Media blitz to fight state school exodus

3rd September 2004 at 01:00
TES correspondents report on the impact of market forces on pupil recruitment in Sweden and the US


A growing number of education authorities are launching campaigns to compete for pupils with charter and private schools.

Philadelphia, America's fifth-largest education authority, announced last week that it would pump $600,000 (pound;334,700) into a television, radio and newspaper advertisement campaign to turnaround declining enrolment.

Student numbers at the city's school have plunged by 16,000 to 184,000 since 2001, amid stiffening competition from independent and charter schools. Parents are also sending their children to wealthier suburban state schools, said spokeswoman Cecilia Cummings.

The media blitz was the idea of an investment fund chairman who heads the city's school reform committee. James Nevel, of Swarthmore Group, has encouraged schools to think of children as clients.

Ms Cummings said. "We are making ourselves into a consumer-friendly, market-savvy organisation."

Television commercials now being aired close with a mission statement:

"Children Come First. No Excuses." She denied that the $600,000 spent on advertising might have been better spent on supplies, as some inner-city Philadelphia schools rank among America's poorest.

"Every time that we lose students, money goes with them, so it's a small investment for the prospective gain," she said.

US schools are funded per pupil. Each Philadelphia student brings in $8,000 a year. The city is also banking on the ads galvanising corporate donors and parent volunteers.

In Colorado, education authorities placed ads over the summer to woo students for the new school year. Colorado Springs academy school district 20 ran 30-second TV slots during early-evening "primetime".

"Independent schools are advertising: we're just levelling the playing field," said superintendent Kenneth Vedrahe.

The authority spent $16,000 on the ads, which boast of high test scores, an appearance on satellite TV's Discovery Channel, and a victory in America's National Spelling Bee tournament.

Continuing the trend, Arizona's Scottsdale education authority announced a three-year marketing campaign last month "to reverse declining enrolment".

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today