EDITORIAL: The lessons to be learnt of placing ads in school

Next to the issue of tobacco promotion, nothing polarises ad industry opinion as much as the question of whether advertisers should be allowed into Britain’s schools. Must classrooms be havens of learning or should schools permit children to be exposed to advertising messages which are appropriate and controlled in a way that doesn’t necessarily happen outside the playground gates?

Next to the issue of tobacco promotion, nothing polarises ad

industry opinion as much as the question of whether advertisers should

be allowed into Britain’s schools. Must classrooms be havens of learning

or should schools permit children to be exposed to advertising messages

which are appropriate and controlled in a way that doesn’t necessarily

happen outside the playground gates?



The debate is back on the agenda with the news last week that Boomerang

Media plans to distribute ad-funded postcards to secondary schools.



Even though Boomerang has built a series of checks and balances into the

system - including the appointment of an independent advisory committee

comprising representatives from schools, industry and the arts to review

the cards’ content - the fact remains that advertisers are nervous about

being too overt where schools are concerned.



The underwhelming interest of companies in the ill-starred scheme to put

poster sites in schools is evidence of their fear of overstepping the

mark.



But although the National Union of Teachers calls for schools to remain

’ad free zones’, the truth is that advertisers are already inside via a

range of promotional tools from branded activity sheets to voucher

schemes.



The task now is to ensure that the relationship between business and

education is sensibly managed.



For that to happen, there are two essential pre-requisites. The first is

that decisions about advertising must rest exclusively at local level

with teachers, governors and parents.



The second is that advertising should not be ’bolted on’ but evolve out

of a long-term relationship with an advertiser in which a school has

been shown to gain tangible benefits.



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