TEENAGERS WILL be earning wages from their own businesses during school time as part of a radical educational experiment backed by Gordon Brown.
In September, 30 14-year-olds in Luton, Bedfordshire, who have been turned off from learning by conventional lessons will begin a trial of the "studio school" concept, which aims to teach teenagers skills better suited to employers' needs.
The Barnfield West academy pupils will spend two days a week on a radically different timetable at Barnfield College. It is hoped they will learn self discipline, confidence and resourcefulness by creating their own businesses or improving existing ones. Options will including working as travel agents or hairdressers, or in gyms or catering.
Pete Birkett, the further education college's chief executive, said they will have real customers and shareholders and be able to keep at least some of the money they make.
"It will be performance-related pay I guess," he said. "Any wage will be based on how much their business makes because this is about learning about the real world."
The teenagers will still spend three days a week at school, where it is hoped their enthusiasm for conventional lessons will be renewed.
The idea is one element of the studio schools concept being developed by the Young Foundation think-tank, which has the new Prime Minister's personal support.
Studio schools, catering for no more than 300 14- to 19-year-olds, would incorporate real businesses and connections to a particular industry, such as fashion, the media or hospitality. Pupils would spend four to 12 hours a week working in the business. They would be expected to book leave as if at work.
Barnfield College aims to open the country's first fully-fledged studio school from September next year. Barnsley, Blackpool, Kirklees, Newham, Oldham, Sheffield and South Tyneside are also working on studio school projects.
The idea is partially inspired by new technology high schools in the United States, where 16- to 18-year-olds are responsible for their own learning, and Danish production schools.