A Scottish council is planning to generate thousands of pounds of income through advertising and sponsorship deals involving schools.
The same council is proposing to introduce a policy of placing up to six schools under a single headteacher - a move that it hopes will save pound;350,000 next year.
The move has been branded "totally ridiculous" by one union and criticised for turning unpromoted teachers into "heads on the cheap" by another (see below).
Both this year and next, Highland Council hopes to raise pound;25,000 "through targeted sponsorship arrangements between schools and local companies", according to its budget papers.
The council has set up a special income generation unit that is attracting sponsors for everything from lamp posts and roundabouts to payslips, said a council spokesman. The side of a school was "no different", he added.
"This is part of a push to generate income through sponsorship and advertising," the spokesman continued. "The more money we generate, the fewer jobs and services we have to cut."
Parents' representatives, however, have advised the council to err on the side of caution. The introduction of advertising and sponsorship "would not be without controversy", warned Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council
"You don't get something for nothing and if private companies are going to sponsor schools, they are going to want something back. You have to be really cautious about what exactly the message is you're giving out, particularly where children are concerned," she continued.
Describing commercial sponsorship in schools as a "difficult area", Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said: "While it would be acceptable for a local business to support something like an S6 yearbook or a charity event, if commercial sponsorship is being sought to compensate for cutbacks in educational budgets then that would be problematical and something we wouldn't wish to see happen."
Selling advertising space on pieces of school property to counter state budget cuts has become common practice in some parts of the US. Adverts can be found inside and outside school buses and on textbook covers, in- school television monitors, scoreboards and websites.
Earlier this month, The New York Times reported on Humble Independent School District, which has already sold the naming rights to nearly every piece of its high school's football stadium, including the entryway, the press box and the turf. It is now marketing the school roof because it lies directly in a flight path for Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.
Highland Council hopes to save pound;350,000 next year by introducing plans to allow clusters of up to six schools to be run by a single headteacher.
Currently 32 Highland primaries are involved in joint headships, most of which involve one head working across two, or in a few cases, three schools.
But the council is now considering the introduction of groupings of four to six schools to save money and release heads from teaching duties.
The move was "totally ridiculous", said the EIS union's local association secretary, Andrew Stewart.
Primary heads' representatives have also warned that Highland may not save money through this move. The council would need to promote staff to lead in the head's absence, pointed out Greg Dempster, general secretary of the AHDS union. If such structures were not put in place, unpromoted teachers were in danger of becoming "heads on the cheap", he said.
A public consultation run by Highland Council last year found two-thirds of respondents (66 per cent) were against the idea of one head running between four and six schools, but the figure rose to 76 per cent when the responses of only those with school-aged children were counted.
Highland struggled to recruit headteachers, said a council spokesman. But saving money was the main driver behind the move to increase the number of schools for which one head could be responsible, he admitted.
Original headline: Council wants to raise cash from school sponsors