Take your mind back a week or so, before Brussels and the Budget, and before Nicky Morgan had a weekend in the limelight over education. There was the announcement that schools (even the compulsory new academies) should have extended opening hours, sorry I mean finishing time. (oops i confused a school and a private business, not unlike the government)
Aside from the appropriate backlash that the other policies in the budget regarding education rightly received from teachers, unions and education bodies regarding academisation, (or should that be the Macdonaldisation) of schools, the policy to extend school hours went a little under the radar. One of the suggestions in the policy was that it wouldn’t be teachers who would fill some of the extra time in schools ( because, and rightly so, they work enough as it is) – it would be youth workers who would come in to do ‘extra curricular’ sports and leisure activities with young people in that extra hour. Concerned? maybe youthworkers should be….From a youthwork point of view, there are substantial alarm bells here arent there?
1. Forced Fun is no fun. Though i guess the cabinet have a whale of time when they go away on go-carting team building days, or they play the 1 almost truth and 2 lies game when they gather. They must hoot. Taking the personal jibe aside. Forced fun for adults is generally awful, and so – if young people are forced to stay in school to have ‘fun’ – or do even more constructive things that this like say DofE, or community work- then it’ll feel no different to being in school, a place they’d hoped to be out of an hour earlier. It could turn young people off doing voluntary, community active, sporty activities for life, if schools force them to do it.
A case in point would be the amounts of young people forced to do ‘religion’ in schools. They generally don’t go back to it.
2. Compulsory youthwork isn’t youthwork. I should be playing to the choir on this one. Most youth workers know what youthwork is, and its based on voluntary negotiated participation with the young person. Anything else is using a ‘youthwork approach’ (usually doing games and having chats) and being a ‘pseudo teacher’ in a already pre ordained space. Youthwork has the young person as primary client in the space – an hour after school will predominately serve the interests of the policy and the school. Critical youthwork challenges these structures. Even liberal youthwork would only exist in voluntary settings. Youthwork in an hour after school would only be youth work by name, not by nature, philosophy or practice.
It will be interesting to see what kind of youthworkers opt to take these opportunities. I imagine its those desiring to be known by the large groups of young people for other motives. Including the youth evangelists.
3. Given the pillaging the Government has done with youth services – why would any youthworker jump to this highly dubious government policy for a few hours work a week anyway?
Surely its better to stand in solidarity with teachers, to attack the proposal of academisation, and extra school hours – than see it as an opportunity, thus working against those who educate our children in the harshest of educational policy environments- (policy environments that youth workers can also understand). Is the integrity of the youthwork sector (in its entirety) worth it?
An IBS article sums up the background to the Academisation policy here
How Many Youthworkers do you think there are again?
So lets assume that there are 1,000 secondary schools being given money to open up 2 hours extra per day. On the basis that theres 6 classes of 30 per year group, 4 year groups ( yrs 10-11 must only be doing GCSE revision), and there would need to be at least 2 youthworkers in each session- for each class (no school is going to allow a less than 1:15 ratio for a non teacher, and we shouldnt put ourselves at risk either) so lets do the maths
1,000 (schools) x 4 (year groups) x 6 (classes) x 2 (per class) = 48,000. Given that all the schools will want this service at the same time ie 4-6pm – no youthworker can be in different places. How many youthworkers are there to take up 48,000 contracts of 15 hour weeks?
If the government has listened to anyone about the closure of the youth services across the nation, then its got a funny way of showing it. By ‘giving’ youthworkers the opportunity to work in a school for a couple of hours per day, at max 15 a week including planning time, is nothing compared to what had gone on before- and importantly the type of work that had gone on before. It was open, unpredictable and young people chose it. There’s a fundamental difference between this, and doing youthwork in a school at the end of a school day, when all young people want to do is go home and relax, and have their own space for a few hours.
Nothing this government has done has convinced people that it is heralding these policies for the ‘sake of the next generation’ or for young people. This is purely and simply to extend free childcare so people can be in work longer. Nevertheless even the proposal of it shows that understanding youthwork in its approach has never been part of the governments thinking.
And this is before we get on to think about what the afterschool provision will need to prove in terms of success – against the governments tightly regimented outcomes? or where the funding might come from- and the conditions of it. And who might train youthworkers to be proficient in classroom environments ?
Nope, the Government doesnt get youth work. This only proves it again.