The warning that inspection grades could be affected by display of material such as Page Three girls and Pirelli calendars comes after a West Country garage owner decided to stand his ground on the issue in a dispute with his local college.
The Adult Learning Inspectorate, responsible for workplace training, including modern apprenticeships, told FE Focus this week that grades would be affected if such material was displayed where vocational training was taking place.
Colleges already have their own equality policies, which are built into modern apprenticeship contracts with employers. But the stance taken by the inspectorate means colleges could be given further ammunition if they want to stop doing businesses with employers who fail to toe the line.
David Sherlock, chief inspector of ALI, made it clear he would expect his staff to take revealing pictures into account.
He said: "We inspect and grade provision of equality of opportunity. Girlie calendars on walls we would comment on adversely. They would have an impact on the equality of opportunity grade."
Alan Jeffery, 52, a Plymouth car workshop owner, is refusing to remove photos of women, taken from car magazines and newspapers, which adorn his walls.
He claims the pictures are part of the "culture" of his trade.
He said: "There is a more serious problem. We have great difficulties finding trainees. Some of them have such poor communication that I wouldn't want them here in case they had to speak to customers or answer the phone.
I think they should concentrate more on the standard of education of the youngsters rather than worrying about what's on the wall."
Ian Clark, vice-principal of Plymouth college of further education, wrote to Mr Jeffery after his staff spotted the pictures during a routine visit.
In the letter, Mr Clark said: "I would hope your staff do not regard the proposals as oppressive, but rather as supporting the release from oppression of another segment of society.
"I am simply trying to encourage motor trade personnel to consider other ways of viewing their fellow person."
Paul Wellington, 22, Mr Jeffery's modern apprentice, who attends the college one day a week, has not complained about the pictures. Some of the images, Mr Jeffery says, were given to the garage by a female apprentice.
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