Red Pepper explains the United Kingdom’s new “studio schools,” under which teenagers spend half their day performing menial jobs for corporate sponsors for little or no pay, with the (accurate) purpose being to prepare them for the real world:
Launched quietly in 2010, studio schools allow private businesses to run state education for 14 to 19-year-olds with learning ‘on the job’ and not in the classroom.
Almost any business can set up a studio school by paying a voluntary subscription of just £8,000 to the government. In return, the government builds and maintains a school, but the power to run the school remains firmly in the hands of private sponsors. National Express, GlaxoSmithKline, Sony, Ikea, Disney, Michelin, Virgin Media and Hilton Hotels are just some of the corporate players who have bought into the scheme.
Predictably, these sponsor firms only pay the minimum wage – and that’s only for their over-16 students. Under-16s must work at least four hours a week for local sponsors unpaid. It is perhaps ironic that a system that is supposed to teach children what it is like to work in the real world does not pay them to do a job. Moreover, the introduction of cheap child labour into the workplace is likely to drive down wages for adult workers doing similar jobs.
Studio schools raise a wider question concerning education: what is it for? Employers have already told university graduates that they no longer require so many workers with degrees. Now they are suggesting that pupils as young as 14 would be better off working for them for free than going to school. With studio schools, education is increasingly becoming indistinguishable from preparation for limited-horizon work. Their rise represents another step in the creeping corporate takeover of our public services.