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Opposing Tesco’s “Computers for Schools” Voucher Scheme


Below is a letter that I recently sent to about 120 newspapers. A small number have got back to me to say they are featurising the story. Others are publishing it as a letter. The Sunday Business Post got in contact to see if it was sent to anyone else (I haven’t heard from them since I said it was; my personal thought it that if it’s not their scoop, they’re not interested). It has also been sent to Tesco (without a reply, yet!).

Feel free to copy/distribute/send to Tesco.

Sir -

The recently launched Tesco ‘Computers for Schools’ scheme claims to provide schools with free IT equipment. This is a fallacy. Simple maths will explain: in order for a school to claim a ‘free’ computer that retails at about €700, customers will have to spend €344,000 in Tesco (i.e. 34,400 vouchers at €10 each); in order for a school to claim a ‘free’ battery charger and four batteries (that you could buy for around €10) customers will be asked to add €18,900 to Tesco’s bank account, and so on. (Source: 2008 Tesco Computers for Schools Catalogue, available at tesco.ie)

What a scheme like this actually does is allow an under-funded education system to continue to be under-funded by allowing the government to continue to abdicate its responsibilities in this area. The line seems to be: if Tesco are willing to provide IT equipment, why not let them? The same is true of the currently-running SuperValu ‘Kids in Action’ scheme, which claims to give free sports equipment to schools. These companies are simply preying on a captive audience, an audience made up of the least marketing-savvy and media-savvy conscious people in our communities – primary school kids. Could you imagine the uproar if Tesco et al decided to run a ‘Medical Equipment for Hospitals’ voucher scheme? Or, ‘Better Equipment for the Gardaí’ voucher scheme?

The only free thing that comes out of this scheme is free advertising for the supermarkets. A cursory look at Tesco’s website gives the following advice to teachers to increase the amount of vouchers they collect: ‘Put up posters around school’ (i.e. advertise for us); ‘Send a letter to parents’ (i.e. advertise for us); ‘Design and circulate flyers’ (i.e. advertise for us); ‘send a letter to other local businesses’ (i.e. advertise for us); ‘prize for the class who collects the most vouchers’ (i.e. pit students against students).

The Irish National Teachers Organisation has called on its 34,000 members to ‘reject this campaign by sending the vouchers back or by putting them in the recycle bin". Indeed, this is advice that every right thinking parent ought to consider (whilst also writing to Tesco to let them know that we are not going to allow our education system to be co-opted by private enterprise).

Is mise,
Mark Conroy
28 Forest Glade
Portumna
Co. Galway.

Related Links:
Campaign for Commercial-Free Education:
http://www.commercialfreeeducation.com/

Tesco ‘Computers for Schools’ Website:
http://www.tesco.ie/schools/
SuperValu ‘Kids in Action’ Website:
http://www.supervalukidsinaction.com/

INTO Rep. says send them back or bin them:
http://www.rte.ie/news/2008/0309/pobal_av.html?2347032,…l,230 – report begins at about "20 minutes"

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