The Vineyard School
Commercial Activities Policy
Drafted: October 2014. Updated: March 2017
Scope of Policy
This policy sets out The Vineyard School’s best practice principles with regards to the handling of approaches from external organisations keen to access the school’s resources, pupils or their families for commercial gain.
These approaches may be for use of the school’s premises, resources, data, to reach pupils or their families, or to facilitate the direct marketing of goods and services to the wider school community. For the purposes of this policy, we term all such goings-on as ‘commercial activities’.
We believe appropriate commercial activity in the school can be positive, providing funding, materials and equipment, building links with businesses and the local community and increasing parental involvement. However, in some cases the product or company may be in conflict with the school’s aims and ethos or a scheme may have other, potentially unforeseen, drawbacks.
Commercial activity should therefore be viewed cautiously and the advantages and disadvantages carefully weighed up before a decision is made. Included in this policy are guidelines intended to assist with such judgements and to support consistent and well-considered decision-making.
In drawing up this policy, reference has been made to the following documents: DfES / Consumers’ Association / Incorporated Society for British Advertisers ‘Commercial activities in schools – best practice principles’; Scottish Consumer Council / Scottish Executive ‘Guidelines on commercial activities in schools’; NUT ‘Education not exploitation’; policies of Colden Junior and Infant School, Carno School and Breakspear Junior School.
We define commercial activity in our school as: the use of the school’s premises or material resources; providing access to data obtained from or relating to pupils and their families; seeking to engage pupils or their families in activities that highlight a specific commercial organisation or market sector; and, direct marketing of goods and services to pupils and their families.
Illustrative examples of such activity include:
- Advertising i.e. displayed materials promoting a particular company, goods or service
- Sponsored educational materials e.g. books, software, posters and other curriculum resources
- Voucher schemes, in which parents and staff, by purchasing a company’s products, collect vouchers, tokens or points, which can then be used to acquire books, equipment or other educational material
- Sponsored events, with either financial or in-kind support
- The use of material either in school or for pupils’ homes, provided free of charge but displaying prominent company logos and / or promotional messages
- Prizes, rewards and other donations which are provided free of charge by companies
- Shared use of school facilities out of school hours
- Leaflets or other information promoting commercial products intended for distribution to parents.
It is our policy that involvement in any commercial scheme or activity must offer educational benefit to our pupils (either directly or indirectly) and not conflict with the school’s aims, ethos or other agreed policies. In addition, the following principles should be taken into account (not all will be applicable, depending on the nature of the activity being considered).
- The activity should be free from incentives for children to engage in unhealthy, unsafe or unlawful activities (accordingly, there will be a presumption against any promotion or endorsement of foods and drinks with poor nutritional content)
- Materials and activities should contain accurate and up to date information, distinguish between factual statements and expressions of opinion and give a balanced view
- Material should be free from explicit sales messages or messages that play on children’s fears, loyalty or inexperience
- Wherever it can be avoided, the school should avoid being seen as endorsing a particular product, service or company (e.g. in relation to voucher schemes, it should be made clear to parents that they should not change their usual purchasing arrangements)
- Situations where pupils or parents may feel under undue pressure should be avoided
- Material should respect diversity and comply with equal opportunities including avoidance of stereotyping
- There should be a presumption against the adoption or display of advertising, branding, merchandising slogans or logos and the school should therefore generally refuse involvement in schemes where this is required. However, the discreet use of a logo for sponsor identification is acceptable (this is necessary to help identify promotional material). Furthermore, sponsorship of sports kit is acceptable where this involves local business / community / parental links. Temporary display of building contractors’ boards is acceptable, provided the effect on the ‘street scene’ is not overly detrimental
- Companies with particularly poor ethical records should be avoided
- Voucher schemes should include clear information on how the scheme works in order to avoid hidden disadvantages and not be unduly time consuming to administer
- Parents may be notified of information received by the school from local authority services regarding local activities, holiday schemes, secondary schools or similar by sending out leaflets, brief mention in the newsletter and/or display of leaflets or small posters inside the school.
General, low level commercial activities that comply with the guidelines on the attached checklist, may be approved by the PTA Chair. Any individual commercial activity, which is expected to incur a benefit worth in excess of £2,000 in cash or kind or that is not compliant with the attached guidelines, must be agreed in advance by the Chair and Vice Chair of Governors with the Head teacher, who should consider these guidelines before making a decision.
In the case of governors seeking sponsorship for the school, relevant details should be agreed by the Governing Body or its Finance Committee.
Many not-for-profit organisations also provide educational activities and materials to schools. The considerations set out in this policy may also apply in these cases.
The Vineyard School Commercial Activity checklist
When assessing a commercial activity on behalf of The Vineyard School, ask yourself...
- Does the activity add educational value to the curriculum?
- Is it free from incentives for children to engage in unhealthy, unsafe or unlawful activities?
- Has the business clearly stated its purpose in producing the activity?
- In any materials provided, are expressions of opinion clearly distinguished from statements of fact?
- Is the activity as free as possible of explicit sales messages?
- If the activity requires specialist resources, was this made clear to you from the outset?
- Does the activity respect diversity of gender, race, disability and cultural issues and reflect contemporary UK society?
- Is the level of branding and logo use appropriate to the activity?
- Where applicable, has the activity been developed with educators and piloted for school use with teachers and pupils?
- Is the activity relevant to your region and school?
- Is it clear who the sponsor and target audience are?
- Can the school engage in the activity free from unreasonable restrictions or conditions?
Some extra questions for collector schemes...
- Do the overall benefits of the collector scheme outweigh the costs to your school, pupils and parents?
- Are the terms and conditions of the collector scheme available to you before registration?
- Is the product involved one which you are content for pupils or parents to use?
- How do you decide?
If you answered YES to ALL of these applicable questions, the commercial activity probably meets our best practice principles and could form the basis of a worthwhile partnership between The Vineyard and the business.
If you answered NO to the majority of these questions, you should probably reject the proposed commercial activity.
If your answers were a mixture of YES and NO, or if the proposed activity is likely to generate a value worth in excess of £2,000 you should discuss this with the Board of Governors before granting permission to proceed.
Remember: schools and businesses working in partnership share the risks and rewards. The key question is…
do the educational benefits of the partnership outweigh the potential disbenefits?