Huw Carrington of online printer ink retailer, Stinkyink.com (www.stinkyinkshop.co.uk) ponders on how to improve attendance and grades.
I’ve been doing youth work as a volunteer for seven years now, and part-time professional youth work for half of that. I’ve worked with hundreds of teenagers, from all around the UK and even from a few places in Europe. I’ve seen all manner of issues, ranging from the inspiring to the horrifying, and I’ve done my best to deal with every one of them. Through all this, I’ve realised that many young people hate school.
For a couple of years now I’ve worked regularly with one young person – we’ll call him Bobby – who dislikes school, so he simply doesn’t go in. His attendance is at less than 30 per cent, and so the school has resorted to unusual means to encourage him to turn up.
Counsellors have talked to Bobby in his home; his head of year has taken him out for coffee to discuss why he doesn’t go in; he’s been promised rewards and concessions if he can get up to a minimum attendance level. From all I’ve seen, none of these have worked; he’d rather stay up late on his Xbox, have a lie in, and then hang out with his friends when they have finished school.
Paid to learn?
I’m not going to pretend I have the answer to this, but as uncomfortable as it might make me feel, a short while ago I came across something that I suspect might improve things for kids like Bobby.
A couple of years back, Time magazine ran an article (http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1978758-1,00.html) detailing how a team over in the US ran a study across thousands of pupils in four different major cities, wherein, in its simplest terms, they paid students to go to school. Their results were varied, but in one city those who received a salary through the whole year had substantially higher reading scores than their unpaid peers. This was equivalent to them having had several months extra tuition.
When I was at school, and more recently at university, I didn’t hit the books as hard as I should have. However, when I started working to get a pay check that enabled me to buy the things that I wanted, I changed gear and actually got down to putting some effort in. My colleagues and friends had a similar experience, so I can’t help but wonder if something like this had been done for me, I might have tried harder and come out with better grades.
Money might not buy you happiness, but maybe, just maybe, it could provide the motivation to get young people to learn.
What are your views? Should pupils learn for the love of it, or will payment just cheapen education?