Call to pay students for gap-year jobs in NHS

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The Independent Online

Students could be rescued from dead-end part-time jobs and encouraged to work in schools, hospitals or charities under radical proposals to help them pay for their university education.

Students could be rescued from dead-end part-time jobs and encouraged to work in schools, hospitals or charities under radical proposals to help them pay for their university education.

The Institute for Public Policy Research, an influential think-tank, will recommend next month that volunteers should be paid government subsidies towards the cost of their education, giving them an alternative to working in burger bars and pubs.

In a report to be launched by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, the IPPR will urge ministers to allow students to earn university credits for public-service work during gap years or holidays. The experience would also enhance their job prospects.

The Government, which aims to get 50 per cent of young people into higher education by the end of the decade, is also concerned that levels of volunteering have dropped. The IPPR says its proposals would address this problem and might persuade more to choose careers in teaching or the health service.

Many more students would be encouraged to work as teaching assistants in schools, particularly in deprived areas where few pupils go on to university.

Wendy Piatt, a senior research fellow at the IPPR, said: "Increasing the number of student teaching assistants would kill several birds with one stone: help students financially, provide more assistance for teachers, encourage pupils to think about university and students to think about teaching as a career."

Will Paxton, an IPPR researcher and an author of the report, Any Volunteers for the Good Society, said: "With more young people opting for a gap year, and not just those from wealthy families, such a policy would widen university funding options for all students. In turn, this would increase access for lower income students and reduce drop-out rates.

"Students are already working. But instead of them having to work in fast-food restaurants, it will allow people to gain valuable work, which will positively enhance their career opportunities."

The proposals are based on a successful American scheme – the general work-study programme – which pays undergraduates and postgraduates the minimum wage to do work "in the public interest".

Susan Stroud, a former adviser to Bill Clinton on volunteering policy and one of the authors of the report, said: "The UK and US governments share a key objective: promoting volunteering. At the same time, in other countries, there is growing concern about expanding access to higher and further education and families' ability to pay the cost of attendance. There is an opportunity to link both these priorities."

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