Council can’t name firms allowed to target pupils

Councillor Melanie Main has previously expressed concern at the practice. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Councillor Melanie Main has previously expressed concern at the practice. Picture: Ian Georgeson
12
Have your say

PARENTS have criticised education chiefs after it emerged they could not say which companies are authorised to 
use schools to sell products to families.

Concerns were raised after city leaders admitted they were unable to provide a list of firms approved to advertise services such as extra tuition and 
summer camps in schoolbags and jotters.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request, officials said the city’s children and families department would begin collecting the information from next month.

Parents today expressed disquiet at the admission and urged education bosses to establish a centrally managed system, with clear standards and criteria, as quickly as possible.

Lindsay Law, parent 
representative on the council’s education committee, said: “During the time my daughters have been at school I’ve received so many leaflets, and I was surprised and concerned to find out that for many years there’s been no central oversight of which companies are targeting our children for profit.

“Some parents might even have thought that a leaflet suggesting extra tuition was somehow endorsed by the school as necessary for their child.”

City leaders said decisions on allowing commercial access to schools were previously delegated to head teachers but that following a motion from Green councillor Melanie Main they had agreed to issue top-down guidance on handling 
approaches from companies.

Individual requests from firms will also be processed centrally.

But councillor Gavin Corbett, Green member for Fountainbridge and Craiglockhart, said he was “staggered” that schools had been allowed to give access to children “with no central 
direction or control” for so long. He said: “It just shows how urgent it is that as a council we get on top of this and make sure that children are going to school to learn and not to be the subject of commercial companies’ competing interests.

“At worst, what you’ll have are some families making choices and spending large amounts of money on something they do not need and at a time when for many families, the purse strings are really stretched.”

Education bosses admitted that operating on a “school by school basis” had created 
inconsistencies.

A council spokeswoman said: “While we always look to allow heads to make decisions on a local basis, there were legitimate concerns about the way in which companies were distributing material, and we are now seeking to address these.

“Guidelines are being introduced which will ensure that requests will now come through the Children and Families Department, where a senior manager will make the decision if the information can be distributed to parents. This will ensure a common approach to such 
requests.”