From talking to our customers, past, present and possible, it seems to me there are two attitudes evolving in terms of selling to schools both now and into next term.
One view that some people have is that the new money promised by both Labour and Conservatives will not arrive – or if it does it won’t arrive this financial year.
This could be because the government takes its time to start spending, having secured a good majority, or because the plan of each party to spend a fortune on education is just a cynical ploy to get votes.
Or perhaps because there will be another hung Parliament, or because we do actually leave the EU at some point, and the people who said that would be a financial disaster rather than an economic liberation were right.
And yet, on the other hand there are companies that are spending money now on promotions and plan to keep spending in 2020.
So what makes some firms continue to promote in what others see as uncertain times?
Obviously one factor is that the number of companies promoting to schools is way down on the number that were in the market even just one year ago. Some businesses have wound up while others are simply relying on past customers coming back with repeat orders.
Thus those who keep promoting are doing so against a much smaller amount of competition – and that obviously helps.
Second, many schools actually do have extra money already, because of the problem with recruiting teachers. The money allocated for staff which has been saved by having not recruited has to go somewhere, and it appears it is now being released by schools as they need to use up their funds within the financial year.
Third, many schools are clearly taking advantage of the near collapse of the inspectorate. Through information received by the Dyscalculia Centre (which I oversee in addition to my work as creative director of Schools.co.uk) it is clear that many schools are simply doing their own thing, without reference to the inspectors and their rules.
But there is also the information on the significant number of pupils and students who are being de-registered for academic reasons – something that is wholly illegal but seemingly increasingly widespread.
In short, as one deputy head recently put it to me, “schooling used to be highly regulated and we were all suffering under impossible workloads. Now it is like the wild west, and we’re all doing our own thing.”
That might be an exaggeration, of course, and the comment was made in a relaxed social situation, but it does give an idea of how it can feel inside some schools.
But I think there is also a case that school managers have got weary of waiting for Brexit. Everyone in a school knows that life has to carry on, classes have to be taught, and so on, so they do just get on with it.
To give one example, if teacher numbers are down then the school can close on Friday afternoon. Indeed as one classroom teacher put it, “Do you really think we are going to be prosecuted for running shorter hours when all we have done is stopped wasting money on pointless recruitment adverts?”
So the world of teaching changes, but the money still rolls in, and the percentage to be spent on resources rises. And with fewer companies trying to get a piece of the action, some firms are doing quite well.
Of course none of these things can be mentioned in advertisements, because publicly everyone is in denial. But to me this seems to be the new reality – at least for a while.
If you have not advertised for a while and would like to see if there is a market for your products or services, or if you feel that maybe your advertising should change a little to fit in with the new reality but are not quite sure how to do that, please do get in touch.
We are still offering the chance to buy a single email advertisement to the teacher of your choice just so you can see: the details of the lists and costs (including transmission) are on our website.
Plus our guarantee is still there – if you don’t get the response rate you hoped for, we’ll take a look at the advertising, and offer to do a re-write, plus a re-run of the advert all without cost.
For more information please do call 01604 880 927 or email Stephen@schools.co.uk