I’ve never liked the New South Wales Board of Studies. As a student, I loathed their jargon-bloated English curriculum, a position I’m yet to renounce; and even as a functioning, happy adult, the word juxtapositioning continues to give me grief. Internally, I still picture them as a befuddled panel of port-sipping old duffers interspersed with managing executives in shark suits: the ultimate amalgam of straw men. I’d love to be proven wrong, of course, because it would mean things might actually get fixed, but so far, there’s not been anything especial to convince me otherwise.
Imagine my chagrin, therefore, at the following bold advice to HSC students struggling under the dual burden of coursework and part-time employment: to “set out a roster that balances time for their schooling and studies and their responsibilities with their part-time work.”
On the surface, this is a seemingly reasonable statement. It’s also entirely unhelpful, and, like just about every other Board-originating comment in the article, so obvious as to be risibly condescending.
So, for the benefit of those Board members whose own adolescence whipped by some time prior to the construction of the pyramids, take heed: teenaged checkout chicks have about as much negotiating power with their employers as a mouse does with a very hungry cat. Because of the limited hours they can work, they’re already competing for shifts with more flexible workers. Their pay is low, their rights are few and, appropriately, they are extremely easy to replace. Beginners in any field simply can’t advocate for the most favourable shifts with any weight, and most managers, nice though some of them undoubtably are, have a business to run: the roster is meant to work for them, after all, not slot in around the study habits of a junior employee.
Nobody likes to work late and get up early. It’s just that, for students, there are very few avenues of redress. School is non-negotiable; absences even for good reasons are frowned upon, as is running late – and I notice, Board, that your solution wasn’t to try and promote flexibility within schools, but to put the onus back on students and families to figure it out themselves. Which, undoubtably, they’ve already tried to do.
It’s not an optimal situation; I’m not even suggesting there’s an easy solution. But throwing a patter of useless, pat-on-the-head statements out into the ether and hoping that an ability to state the bleeding obvious counts as a proactive endeavour is worse than if you hadn’t actually noticed.