HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [6.34 pm]: I rise tonight because I want to make some comments about the student management system that is currently being implemented across the Western Australian TAFE system. It is an issue that I have been starting to ask questions about this week. I am not particularly overwhelmed by the quality of the answers that I have been receiving, but I will get to that in a moment. The reason I am asking questions about this is that I have been speaking to quite a few people within the TAFE system. I am hearing from the sector that some very serious concerns are being raised around the problems with the implementation of this particular system. I want to make it clear that I am also hearing that if this system is to eventually be implemented effectively, people are quite supportive of what the new SMS could potentially do, but right now the implementation is going quite badly.

The implementation began with the North Metropolitan TAFE at the start of this year. We are hearing that the enrolment process at that TAFE has proved to be very difficult for both students and staff alike. In effect, enrolments are happening entirely in person and on paper. Entering enrolment details into the system has become so time consuming that the feedback I have been receiving is that only around nine students a day are inputted into the system, which is an appallingly low number when we are talking about thousands of students. Also, that means that class lists have been wrong for weeks and weeks on end. We have also heard that some students ended up abandoning trying to be enrolled in North Metropolitan TAFE and instead have been enrolled in South Metropolitan TAFE or nowhere at all because it has been so difficult.

I have been asking questions about this. Quite frankly, the answers I have been getting have been evasive and certainly insufficient. They in no way match or even account for the level of frustration and concern that is coming from the TAFE colleges. I also add that I have been advised by staff, particularly those at North Metropolitan TAFE, that they have been told not to talk about this, not to raise concerns and to keep mum about what is happening with the implementation problems. When those sorts of directives are given, they will not always be followed, especially if the problems are not being resolved.

The difficulties with the system in semester one were severe enough that, as I referred to in my question today, WA’s reporting of TAFE student numbers to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research for January to March of this year had to be delayed. I asked a question about this. I referred to the fact that it had been delayed. The response I received from the Minister for Education and Training was entirely unsatisfactory. Basically, I understand that the figures provided at the time were a snapshot and that that is what was supplied. That is not what I asked. I wanted to know what the figures are now. Instead, I got absolutely no answer at all. Likewise, I asked questions relating to my specific concerns about the additional North Metropolitan TAFE students and what was happening with those numbers. Again, the minister was completely evasive, and did not answer the question at all.

I want to make it very clear that I will not ignore this issue. I will not be shoved away. Lots of questions are to be asked about the business case and requirements, the software selection process and the testing protocols. It is not good enough to simply blame the implementation of the system on the previous government because the rollout is happening now and it is happening under this government. We know that a system that cannot perform the very basics without hours and hours of manual labour is not an improved system. That is a huge problem, and it probably should not have gone live. It is bad enough that the system has gone live in North Metropolitan TAFE when clearly it was not ready to do so. The problem is that this semester it has now been rolled out to all the regional colleges as well. Iam now hearing similar levels of distress from the regional colleges as Ihave heard from North Metropolitan TAFE.

South Metropolitan TAFE is due to have the rollout at the beginning of next year. Staff are incredibly alarmed that this disaster is unfolding in front of them and that they are going to be the next cab off the rank to deal with this problem. I am deeply concerned that the issues have not been addressed. The volume of administration that has fallen to lecturers over the last two enrolment periods may be the new expectation. I have been told that the lecturers are looking forward to the benefits that a new SMS system is supposed to bring, as I have already said. They are absolutely open to having a new system. They have been told of the potential for this. They are very clear that the benefits have not been seen but, rather, there has been an explosion in the volume of paper-based administration work. It is unclear to me how much of the difficulty has been due to going to production before the SMS was ready or how much is inherent in the system itself.

Despite how frustrating this process has been for lecturers and the administration staff within the colleges, I am hearing over and again their commitment to teaching, particularly our young people and people who are trying to get a start in the workforce, and all our TAFE students. Their concern is that this rollout is clearly being rushed and that identified issues are not being rectified. They are certainly not being rectified in a timely way. Their colleagues at other TAFE colleges will face the exact same set of problems that have already occurred in North Metro and are currently occurring in regional areas. In fact, if it were not for the rollout to the regional TAFEs proceeding without communicating how these issues have or will be resolved, I doubt anyone would have spoken up at all.

We cannot keep pushing a huge administrative burden onto our TAFE lecturing staff and onto the very dedicated support staff. We employ them to teach. There are clearly problems with this administration system. The TAFE lecturers and support staff are asking that we please put any further rollouts on hold. They have requested that, as a stop-gap measure, we go back to the old system for enrolments until we find out exactly what the problem is. The one thing we know is that we most certainly cannot look at rolling this out to any further TAFEs right now.


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