As David Blacker has pointed out, in The Falling Rate of Learning, the right to education is one of the few rights that is often enshrined in law as a right that it is simultaneously compulsory to exercise (Blacker 2013, 196-7). In England, for example, the extension of this compulsion has risen from up to the age of 10 in 1870 to the current requirement to be in some form of education or training/apprenticeship until the age of 18.
As this blog post for Radicaled books demonstrates, many of these quasi-compulsory apprenticeships involve little beyond cheap labour for companies in the service sector where there is no skills/jobs shortage.
We might pause to consider here if it is even possible to consider a right not to be educated – or more precisely, the capacity to alienate that right – and what kind of politics might be encapsulated in such a demand.
Some three years after the BBC’s Panorama dramatically exposed the misuse of apprenticeship funding by the supermarket chain Morrison; this week’s Channel 4 Dispatches provided further disturbing evidence of how young people continue to be short changed, but also public money misspent, despite government reassurances that the reintroduction of apprenticeships has been a resounding success. Dispatches main target was the clothing chain Next, where young people taken on as ‘apprentices’ complained of low-pay, little if no proper training and worst of all, not even being given permanent employment at the end. Meanwhile, the company had continued to receive government funding – £1.8 million last year – to run a training program now rated ‘inadequate’ by Ofsted.
A Great Training Robbery
Using research by the Social Market Foundation, including that by Alison Wolf, commissioned to provide a review of vocational education by the Coalition in 2010, Dispatches argued…
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