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Our mutual friends

Peter Studd is a financial adviser who spends a lot of his working life in schools. A former teacher, Mr Studd is happy working in an environment he understands. His employer, Friends Provident, a mutual society, is pleased too because Mr Studd is an important organiser in a business-links organisation, the Schools Consortium.

Established in 1991 as a charity, the consortium brings schools and private organisations together to benefit both: business helps schools with fundraising, provides contacts for mentoring or industry placements; the companies benefit by being given the chance to market their products or services in schools.

Members include Johnson and Johnson, SCA Hygiene Products, the Football Association and the British Sub-Aqua Club, Bostic, Friends Provident and McGregors School Uniform Service. Mr Studd says: "We are not only creating opportunities for schools to make income, but we provide help, advice and support to parents."

Schools pay an annual membership fee of pound;75 but, Mr Studd explains, the benefits outweigh the cost. The sporting organisations offer free consultancy to help the school make the most of their facilities, while McGregors provides uniforms at a discount which can be sold by parents and friends associations to raise money for school funds.

In addition, companies pay schools for market research or, like Friends Provident, will pay the school for hosting a financial planning seminar for parents. Mr Studd says: "Typically, each school will make money from membership."

Friends Provident concentrates on advising parents how to save to send their children to university. With an ever increasing proportion of young people movig from school into further or higher education, the chances are that he or she will need to study beyond the school-leaving age to improve their skills and employability.

The costs are high and, in spite of the availability of student loans, most parents do not grasp the fact that they will almost certainly end up subsidising their children's education.

The costs must be planned for well in advance, Studd says. "According to the Department for Education and Employment, students are typically leaving university pound;18,000 in debt. Bearing in mind student loans only extend to pound;10,000, this means mum and dad usually have to find the pound;8,000. Parents should be looking at products like ISAs, which show a high rate of growth in a relatively short time."

Hard sell is not part of the deal. Friends Provident's membership of the Schools Consortium means that although the company pays a commission to the school for the introduction to parents - about pound;200 for an average secondary school with the company bearing the administratrive costs - no parent is approached without the school's consent and then only if parents request information.

* The consortium is organising seminars in June related to school management issues, each of which will include advice on generating income for schools. They will cover social inclusion, raising achievement through sport, contemporary management situations, and security and registration.

The seminars will feature different speakers at four different venues: Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and London.

Call 020 8449 9965 for details, or email

* Peter Studd can be contacted on 01277 301800.

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