On the naughty step - Conduct that deserves a ticking off

Most adults in England have fond memories of work experience: those weeks spent learning how to unblock a photocopier, make a decent cup of tea and polish the CEO's car. It might not have been a thrill but it was a rite of passage.

We might not look back on those days of quiet, obscure slavery quite so affectionately, however, if we had been made to pay for the privilege. A number of schools in England revealed this week that cutbacks mean that they are having to charge parents up to #163;75 to carry out risk assessments in the workplaces that take their children on. It's reminiscent of the Monty Python sketch in which a man recalls paying for the privilege of working "down t'mill".

Workplaces that rely on "workies" to fetch their lunches and master the idiosyncrasies of the coffee machine may find themselves bereft if this trend spreads. A union of work experience students should almost certainly be formed and it should then call a strike over the issue, especially as it comes hot on the heels of the private Westminster School in London auctioning unpaid internships to the highest bidder. One placement at a law firm is currently going for #163;800. Career success, then, will be less a case of "who you know" and more a case of "how much cash your daddy's got".

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