are often part of the same process. For many courses, every step is a learning experience requiring feedback, and not every student can be assessed on the same day or in the same way. One might pass quickly, another might require 20 attempts. On top of this, TAFE teachers have a duty of care to supervise students, often due to health and safety risks, especially in areas such as building or electrical.

Evidence provided by BKI to the Fair Work Commission looked at the work required of automotive department teachers. The institute claims to have two teachers rostered in the ACE workshop – one teaching students undertaking practical activities, the other performing assessment only. BKI considers most of the work to be teaching and therefore allocated within the 800 hours, despite the fact that those staff are performing assessment duties. The FWC agreed that this was permissible under the agreement.

The AEU contends that BKI has failed to understand that competency-based training means ‘assessment for learning’ – as opposed to ‘assessment of learning’ – involving continuous constructive feedback for students to achieve competency. Instead, in ACE employees’ workplans, the institute has classified “assessment hours observing competence” as sitting outside designated teaching hours. In practice, this means some staff at BKI have been rostered to do two to three hours per week supervising students to assess competencies in addition to a full 800-hour teaching load.

When negotiating the current TAFE agreement, members were clear they needed conditions to help them manage workload. Workplans should ensure tasks are distributed fairly within any program; teachers have the opportunity to perform all duties within a reasonable timeframe; and students have access to their teachers.

The Fair Work decision does not fundamentally change the agreement. Not implementing the Victorian TAFE Teacher Staff Agreement 2018 may be a breach of the agreement and the subject of a dispute in the FWC or a Federal Court. The AEU has appealed the BKI decision, with a hearing scheduled for late June.

UPDATE AS OF 20 JULY 2021

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has handed down its decision in relation to the appeal by the AEU in the dispute between the AEU and BKI about the allocation of assessment duties for members at the Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE) in Docklands.

The FWC full bench found in favour of BKI by determining that ‘the final demonstration’ assessment undertaken by members at ACE who are rostered to assess only should be counted as part of the 400-hour component of teaching duties, whether that assessment is in or out of the classroom, rather than as part of the 800-hour teaching delivery component.

It is important to note that an agreed workplan can only be amended where both the employer and employee agree to do so.

We will keep members updated on any further developments in the case.

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