Tobacco firm's sponsorship stubs out reality

5th July 1996 at 01:00
I write in response to the letter from my headteacher about my school in south London being sponsored by the tobacco company, BAT (TES, June 21).

Many of the staff in the school are opposed to the sponsorship and have been in the two years it has been in the pipeline. I wish now, in the light of the article about cigarette advertising near schools (TES, June 14) to restate clearly the distaste felt by many in the whole school community for the hypocrisy shown by the management of a "Christian" school in accepting BAT sponsorship as a quick fix without really considering alternatives for funding.

The published letter was full of contradictions and confused financial benefits with principles. Raising pupil achievement can be done by improving teaching methods and pupils' self-worth, not by "increased staffing " or "improvements to the site".

Next, the idea of a "formal business-education partnership" is actually a horrific thought in the context of bringing pupils closer to a supposedly "philanthropic" tobacco company. Pupils need no further exposure to the drug culture, but they will have despite the headteacher's bland assertions.

Finally, we are cheered with the promise that the "available evidence" does not suggest undue influence for BAT on school policy. In other words, the whole business is being kept close to the chest, and we have little real ideas of the demands on us as a tool for the company's public relations exercise nationwide.

The gospel teachings, which the head is so fond of quoting, are surely about not leading pupils into temptation. Taking tobacco sponsorship is not biblical or ethical, and I am determined not to let this issue be lost in a philanthropic haze.

How this whole business should better the lot of private industry, and that of society, I fail to see. It is a dangerous sacrificing of a school's moral values, for financial gain (at whatever cost) and the personal advantage of a few individuals. It remains to be seen how the pupils will fare in reality.

MARTIN PUDDEY

Flat 6

74 Cathner Road

Shepherd's Bush

London W12

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