SINKING SHIP: We have been asked to think through the whole sponsorship business. ballsy's taking a lot of flak at the moment, and if we can make just one little problem go away we may be able to postpone his aneurysm until 2010. It turns out the Department's been quietly propping up sponsored schools with "side deals" if certain patrons of learning forget to send the cheques. Institutions affected so far include World Of Furnishings Academy in Morpeth, Wandsworth Academy For Gifted Children In Association With New Horizons Holidays, and the Poundbusters Academy in Liverpool. It's not so much that the integrity of the system is compromised. It's just more very bad publicity we really don't need at the moment. The Gove and his flying monkeys are waiting to tear us to shreds. Emergency Departmental memos are stressing the need to present an upbeat image. Defaulting sponsors are not very helpful in terms of public profiling.
KID PRO QUO: We discuss the options. Maybe we could make sponsorship deals strictly on a "kid pro quo" basis. If, say, the Avenging Catholic Martyrs Trust only stumps up half of the promised cash, then fine. Only half the pupils in their school will have to wear those special uniforms with the crown of thorns round the logo and the corporate mission statement on the back in Latin.
DOG V DOG: Owen thinks the reason sponsorship's stuttering a bit is that it's not competitive. "Businesses operate in a dog-eat-dog world, yet here we are handing them all a sponsorship monopoly. We ought to be dividing all schools into four houses, each sponsored by someone different but working in the same commercial field. So you would have Sainsbury's, Tesco, Asda and the Co-op in a massive Quidditch tournament ... ". He checks himself. "On the playing field, I mean, obviously ... ". Yeah, unless the playing field was sold off years ago and now has a supermarket on it. Sandra says that in good catchment areas you could have upmarket rivals, Waitrose and MS for instance. "Ooh, call it Marks Sponsors!" squeaks Owen. We all give each other little fistbumps.
DOWNMARKETING: I suggest we widen the constituency and lower expectations. It wouldn't be the first time. Why not ask individual local businesses everywhere to Sponsor A Child? Every school a diverse, vibrant mix of pupils. A High Street Rainbow. Even, maybe ... Premium Sponsorship. The child's name replaced by a LOCAL BRANDING OPPORTUNITY. Little human breathing educational sandwich boards! The class register could run the socio-economic gamut, from Blockbuster to Ocado Home Delivery.
RETHINK: Departmental Head Of Intelligence Stephen arrives. What we'll do, apparently, is sponsor the sponsors. A new accreditation system of approved late payers. The alternative is unthinkable. Inchworm.