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Would-be masseur contests ban

A college is reviewing its equality policy after a complaint that it discriminated against men by excluding them from a course. Kevin Berry reports.

TWO colleges in West Yorkshire have been criticised for running women-only massage courses.

John Sibley, a computer contractor who wants to qualify as a masseur, was turned away by Park Lane College in Leeds who told him: "Sorry Sir, it's ladies only here."

He then tried St Bartholomew's Centre, one of Park Lane's network of smaller colleges, but this course also excluded men as did one at Bradford and Ilkley College.

Mr Sibley, from Eldwick near Bingley, said that Park Lane College had made "some rather peculiar excuses". He added: "They were saying, men are barred because it's a whole body massage but to me there isn't any other form of massage. Things can be dealt with professionally and properly.

"The exclusion of men makes the subject very, very smutty. Anyone training as a masseur needs to practise on both sexes."

Mr Sibley added: "Study at home is hard for me. I was ready for practical work. I was looking for a structured, formal course. My ex-wife, who is a qualified masseuse, recommended another massage course at Bradford and Ilkley College which leads to a general national vocational qualification level 3 but I could not find it in the prospectus, so I didn't pursue it.

Then I was told it was under beauty and aromatherapy, which is not where a man would be looking.

"This is definite discrimination and it makes me very angry."

Mr Sibley's case has caused Park Lane College to rethink its policy.

Principal John Taylor said: "Mr Sibley has a point and we are grateful to him for bringing to our attention the difficulties he has encountered. I have spoken to colleagues involved with enrolling people on massage and aromatherapy courses at local adult education centres and it would seem that our practice varies from course to course. In view of that we are reviewing our policy. "

A spokesperson for Bradford and Ilkley said they sympathised with Mr Sibley in his attempt to find a suitable course. "We aim to provide courses suitable for a wide range of people. If we feel there is a gap in the market we will look to see if a suitable course can be started."

He said the college had recently become the only one in the country to offer a beauty therapy degree open to both men and women.

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