Have Sixth-Formers Changed?November 9, 2010
This comes from a discussion I was having here:
I was reflecting on the value of the Educational Maintenance Allowance, a system of means tested payments made to students in sixth-forms and FE colleges.
It occurred to me that in the last few years, I had noticed more and more A-level students doing part-time jobs which got in the way of their studies. It had always been very common for sixth form students to do Saturday jobs, but increasingly they seem to be doing Saturday, Sunday and weekday evening jobs making it very impractical to set homework to be in for the very next day. Some other teachers and lecturers I know have noticed something similar. I would be interested to know what anybody else thinks.
If I am right there are a number of possible explanations.
Firstly, this could be a result of the EMA. It has put cash in the hands of students who would previously have been dependent on their parents. It may have prompted a shift in culture among sixth-formers in favour of financial autonomy and greater disposable income, making even those students who receive little or no EMA more likely to want cash of their own and, therefore, more likely to get jobs.
Alternatively, it could be a result of the dumbing-down of the curriculum. Students doing easy vocational courses, or students who have recently done well in dumbed-down GCSEs, may simply have far lower expectations of how much effort is required for study at Key Stage 5, therefore the opportunity to work long hours is far more appealing than it would have been a few years ago. I think a lot of students doing A-level courses, particularly in more challenging subjects, do end up regretting the lack of time spent on their studies.
Another possibility, is that the increase in students from more deprived backgrounds has meant that there are more students in sixth forms and FE colleges who would be unable to support themselves during their studies without an additional source of income. In some ways this is a more obvious explanation, but the introduction of the EMA and the minimum wage should have counter-acted this to some extent, making it easier for those students to manage without working long hours.
I’d be grateful to hear people’s opinions. As a secondary teacher I don’t spend a huge amount of time with sixth form classes and I am aware that there are a lot of readers who are far more familiar with FE than I am.