'Revolutionaries' target parent cash

18th September 1998 at 01:00
Hard-sell organisation promises schools thousands and hopes to make millions. Exclusive report by Nadene Ghouri and Michael Prestage

A SELF-STYLED "revolutionary" organisation which claims it has been "specifically" designed to "inject much-needed cash" into schools is hoping to generate millions of pounds for itself, a TES investigation has revealed.

Advertisements for the Manchester-based Caring Parents Organisation (which The TES carried in good faith) promise "substantial funds" for selected schools.

In fact, the "family benefit scheme" will make a profit from parents, while schools would be lucky to make more than a few hundred pounds a year. The ads also promise "staff will enjoy benefits and free services worth several thousands of pound;pound;pound;s per year".

Caring Parents recruits "regional directors" to go into schools armed with a promotional video for the scheme. Heads will be asked to send the video home with pupils.

The video offers participating parents membership - at pound;30 a year - of a club offering "a huge range of benefits and savings". For every parent who signs up the school gets a pound;2 voucher which Caring Parents will exchange for cash. A further pound;1 goes to a charity - the Children's Wish Foundation, and the balance is split between Caring Parents and the regional director.

According to Caring Parents, it is at the discretion of regional directors to make further contributions to the school.

Charles Hendrie, director of Caring Parents, told a reporter for The TES:

"What happens is the schools give this (promotional video) to take home and mum and dad think, 'There's a great idea', they join it and literally the schools are pushing it for us."

Asked whether the schools would be keen, Mr Hendrie replied: "Would you? If somebody said 'We are going to give you money, we are going to give you thousands of pounds and literally you have to do nothing for it'."

The reporter was told he could make pound;250,000 a year by investing pound;20,000 to buy a 500-school patch and become a "regional director".

When he asked if his schools would know how the finances worked, he was told: "It's nothing to do with the schools what you are earning. At the end of the day we are not really bothered ... As far as they are concerned you work for us."

Caring Parents hopes to recruit around 80 regional directors, each paying pound;20,000 for their patch plus use of official blazer and stationery. Even if there is not the expected take-up from schools, these licence fees alone would generate pound;1.6m for Caring Parents.

Our reporter was told that if he recruited just 10 parents from each of his 500 schools on the basis of pound;9 commission a head, he would make pound;50,000 (in fact, this would be pound;45,000).

Caring Parents would get double that figure, however. With 80 regional directors, each with the 500 schools offered to our reporter, this would make pound;7.2m for the organisation. On this basis, each individual school would receive just pound;20.

The reporter was told if he "got 50 (parents) from each school" he would make pound;250,000 - recruitment figures which Mr Hendrie said he did not think were ambitious. The individual schools involved would get pound;100 in vouchers from Caring Parents.

Mr Hendrie said that Caring Parents would eventually set up a foundation and "was looking for our guys to sponsor sports races - the Caring Parents' egg and spoon race - that sort of thing."

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