Communication winners and losers #14 (Election Special)

Every month GKP identifies who has scored in the education PR stakes and who has had a communications management malfunction. This month we're looking specifically at the main political parties' education policies in advance of the general election on Thursday.

Education PR

Communications #fail of the month

It’s difficult to know which party’s education policies attracted the worst press in the run up to this week’s general election. The Lib Dems promised to triple the Pupil Premium, inject an extra £7 billion into schools and vigorously oppose new grammars. You probably didn’t know that because unfortunately for the Lib Dems their policies received next to no publicity – good or bad. 

Labour, on the other hand, attracted plenty of attention for their free school meals for all primary pupils, a commitment to reduce class sizes and a promise to end university tuition fees. The policies are popular with the electorate but not with education experts. Universal free meals, it was pointed out, subsidise the rich, reduced class sizes do little to improve outcomes and free tuition is a bung for the middle class and does nothing to increase disadvantaged participation. Still, there are a lot more voters than wonks, so who cares about inconvenient facts?

The Conservatives, however, managed to unveil a set of policies that were unpopular and were rubbished by experts. Yes, they promised to give schools extra cash – but not enough to keep pace with rocketing student numbers, which means funding per pupil is plummeting. Yes, they pledged to lift the cap on selective schools, but were caught by academics fiddling the figures in a desperate attempt to pretend more just about managing families just about managed to get into grammars. And, yes, they pledged to fund free breakfasts for the poor – at the princely sum of 7p a meal. So for making the ludicrous assumption that poor kids can make do with a couple of cornflakes and the occasional sight of a Rice Krispie, the Tories are this month’s heartless, dumb and plain nasty communications losers.

Communications #win of the month

Education PR

Stand up UKIP! The party’s no-nonsense, patriotic manifesto demand that teachers should not use EU-tainted yellow stars in the classroom was inspired. Let them use green or orange or taupe, you fumed. And quite right, too! Even if it was not really UKIP policy but made up by somebody on Twitter, it made us smile. I guess the ‘taupe’ was a giveaway – not a very Kipper colour.

Gerard Kelly is the former editor of the Times Educational Supplement and Times Higher Education. He is the founding partner of Gerard Kelly & Partners (GKP), a communications consultancy. GKP offers education PR, marketing, consultancy and communications management to UK schools, universities and business.