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'Skills united' aims to score

New steering group driven by equality, reports Steve Hook

Equal rights will be at the centre of the Learning and Skills Council's thinking with the creation of a national advisory committee.

The equality and diversity committee will tackle issues such as race, gender and disability and run alongside the LSC's other committees, including those for youth and adult learning.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Dyslexia Institute, will chair the committee.

The new committee will raise the profile of the issues that were previously covered by an advisory group on equality, says Ms Cramer, who has been a member of the LSC national council for 18 months.

She said: "It is very important that we put equality and diversity in the mainstream of what we do in the LSC, and that is what this committee is about.

"We will report to the national council twice a year, with the same sort of status as other committees that make up the LSC.

"We have some good-quality applications for the committee and we have picked candidates not because of which organisations they are from but for what they have contributed and can continue to contribute to these issues."

She says her own subject of dyslexia is already being tackled with specialist training for lecturers in how to deal with students who have the condition.

Her new committee will be involved with the adult basic skills strategy unit in introducing the training.

It includes Jeremy Crook, director of the Black Training and Enterprise Group, and Judith Norrington, director of curriculum and quality at the Association of Colleges.

Peter Lavender, of the National Institute for Continuing Adult Education, and Peter Gratton, of the Third Age Employment Network, are also members.

Other new senior appointments at the LSC include Sandra Burslem, vice-chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, who becomes its new vice-chair.

This role was carried out by John Monks during his time as general secretary for the Trades Union Congress .

Mr Monks was also chair of the adult learners' committee, a position that has now gone to Francis O'Grady, TUC deputy general secretary.

Ms Burslem's career straddles both sides of the furtherhigher education divide and will be seen as a key link to the wider post-16 sector in which the Government is trying to create greater co-operation and common standards.

She has worked for the LSC's predecessor, the Further Education Funding Council, where she was a member of the board from 2001-02 .

And she has direct experience of vocational education as chair of the GNVQ policy committee of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

Ian Ferguson, deputy chairman of the modern apprenticeship task force, takes over as chair of the young people's learning committee, replacing Chris Banks.

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