‘Would you like a qualification with that?’

3:25 pm - January 30th 2008

by Dave Osler    

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The Daily Telegraph website reported on Monday the story that McDonald’s is to be empowered to issue A-levels with an entirely predictable sneer: ‘Would you like a qualification with that?’

The trouble is, that nasty little middle-class jibe reflects the reality on the ground for any kids naïve enough to undergo the course – perhaps with no little arm-twisting from the local JobCentre – in the expectation that they will come out of it with a piece of paper standing them in good stead in any function other than flipping burgers.

They will be following in the tradition of generations of polytechnic students who swallowed the spurious assurance that they would be accorded ‘parity of esteem’ with the products of Oxbridge. They weren’t; indeed, the polytechnic stigma subsequently may even have worked against many in the job market.

Education in Britain remains completely sundered by class; that’s why there are elite fee-paying establishments for the little David Camerons of this world, not to mention the offspring of some Campaign Group-affiliated Labour MPs and leading lights within the self-styled ‘left alternative’ to Labour; then there are acceptable state schools, accessible to parents able to buy their way into the catchment area; and finally, the bog standard comprehensives for everybody else.

Guess which schools will be putting up the candidates for McA-levels? Gordon Brown may be doing all he can to talk up the fast food chain’s initiative, but somehow I don’t expect that the certificates will ever be prominently featured on his sons’ CVs.

Empirical evidence suggests two-thirds of all differences in educational attainment is accounted for by social class. That’s why the best-performing LEAs include Richmond Upon Thames and Surrey, and the worst include Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney.

Equality of education opportunity will never be achieved while social inequality continues to grow. Palming off teenagers from poor backgrounds with fourth-rate pseudo-qualifications – even if they are dressed up as a virtual MBA – can only further entrench their disadvantage.

* Cross-posted from Dave’s Part.

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About the author
Dave Osler is a regular contributor. He is a British journalist and author, ex-punk and ex-Trot. Also at: Dave's Part
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Education ,Equality

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Reader comments

The Daily Telegraph website reported on Monday the story that McDonald’s is to be empowered to issue A-levels

Which is, of course, nonsense. What they will be issuing is a vocational qualification roughly equivalent to an NVQ, as I understand it. A situation not entirely unlike an apprenticeship.

Guess which schools will be putting up the candidates for McA-levels?

None of them? This is McDonalds’ in house training for shift managers, but audited and given some sort of recognition outside of that organisation.

“polytechnic stigma”?

Stangely, as an ex polytechnic pupil, I’ve never been made to feel in anyway inferior.

Well, not until you wrote that.

I can’t work out whether this post is about snobbishness or is just inherently snobbish itself.

I’m just guessing but I doubt that the Telegraph writer who came up with that headline had a sneer on his face. I bet he was smiling and possibly laughing at his own joke. Lighten up!

Also, I don’t think your analysis that genuine sneering at pupils at the former polytechnics reflects a class hatred stands up.

As many studies have confirmed recently, most of the increase in university attendance has been among the middle class; most of the pupils at former polytechnics are middle class. Beyond that, most people in the middle class have children or siblings – people definitely in the same ‘class’ who have been to former polytechnics – I know I do. Arrogant sniping at former polys, which I agree is distasteful, is just common, garden rudeness – there is no reason to bring class into it.

Isn’t the purpose of the McQualification that it is for restaurant managers? Whether you love Maccy D’s or not, the qualification will stand and fall in the industry on its own merits – if it’s a good qualification, then it will get respect for people who have done it and are looking for other restaurant management jobs. On the other hand, if it’s anything like the “Microsoft Certified Software Engineer” qualification then it will be roundly derided.

I actually expect that MacDonalds will do a pretty good job of teaching and qualifying its staff to be restaurant managers, because good management is quite hard, and yet key to its own business success.

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