Children are preparing for another term milking an incentive scheme at the Westminster Academy whereby they can earn 'Vivo' rewards that pupils can exchange for iPods, TVs and Alcoholics Anonymous sessions.
“It isn't fair to say that we are simply paying the children to learn,” said Rod Billingsworth, Academy principal. “We are equipping them with the real life bribery skills they will need to get ahead in political and corporate life.
Westminster Academy says the scheme has already shown a marked change in the social interactions that the children have with each other and members of the educational staff.
“Previously they would gang up on the smaller kids and rob them of their lunch money,” said one teacher. “Now they all take part in the litter patrol together until they earn enough points for the kitchen knife set, which they use to mug teachers.”
The spring term timetable includes several amendments to the curriculum such as Monday afternoon's double 'Argos Catalogue' lesson and after-school sessions studying 'The Gadget Show'. Extra homework Vivo points can be earned for neatly completed Argos ordering slips
“It is about preparing children to become valuable members of British society,” said Billingsworth. “The kids can earn as many as 60 Vivo points for extra-curricular activities, such as an early-morning outward bound course to queue outside shops during the sales."
The scheme has taken off across the country. At St Hilda's School for Girls in Luton punctual attendance at French lessons will reward the students with enough Vivo points for electronic pregnancy testers.
Advocates of the scheme say that already they are seeing improvements in attendance during lessons that previously had high truancy rates.
“Our careers advisers are now fielding thousands of e-mail requests for information on the Nigerian civil service,” said Billingsworth. “Of course we are concerned that some children might be learning the wrong lessons from these incentive schemes, as quite a few want to become bankers.”
Already an internal market has opened up in Luton for trading Vivo points, with the economics staff at one sixth-form college have been impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit being shown.
“Several of the pupils have provided loans to each other to buy fashion accessories,” explained one teacher at St Hilda's. “However the arse has fallen out of the Vivo reward point market so the girls have had to go back on the game.”
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