NSW TAFE will suspend all but essential healthcare related courses for a month as it rushes to upskill 5000 teachers and put as many courses as possible online.
NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education Geoff Lee told The Sydney Morning Herald that most TAFE courses would be suspended from Monday. Exceptions will be made for critical skill areas including enrolled nursing and aged care.
"This is a momentous time for TAFE," Dr Lee said. "From March 30 we will be putting a pause on courses to allow for them to be put online."
Pictures: Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Australia
TAFE courses would be available again from Monday April 27 under the ambitious plan.
Dr Lee said 5000 TAFE teachers would be upskilled in online delivery of their courses by distance education. As many as 1200 courses offered through TAFE around the state will be delivered online.
"We want to make sure we are doing everything we can to avoid transmission of the virus," Dr Lee said. "We need to upskill 6000 full-time equivalent staff in online course delivery."
The NSW Teachers Federation said the suspension of causes was necessary but doubted whether the ambitious aim of training 5000 teachers to deliver hundreds of courses in four weeks could be achieved. "It's a start," TAFE spokeswoman Maxine Sharkey said.
Dr Lee said that as yet there had been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on TAFE campuses.
"The safety and wellbeing of students and staff is the highest priority for TAFE NSW," he said.
"A TAFE NSW Crisis Management Team has been operating for several weeks to oversee the agency's strategic response to the unfolding international coronavirus situation and has developed a range of measures in consultation with NSW Health and relevant agencies which are leading the response."
TAFE NSW issued a statement saying it recognises the need to provide a quality educational experience for students in this dynamic and challenging environment, and to support teachers to move to a range of connected, online, and distance delivery modes.
"With these considerations in mind, TAFE NSW is pausing course delivery so that teachers can plan lessons, develop learning materials, and modify training to be delivered to students online. The pause comes into full effect from Monday 30 March, with classes to recommence on Monday 27 April," it said.
"TAFE NSW facilities will remain open so that students can access a range of services, while maintaining social distancing, including disability, library and technology access support.
"From 27 April, TAFE NSW will re-commence delivery to students through connected and blended delivery. This may include face-to-face delivery, where necessary and adequate social distancing measures can be implemented. Teachers will discuss arrangements directly with their students over the next few weeks."
TAFE NSW students can contact 131 601 or visit the TAFE NSW website for more information.