Do Saturday jobs give kids an education which no school can provide?

Columnist Rachel Moore says getting a Saturday job has more long term value than cramming facts for

Columnist Rachel Moore says getting a Saturday job has more long term value than cramming facts for exam results. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012

Our columnist Rachel Moore takes issue with the decline in the number of teenagers doing Saturday jobs.

There's something very wrong when learning takes precedence over doing and theory is valued over experience.

The great tradition of Saturday jobs is dying as teenagers bow to demands for good grades and A* exam performance and can't spare a few hours a week away from studying.

The number of school pupils serving in cafés, washing up in restaurants and stacking shelves in shops has dropped to an all-time low because they are warned that a day a week away from their books could ruin their future prospects.

Instead, teenagers lie in bed on Saturday mornings putting off their homework and waiting for a cash handout from the bank of mum and dad without doing anything to earn it.

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Who needs a job when mum's purse or dad's wallet is a cash dispenser? It's so wrong.

A Saturday job is about so much more than the few quid earned. It offers independence and valuable insight into how to survive and operate in a workplace – and that so important experience employers always ask for.

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Speak to any employer. They would always choose someone who has held down a job for a few hours a week alongside their studies, turned up on time and performed reliably to one who has locked herself away to boast a string of top grades but nothing else.

Learning how to be an employee is a vital life skill – how to deal with customers, some difficult, some rude, listening to and carrying out instructions, biting your lip to idiotic colleagues and, often, accepting the bottom is where most jobs start. Learning to play the game of work.

It's about appreciating how money has to be earned, learning about the competition to find a job and acquiring a maturity, which will serve long into life and be far more useful long-term than cramming facts for exams.

Discouraging teenagers to seek Saturday jobs is shortsighted and narrow-minded.

Putting studies before a Saturday job is getting priorities all wrong and skewed values. It's not the real world.

Oxbridge would say different – but it makes no secret that its interest in an individual extends only to the percentage on the exam results. It's producing mostly academics and politicians, so experience outside the academic world counts for little.

According to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills, teenagers in work has more than halved, from 42pc of 16- and 17-year-olds in 1996, to just 18 as young people 'concentrate on their studies'.

Parents handing out cash, buying the cars and footing the running costs teaches young people nothing about earning or the value of anything, and carves a pattern for growing adult children expecting to be bailed out financially indefinitely.

Some young people leave university never having earned a penny, bankrolled by their parents well into their twenties for cars, gap year travel, holidays and anything else they asked for. The demands of an employer in their mid-twenties come as a huge shock.

How things have changed in a generation. Everyone I knew in sixth form had a Saturday job.

If we didn't work, we had no money. Only the privileged were showered with cash by their parents.

I worked in Boots with my friends from 16-19 and learned more on that one day a week about how the world worked, how to interact with people of different ages and deal with tricky people than in any classroom.

I've never forgotten that feeling of grabbing my brown envelope of cash. My earnings. I was so proud.

Fear of not doing well and excessive pampering leading to unnatural dependence is depriving teenagers of an important part of growing up.

•The opinions above are those of EDP columnist Rachel Moore

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