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Workers' rights curriculum trialled in Welsh schools

A pilot programme designed to teach children about their rights at work has been added to the curriculum in schools across Wales.

The Unions and the World of Work programme will aim to teach children aged 13 - 16 about aspects of the workforce, including workers' rights and equalities, healthy working environments and the role of unions.

It has been put together in conjunction with the Welsh Trades Union Congress and will be tested in 35 schools across Wales. 

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Liz Sebag-Montefiore, director and co-founder of HR consultancy 10eighty, said the initiative was vital for teaching children what they need to know about the world of work.

She told HR magazine: "We need to teach young people not just about workers' rights, but about equality and diversity so that they learn to respect others, distinguish between fairness and discrimination and value those with different backgrounds, experience and skillsets.

"We need to teach about workers' rights, unions and so on because otherwise there are young people starting work who don’t understand what they are entitled to in terms of overtime, pension rights, sickness leave, paid holidays and reasonable working conditions. They’ll pick some of it up from co-workers, but along the way they may be exploited, under-paid or cheated of their rights.

"This is not to advocate that children are taught about employment law, but they are given a good awareness of how the workplace is regulated and their basic rights in terms of employment, compensation, environment, safety, discrimination and what to expect from their employer."

Paul Boustead, interim chief people officer at The Open University, said teaching such a subject will help better prepare children for life after school.

Speaking to HR magazine, he said: "There has been a huge focus on ‘employability’ within universities for some time. With the increasing choice and differing entry points into the world of work, including degree apprenticeship routes and the like, the more that can be done to prepare future generations for the world of work the better.

"As we continue to contend with skills shortages and talent management, having a generation of young people coming to the world of work with increased awareness and confidence can only be a good thing. Soft skills like team working, emotional intelligence and collegiality are equally as important as academic knowledge and subject expertise."

The programme is part of a wider commitment made by Welsh schools to prepare children for the future.

Jeremy Miles, Welsh minister for education and the Welsh Language, said: "Work plays a huge role in our adult life and we want young people to know not only what is expected of them but also what they should expect from employers.

"We want to equip young people for their first steps into the workplace and ensure that alongside the right qualifications and skills, they also have a good knowledge of the workplace. This new project will support the delivery of the careers and work-related experience strand of the new curriculum, which is committed to young people gaining a solid grounding so they can grow to be ethical, informed and enterprising citizens."