The Meandering Social Worker

wandering : wondering : learning

Teacher training at PoundWorld

Yup, you got it right.  Teacher training, or should I say, NQT’s CPD (Newly Qualified Teacher’s Continuing Professional Development) is still available at PoundWorld courtesy of local agencies acting on behalf of the DWP (Department of Work & Pensions) in applying UK Government policy.

For anyone not familiar with the modern British High Street, allow me a diversion.  If you want to skip straight to the point – Getting your CPD at PoundWorld – click here.

PoundWorld is everything the name implies.  It’s the world of the Pound, where everything costs one British pound.  Like competitors Poundland, Poundstretcher and 99p Stores, the coin in your pocket, that nice little round pound, reigns as it jingles in the tills.

Since the world hit the credit crunch and we went into global recession in the late 2000’s, these stores have triumphed, alongside their multi-priced counterparts such as Wilkinsons, Shoe Zone and Superdrug.  Customers needing to eke out the pennies are on the lookout for new ways to save.  Shoppers who might normally have frequented the likes of Waitrose (probably the most up-market supermarket in the UK) and Marks & Spencer food courts started looking to Sainsbury’s and Tescos to stretch their pounds a little further.  Tesco’s have found themselves competing more with Aldi and Lidl, while Asda, the great British version of Wal-Mart, has hung on in there with its bottom tapping logo.

With the UK’s austerity measures still in full force there is little to entice the shopper away from these super discount stores.  Their strength will grow, if predictions from the Centre for Retail Research comes about, with a decline of as much as 20% or more in shops in the High Street and town centres by 2018, as they give way to Internet and supermarket shopping habits.  It will be the small independent retailers who will suffer the most.

Of course the PoundWorld’s of the world are not new in their strategies.  F W Woolworth set the scene over 100 years ago when he started his five cents and dime store in New York in 1878 and effectively founded modern retailing methods.  Modern management lost sight of their founder’s thinking and failed to develop a modern image, until debts and lack of profitability saw the closure of the main chain brand, with the UK division effectively declaring themselves bankrupt in November 2008.

Woolworth’s demise was PoundWorld’s opportunity.  In August 2011 the Guardian reported the chain had set their sights on filling the gap left by Woolworth’s.  Partly with more PoundWorld stores and partly with their multi-priced smaller chain, Discount UK (prices ranging from 28p to £25).  At the time the Yorkshire based firm had 120 PoundWorld stores and 13 Discount UK stores but by taking advantage of the credit crunch and the recession plan to more than double the number of outlets over three years.  By the time they were taking over bankrupt Peacocks stores in March 2012 their count had already risen to 130 PoundWorld stores and over 30 Discount UK stores.

Like so many High Street and out of town centre stores, PoundWorld don’t bother to specialise, except in getting those pretty little pounds into their tills.  They sell groceries, clothing, toys, household goods, stationery, pretty much anything.

In June 2013 they hit the headlines when they introduced ‘the world’s cheapest bra’ at …. Yup, £1.00.  World’s cheapest?  Is that true?  Well it’s not really true.  Britain’s favourite red-top, The Sun, were happy to report the new product and it got it’s very own product review on the Huffington Post.  PoundWorld were delighted to report that in just one day 100,000 were sold but it was left to the Metro blog to point out that the bra is a ‘loss leader’ for PoundWorld.  Even made in China it costs PoundWorld more than £1.00 to buy and sell the bra in what is a common marketing tactic: get the customers in with a bargain loss leader and hopefully they will buy other items that are sold at a profit.

Getting your CPD at PoundWorld

So what has this got to do with Teacher Training and Continuing Professional Development?  Good question.  I might like to ask that of People First, just one agency who placed a Newly Qualified Teacher with a PoundWorld store as suitable work experience.  But they are only complying with the requirements of the UK Government to put long term unemployed people into placements allegedly to give them a better chance in job-hunting by getting something positive on their CV.

And the various ‘pound stores’ are up there in the front of the queue looking for free staff.  After all, it’s not a particularly difficult job they are offering.  Low cost goods, high volume sales and high turnover, staff are mainly required to operate the tills, restock the shelves and keep the store to the required levels of cleanliness and tidiness.

However, I can’t imagine any head teacher seeing two weeks unpaid ‘work experience’ at a High Street discount store as being particularly relevant to the job of teaching in a school.  Communication skills might have been required, dealing with the general public, but literacy and numeracy levels are unlikely to have been enhanced by the experience, and, until the school subject ‘retailing’ takes off it is unlikely to have enhanced their particular field of study.

This is not a new story.  In February 2013 a court ruled as illegal this kind of pointless (and unpaid) work placement.  That this young woman’s placement at Poundland took her away from voluntary work that was probably more relevant to her CV makes this continuing policy even more bizarre.

I have no objection to the principle of ‘work experience’ for people who have been unemployed for a long time.  I also don’t think that graduates should be exempt from work experience just because they are graduates.  I don’t even object to companies such as PoundWorld benefiting from some free staffing if it helps the person who is actually unemployed.  But this is so often not the case as these stories illustrate.  These schemes and these placements have more to do with massaging the statistics and being seen to be doing something when nothing is being done.  Until back-to-work programmes become flexible enough to take into account the skills and needs of the individual these farcical situations will remain.


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