Education often meets consumerism. We meet it in overt ways in the classroom, where children have more knowledge of Spiderman than of the humble spider. We also meet it in insidious ways, when a company portrays itself as helping education.
For many years our parents have collected Tesco vouchers hoping for a computer. After many years we have managed an exchange for eight mice. The firm now offers vouchers to be exchanged for sports equipment. Considering that a voucher is worth 0.001p for every pound;10 spent and 250 vouchers are redeemable for one football, the football - worth 25p to the company - has been offered for an equivalent spend of pound;2, 500. Well done Tesco!
After several months, in our primary school, we have amassed enough for three footballs, and our parents have spent pound;7, 500 to obtain them. It doesn't take a maths co-ordinator long to process this information: in exchange for an excess of free advertising and a parade of largesse by the company, we are afforded 75p worth of sports' equipment.
Cheap advertising, don't you think?
I know if you are working in a high school you have probably hit the jackpot: got goal posts, netball equipment, the tennis net and the balls.
But have them calculate in Year 7 how much the school has really had in return from this magnanimous company?
The post office will charge anything up to pound;5 to advertise for you, newspapers charge more than the first two weeks of the appointee's pay packet to find candidates.
Are we shortchanging ourselves? Should ministers work out a more equitable exchange for the appropriation of the name of education? Have we fallen prey to manipulation by big business? If our parents were instead to give their schools 10p for each pound;10 they spend, perhaps we could buy back the playing fields.
Bankside primary Markham Avenue Leeds