Studio Schools – an attack on working class youth

After completing a stint in education, be it leaving school at 16 or staying on in further education, most of us find that we are doomed to be little more than slaves to a company. For some of us however, this could now be the case from the mere age of 14.

Enter, “Studio Schools”, a government backed scheme for 14 -19 year olds that will put the education of the said school’s students firmly in the hands of big, corporate employers. For those of you unsure what a “studio school” is (join the queue), launched back in 2010 these schools sprung up without any sort of discussion of whether they are necessary or of any actual use and are state funded however run by private sponsors. The apparent aim for studio schools is to help young people get into work by making them more employable. This is to be achieved through the students of the school being taken out of the classroom environment and learning “on the job” with each school specialising in a certain area such as catering and engineering. There are currently 15 studio schools open across the UK with that figure expected to double to 30 by September 2013 as the Government gives the all clear for another 15 to be opened.

The Studio Schools Trust claims on their website that the schools offer both academic and vocational qualifications and teaches (some of) the national curriculum stating students will work towards GCSEs in at least Maths, English and Science. These qualification will be delivered however “out of a traditional classroom setting” and instead through “Enterprise projects”.

At a first glance studio schools may not seem like a bad idea. There are plenty of young people who fail to thrive in the classroom environment and there are too plenty of subjects that offer few practical skills. These schools however will usher their students down a very narrow path with the end product being working in a specific, not necessarily specialist field. The studio school’s “CREATE Framework”, consisting of modules such as “thinking” and “understanding myself”, doesn’t sound too far away from the likes of CoPE and general studies, filler qualifications seen in mainstream education which are much less valued than core subjects. What this looks like is basically a dumbing down of education making students work towards becoming the drones for giant corporations. This of course is hardly the sort of opportunity anyone would want going to school to open up for our children.

The most alarming part of this set up is also the way in which the schools claim children will be “taught”. As previously stated, students will learn “on the job”. Yes, a hands on approach like this may be better for preparing students for a lifetime of work than sitting at a table working out algebra is ever going to. Students at these schools will however be doing a job with 9 – 5 hours and short holidays reflecting this. They will be getting prepared for the world of work, by working. Over 16 students will be paid, unsurprisingly, the minimum wage. Under 16 students will be expected to work for free. This brings in an awful scent of workfare about the set up as students are in fact working for their education. Facts such as these could also point out the reasoning for the giant corporation’s involvement may be more to do with aspects such cheap labour rather than trying to help young people cement a better future. As anyone who has ever worked for pretty much any company ever will tell you, there is only one thing people at the top actually care about.

The really sickly part about this all is that we are handing over the responsibility of educating these students to the big name companies; Sony, Ikea and Hilton Hotels to name but a few. The Studio Schools Trust website states that in the most recent employer survey 70% of employers “wanted to see the new government make the employability skills of young people its top education priority”. Yes because it doesn’t matter about opening up a range of opportunities for young people, encouraging them to do something worthwhile or to ensure just a chance of doing something they enjoy does it? As long as the education process makes them able to clean a table in a hotel, right guys?

Of course not everyone gets to follow their dream. Not everyone thrives in an academic environment. But isn’t education supposed to be about that chance that a person could? It’s certainly not about securing the next generation of employees for the corporate big boys. If a young person wants the option of dropping out of the conventional academic environment as they feel it’s not for them then no one should want to say that they can’t. But is doing this as young as 14 really the answer? Is mass involvement from the private sponsors really the right way to go about this? These are still state schools remember. They are still funded by the tax payer. If this is going to be done it needs to be done properly and with young people’s best interests at heart. The corporate giants have clicked their fingers and said “we want this out of education” and just like that with little thought or discussion on the matter, now we have studio schools. Is this really for the benefit of the students who will be attending? Or is this just the big companies muscling in on our education process? Putting young people’s lives in the hands of those who care for nothing but their wealth is a dangerous route to go down however one that our government seems to backing.