The damage of part-time working on school girls’ grades

Millions of teenagers across the country combine the hard graft of GCSE revision with shifts in shops, cafes and paper rounds. Even young Brooklyn Beckham holds down a Saturday job at in a West London coffee shop (reportedly at £2.68 per hour) while his parents are worth (reportedly) £165 million.

But the benefits of holding down a part-time job – gaining work skills and pocket money for those teenage essentials – whilst studying for GCSEs, might not be worth the potential damage to your grades, according to a new study from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex. The effect is especially noticeable in girls.

The study, Youth employment and academic performance: Production function and policy effects by Dr Angus Holford, used the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), which followed a cohort of teenagers aged 13-14 in 2004. He looked at the hours they spent working and the impact this had on the time they spent doing other things – including risky behaviour and sport – as well as their study time and subsequent exam grades at GCSE.

Dr Holford said:

“Around a quarter of all 13-16 year olds in England take some formal paid employment during school term time. This can be a good thing – they earn their own money and can pick up useful skills which might help them find full time work in the future. However, they may spend that hard-earned money on less than useful things, or fall in with a different group of people. We did find that school children who worked became more likely to drink alcohol regularly, smoke, or consume cannabis.

The real impact of part time work however, was on the school grades for girls. For girls, an additional hour of paid employment per week in school year 10 reduces final GCSE performance a year later by approximately 1 grade in one subject. About a quarter of this effect size was due to these girls spending less time studying outside of lessons. A similar amount could be explained by girls in employment becoming less motivated or interested in the work they did in lessons.

Girls with a job at age 15 work an average of 6 hours per week, meaning their part-time workis likely to reduce their results considerably – a grade lower in six subjects. The long-termeffect of this would be particularly severe for borderline students at risk of not achieving thetarget for progression in education, of five A*-C grades (including English and Maths). Given that academic results at 16 have such a significant influence over our future life outcomes, these findings could worry policy makers and parents who want young people to achieve their potential at this crucial point.”

Dr Holford continued

“It’s inevitable that having a job gives teenagers less time to study. That alone might be a small price to pay given the potential benefits of having a part-time job for all-round development. What concerns me instead is how it causes teenagers to lose sight of the importance of their education for their longer-term opportunities.”


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