More studies needed on child labour

10th January 1997 at 00:00
May I expand upon the views on child employment attributed to me ("Child labour concern", TES, December 20).

The evidence that children working more than 10 hours per week perform less well academically comes from one small study my colleagues and I undertook in Scotland. As we said in our report to the Scottish Office education department, whose small grant helped us to carry out this work, the result can be accounted for in three ways: children working longer hours put less effort into their schooling; children doing less well at school are more inclined to devote their energies to extra-curricular activity such as a part-time job; both of these explanations. I favour the third of these positions, on the basis of research conducted in the United States. It would be nice to see fuller research on the subject taking place in Britain.

As your article indicates, the possibly harmful effects on the child's education is only one reason for concern over part-time work by the under-16s. The evidence is now very strong that in Britain most children have at least one such job at some time. However, the Government seems intent on claiming that child employment is a minor issue. It is surely somewhat perverse to be tinkering with the regulations governing such jobs when the evidence shows that the great majority of pupils who work do so without permits and hence outside the law.

SANDY HOBBS

University of Paisley Paisley Campus Department of Applied Social Studies

High Street Paisley Scotland

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