Letter: death of a quango

November 17, 2000

The last annual conference of the Further Education Funding Council tended to demonstrate its arrogance and conceit. The council distinguished itself by inspecting colleges, finding them efficient and then re-examining them and saying they had "failed".

The most notorious example was Bilston Community College, where, with all its management and one-third of staff dismissed, the FEFC put the boot in and found it one of the most inefficient colleges in Britain. Bilston's crime was that, with an unprecedented 30 per cent of staff from ethnic minorities, it had devised a system that allowed ethnic minorities largely to determine their own education needs. It was also hugely successful in meeting the needs of other disadvantaged people in the highly deprived areas of Bilston and Wolverhampton.

When the FEFC changed its proposal for Bilston and Wulfrun colleges to merge and instead allowed the smaller college, with an undistinguished record on ethnic minority affairs, to take over Bilston, it committed an act of institutional racism of national significance.

The new Learning and Skills Council speaks highly of equal opportunities. Yet only two of the appointed 47 chairs are from ethnic minorities. The LSCs were conceived by mainly white civil servants, supported by mainly white ministers, debated and passed in a largely white parliament and locally set up by mostly white people.

If institutional racism is to be avoided, there will have to be mechanisms at each of the above stages to allow ethnic minority people to control their education. The only model so far devised is that of Bilston.

G. Barnsby
Friends of Bilston Community College

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