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Council attacked for black exclusion

THE NEW national Learning and Skills Council is under fire from the chair of a commission on racism in colleges for poor representation of black people.

Only one of the 14 members of the National Council appointed by David Blunkett is from an ethnic minority. Imtiaz Farookhi is chief executive of the National House Building Council.

Earlier this month, racial equality groups criticised the appointment of 47 chairs of the local LSCs. Just three of them were from ethnic minorites.

Mike Peters, chair of the Commission for Black Staff in Further Education, said the need to tackle racism should be reflected in the make-up of the national LSC.

"It's disappointing that yet again we have got relatively low representation for people of ethnic-minority groups," he said.

"That must be a concern. Certainly a lot of the names I have heard are people with very strong track records in business and education, and that's what we want.But there are people who can actually bring those experiences to bear as well as being from ethnic- minority communities."

The independent Commission for Black Staff in Further Education was set up to investigate racism in FE, in response to the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry report.

A survey of colleges found only around 3 per cent of lecturing staff are black.

The commission claims most colleges do not understand equal opportunity, and do not recognise that they have a problem.

It will hold "witness days" in colleges throughout the country, hearing evidence of discrimination from black members of staff.

The commission is also planning to interview a number of "expert witnesss". They include such major FE 'players' as John Harwood, chief executive of the Learning and Skills Council.

Mike Peters said: "I'd expect him to be already acting on it (the council's racial make-up), saying to himself that the picture we've got is not good, and therefore he will seek to address that in terms of the composition of the boards.

"They should be looking at (getting) knowledgeable, fully-skilled, expert people from black communities to be elected."

According to Department for Education and Employment figures, of 6,251 applications for LSCs nationwide, 9 per cent have been from people from an ethnic-minority background.

There were 2,103 applications for the LSC National Council and its advisory committees, of whom 10 per cent were from ethnic minorities.

For the post of national chair, 5 per cent of applications were from black or Asian applicants. For the chairs of the 47 local LSCs, 9 per cent were from people with an ethnic-minority background. Of the UK's 59 million people, 4 million are from ethnic minorities.

Yvonne Thompson, the elected chair of Central London LSC, is black and runs her own public relations agency.

She said that there have not been enough applications from ethnic minorities for LSC board positions in London.

"Everybody who responded to the ads was invited to an advisory meeting. And I have to say at the meeting I went to, it was a very good representation of ethnic minorities. I don't know what happened after that meeting. I don't know whether people just didn't apply or didn't go forward."

Lecturers left out, 33

Racism witness call, 35

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