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Students fail to win council seats

Further education students and trade unionists have criticised the make-up of the local learning and skills councils, saying they fail to represent adequately learners and practitioners.

The 47 local councils each have one trade union representative - but only two of them are from lecturers' union NATFHE - and there is not a single student representative on any of the councils.

Mark Atkinson, vice-president of the National Union of Students, said he was "very disappointed". The NUS coached members who applied to serve on the councils but only two were interviewed. Mr Atkinson himself applied to the national council and the adult and young persons sub-committees but all three applications were rejected.

He said: "We were really pleased with David Blunkett's announcement (in "Learning to Succeed") that he wanted learners to be at the heart of the system. What we read into that - perhaps naively - was that we would be able to have some student representation on the local councils."

NATFHE national officer Dan Taubman also had his application to the national council, adult committee and the Central London council turned down. The union has just two representatives - national president Jacqui Johnson in Berkshire and Les Price in Leicesterhire.

"We are disappointed but we will learn to live with it. The important thing for us now is to set up consultation with the trade union representative on the local councils," said Mr Taubman.

As expected, businesspeople will be the single largest group on the local learning and skills councils, with overall representation of 41.5 per cent - slightly more than the Government's stated aim of 40 per cent. But the full list of local board members, published this month, shows that just one-third are women and 7 per cent are from ethnic minorities.

Of those declaring an affiliation, 24 per cent were Conservatives, 16 per cent were Labour supporters and 9 per cent were Liberal Democrats.

On every board, at least four members are private-sector employers, while each has a representative from a trade union and the regional development agency. Nearly every board includes a college principal while higher education, local authorities, voluntary groups and training providers are also represented.

The local councils will have a key role in the planning of post-16 education and training from next spring. They will publish annual statements of the skills needs in their area as part of the Government's "bottom-up planning process".

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