Going to the wall?

12th July 1996 at 01:00
This editorial would have welcomed the sponsorship of Nike or Adidas. But it has no pulling power. For the advertiser, that is. It is trenchant (that goes without saying) but it does not sell trainers.

Schools walls do. A company called, creatively, Imagination for School Media Marketing wants to put posters on classroom and corridor walls. It has not specified the advertising clients it has in mind, but Nigel Griffiths, Labour's consumer affairs censor, has no doubts. The Edinburgh South MP says that pupils should not be diverted from their studies and should not be encouraged to believe that they "must have these new trainers or computer games at all costs".

Mr Griffiths is too fleet-footed in his condemnation. It is possible that the clients for school walls turn out to be advocates not of pupil profligacy but of teacher prudence. The attractions of Peps and pensions will be aimed at teachers, and their careful propaganda, hedged about by the necessary admonitions that things that go up can also come down, will be meaningful to pupils only in so far as they offer opportunities for boring sums involving rates of interest. That should appeal to Mr Griffiths's puritanism.

Even if advertisers rely on pupil acquisitiveness, they need not be sent packing. Media studies teachers will welcome posters which can be subjected to analysis and dissection, to the dismay of creative directors. They can be scribbled over, adorned and "improved" just like those on hoardings. They will make a change from posters of British fungi and out-of-date advertisements for Ricard (which, come to think of it, show that French teachers have not objected to a spot of atmospheric commercialism).

The real challenge will come from inspectors on patrol. Teachers have long recognised the need to cover walls with paper before a visit by HMI. Pupil work is best. Art gallery posters come second, followed by maps of retreating rain forests and diagrams of how a nuclear power station can never go ballistic.

The inspectors will have a problem in discrimination, which ought in itself to be appeal enough to teachers. They will look for traditional evidence of visual stimulus on the walls. But they will also have to evaluate the success of the school in generating income.

"How many column centimetres did you sell compared with the projection in your school development plan?" they will ask headteachers.

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