Please, miss, help me pack my message

13th June 1997 at 01:00
COMPANIES need to seek more advice from teachers before launching initiatives in education, according to new research. Very few teachers see merit in teaching packs put together by private firms, according to the study commissioned by the Schools Consortium, a group of 70 schools involved in a series of links with industry and commerce.

Only 14 of the 100 schools surveyed felt resource packs were the most beneficial form of marketing through education for schools. Most - 48 per cent - favoured collection schemes, while 38 per cent were most impressed by sponsorship or direct giving by companies. Large majorities of the schools surveyed favoured crediting companies on their promotions or materials.

The sample was drawn from members of the consortium as well as primary schools surveyed as part of a follow-up to a teaching pack sponsored by the pharmaceutical and cosmetics giant Johnson Johnson.

Parallel research into companies' attitudes found most companies embarked on educational work to raise awareness of their brand, as well as to educate people about their goods and services. But half the 51 companies felt that awareness objectives were not being achieved. Some 69 per cent felt their educational aims were also not being fulfilled.

Most firms aim their efforts at 5- to 15-year-olds, although a minority are keen to target parents via schools. But the research found few companies were keeping up to date with educational thinking, limiting their ability to capitalise on schools' needs.

Don Thaw, chairman of the Schools Consortium and deputy head of Mellow Lane School, Hayes, Middlesex, sees great scope for greater commercial co-operation between education and business.

The consortium has worked on a number of commercial initiatives. Member schools help develop sponsored teaching packs and information booklets, and have expanded into a buying consortium with links with school uniform and school security suppliers.

But the greatest departure from conventional thinking has been a commercial arrangement with the Friends Provident investment group, which sells financial products directly through schools.

The scheme concentrates on savings schemes designed to help parents cope with maintenance for their children's further and higher education. Schools endorse the firm, invite parents to seminars and, in return, receive commission.

But Mr Thaw argued that because the consortium had negotiated an exclusive deal, it could inspect the books at Friends Provident and effectively regulate the scheme for parents.

He said that any commercial link between schools and business had to be acceptable to both parents and teachers, but was clear that there should be no bar to those businesses deemed acceptable. He says: "We have had lengthy heated discussions and are not going to be involved with anything which interferes with education or moral development.

"Obviously we would not endorse companies dealing with sex, cigarettes or alcohol; we have to be very safe about the road we travel. I think it's one step at a time, but we are heading in the right direction and are trying to approach the whole business of school marketing in a sensible and reasonable way."

* Research was directed and funded by the Schools Consortium, Poise Marketing, Marketing Week magazine and Business in the Community

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