Red Pepper magazine this week reports on the growth of the secretive Studio Schools, a little known sub-set of the Free Schools programme. According to Red Pepper, for a bargain price of just £8000, businesses can have a tailor made school full of unpaid and low paid child workers.
Children and young people up to the age of 19 will only be offered a minimum GCSE level education and the schools will have long days and short holidays to mimic working life.
The schools will teach a basic version of the national curriculum with much of the rest of the time devoted to unpaid work. Those between the ages of 14 to 16 will be required to work at least four hours a week for private companies for no pay. Those over 16 will receive the national Minimum Wage of just £3.68.
This is different to the normal practice of sending kids on a fortnight’s work experience as has happened for many years in the educational system. As the Studio Schools website explains to employers: “Rather than spending two weeks unpaid, students will participate in real work over a sustained period of time. In doing so they will become productive members of your business’ workforce.”
This is used to justify employer’s being asked to pay those over 16 year a wage for the work they do, an unfashionable idea under this administration. Yet those under 16 will not be paid, despite being ‘productive members’ of the workforce over a sustained period of time.
Article 32 of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by the UK clearly, states that signatories “recognise the right of the child to be protected from economic exploitation.” In most countries where young people are forced into child labour they actually get paid.
Whilst those under 16 are currently only believed to be working 4 hours a week there seems to be little to stop that being stretched out to much longer hours. A guide to employing young people on the Studio Schools website helpfully points out to employers that:
“Students on work experience arranged by the local authority or by the governing body of a school acting on behalf of the local authority should not work more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week.”
Predictably the Confederation of British Industry, the Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors are huge supporters of the project which will allow them to employ children for no or miniscule wages. Hilton Hotels, National Express and Virgin Media are just some of the money grabbing leeches who have signed up to the new schools.
Read the full details of the new schools over at Red Pepper: http://www.redpepper.org.uk/workfare-comes-to-the-classroom/