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Richmond TAFE not under closure threat says MP Preston as equine course enrolments plummet

Feb 22, 2022

Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston says Richmond TAFE is not under any threat of closure, despite fears it could be shuttered as equine courses are cut from the college’s offering.


She says she’s “flabbergasted” by claims the local TAFE could be shut or sold off.


MP Robyn Preston (left) with Hawkesbury Riding Club’s President Wendy Pike at last week’s unveiling of a new horse arena at the Club


Back just over a week ago, a demonstration was held at the TAFE gates, drawing in several of the 12 teachers who could lose their jobs due to the four cut equine courses, as well as TAFE Teachers Federation representatives, local horse trainers and owners, residents and students, plus Macquarie Labor MP Susan Templeman and NSW Shadow Minister Tim Crakanthorp.


NSW Teachers Federation Deputy Secretary for TAFE, Phill Chadwick, told the Post at the demo, “what’s happening here kind of mirrors what happened this time 12 months ago in Scone where TAFE NSW said it was not going to close, that they had no plans to sell.


“The Connected Learning Centre offside of the campus opens and lo and behold, just 6 months later the TAFE college in Scone has been sold for less than replacement cost to Racing NSW,” said Mr Chadwick.


Ms Preston says there is no doubt equine courses run by Racing NSW and other Registered Training Organisations (RTO) are popular, which is one reason the TAFE courses are being axed.


“The model they have [Racing NSW], I’m hearing people are very attracted to it. They are one of 5 providers in NSW.”


She says it is also possible to do equine courses not far from the Hawkesbury, at Penrith and Blacktown.


“There are opportunities to study at Blacktown or Penrith, for the practical side of things, so it’s not as if it’s way beyond the reach of people around the Hawkesbury area.”


“If they can do online and then for the practical side of things for a couple of days a week, travel to Penrith or Blacktown. I don’t think that’s hard.”


The trouble is, those courses do not appear to be offered at either Blacktown or Penrith TAFEs, although they are listed, they are simply not available locally, with some in the Hunter and others much further afield.


“Ideally it would be great to have it within the Richmond campus but if the attraction isn’t there for enrolments, how do you subsidise it? It [the equine courses] was being heavily subsidised already with declining numbers since 2017,” she says.


The Liberal MP says talk of Richmond TAFE being closed or sold have left her “flabbergasted”.


“To say Richmond TAFE would close down, I’m flabbergasted that people would say that. The other thing I saw [on a community social media page] is this is going to run roughshod through the polo industry too, I mean that is absolute rubbish. Absolute rubbish. People just like to make up stories without any facts at all.


“I’ve got the facts in front of me and there is a 92% drop in attendance, in people wanting to do these classes, and they are simply going elsewhere.”


Four equine courses are being chopped from the course offerings at Richmond TAFE, leaving none for locals to opt into.


Ms Preston says, “I have not had – and I would like them to come to me – I have not been inundated with mums and dads or students that have missed out on this.


“I can count the number of students enrolled on one hand on any of the four courses.”


“I’m looking at a list and in 2017 there were 117 people for the Cert 4 in Racing Racehorse Trainer and this year I’ve got zero. How do you explain it? I have got the figures in front of me. These people are making the stories up and I think it is irresponsible to do that when I have taken the time to find out the facts on this. I think it is a real shame.”


It seems though, according to teachers at Richmond TAFE, that the course Ms Preston is talking about here has not been offered at Richmond TAFE for over 2 years, so this year there would be zero students.


Ms Preston says she is on the campus every day – her office is based there – “and it’s empty because people are doing a lot of online training and online courses, and schools of course were doing that too, so people are in a particular rhythm”.


“That’s what the new, the other providers, are offering and I think perhaps people are drawn to that because they are offering a scope of different ways of learning, not just on the job with the physical work, there’s classroom training as well, and people are drawn to that.”

“So this is not something that is catastrophic.”


“There comes a time when you have to say, hey you can’t keep funding this [the equine courses]. The teachers keep turning up and have got no students,” the MP said.


On the teachers losing their jobs, Ms Preston says she understands at least half of them are being considered for other roles.


“TAFE is working with them closely about employment and training so they can also look for other careers,” she said.


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