Shopping for Schools 2 – Schools Advertising

Last year I wrote a post on how – if architects wanted to get involved with facilitating a market economy of publicly-funded schooling – some of their thinking could have quite pernicious effects.

It was sparked by an article in the Architects’ Journal: ‘As schools behave more like private businesses they will be in competition with one another to attract the best teachers and students. Architects can draw on their experience in the private sector to help them achieve this.’

This follow-up post is less architectural but still kind of related: the idea of architecture as ‘adding value’ to a school’s competitive offer is one that blends seamlessly with the logic of advertising.

And it’s school advertising that I keep seeing more of:

Golborne High School - by a railway station somewhere near Runcorn

Golborne High School – by a railway station somewhere near Runcorn

Especially along train lines or where a school’s premises get the most footfall. It has become a bit of an obsession, grabbing at my phone to try and take a picture as the train I’m in speeds by another picture of happy looking kids beaming out from a banner attached to a school fence. They’re quite common in England but two recently struck me as taking the whole thing to a new level. One was in the Immigration hall of Manchester Airport:

Manchester Academy - airside, just before immigration at Manchester Airport

Manchester Academy – airside, just before immigration at Manchester Airport. An interesting (profitable?) place to advertise a school that ‘specialises in teaching English as a second language’.

the other, all over the gates of St John’s Wood tube station in London:

Quintin Kynaston - the entrance/exit to St John's Wood tube station

Quintin Kynaston – St John’s Wood tube station

Now that schools are advertising for students-as-customers (and these are publicly-funded schools remember!), I wonder how much the spend is on school marketing, what bits of the curriculum (or staff) disappear as this money gets diverted into making a pretty billboard, whether this happens in other countries too, and where this game of constant one-upmanship might end.

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Any thoughts?

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