A third of pupils working in part-time jobs could be putting their studies at risk, according to a report published by the Scottish Executive today which calls for action as a matter of urgency.
However, the authors believe employment could still play a valuable part in the curriculum.
The report, by academics from the universities of Edinburgh, Salford and Strathclyde, says previous studies regard working more than 10 hours for under-16s and more than 16 hours for older teens, as potentially harmful.
"We should not be complacent about this issue, since a significant minority of pupils are working 'excessive' hours. One approach would be to ensure that pupils are provided with information making them aware of the potential trade-off between work and attainment, allowing them to make informed choices," says the report, adding: "The current system is ineffective in monitoring and controlling part-time employment of children aged under-16 and there is an urgent need for the appropriate Scottish Executive departments to address this."
The authors believe part-time work could contribute to both the Determined to Succeed and A Curriculum for Excellence programmes through, for instance, discrete certification or recognition of skills within the curriculum. However, any system of recognition should not impinge on the sense of independence and autonomy that young people gain through earning money, which is their main reason for working.
Traditional work experience placements may also have to be reviewed because the majority of pupils undertake part-time work - 48 per cent of S3 pupils work, rising to 83 per cent of S6 pupils.
The report explodes the traditional view of pupils with part-time jobs delivering newspapers or milk. Most worked in shops or in catering. Those doing the most hours worked in fast food outlets - an average of 14.22 hours per week, closely followed by supermarket staff at 14 hours per week.
Research was carried out between September 2003 and April 2006 with 18,430 pupils from S3 to S6 schools in Scotland.