In 2002, Prilly, a municipality in French-speaking Switzerland decided it needed to cut its spending. The roughly 15,000 francs it was spending on school cleaning didn’t escape the cuts, according to 20 Minutes.
Less commercial cleaning meant pupils and teachers had to pitch in and help keep the school clean. Commercial cleaners continued to clean toilets, bathrooms and floors.
The move sparked no controversy at the time, according to the municipality’s mayor. However, since then some teachers and parents have voiced opposition to children and teachers doing cleaning work. Some parents think it’s not right for pupils to spend time mopping or cleaning windows.
At the same time some still support including children on the cleaning roster. Prilly’s mayor, Alain Gillièron, pointed out that school cleaning wasn’t singled out for budget cuts. The cost cutting was applied to all spending. In addition, Gillièron, a former teacher, thinks the exercise has educational value.
Involving children in school maintenance tasks is nothing new in some places. In Japan it is commonplace. There they believe that school is not just for academic learning but also for teaching children how to become members of society and to take responsibility for themselves.
Some schools in the US have experimented with the idea too, according to NPR. At Brentwood Academy in Tennessee, school cleaning is part of the daily routine. Students at the private school spend the first 10 minutes of every day cleaning. The school’s management views cleaning as part of the mission of educating the whole person. Susan Shafer, the school’s director of communications, said “We’re trying to train them for life. They’re all going to go to college. No one is going to clean their dorm room for them.” Another member of the staff said “They’re not only trying to keep the place clean, but they’re also trying to build character in each student.”
In addition, some schools with pupil cleaning programmes report higher levels of respect for school property. It’s difficult to get away with littering in front of your classmates if they’re doing the cleaning up.