Sunday 3 May 2015

I know, let's have a competition!

There seems to be a bit of a theme when external organisations try to engage with schools and young people.

Image by Nemo-3736

I can picture the scene...

Somewhere in a glass meeting room, some very serious people are sitting round, trying to work out what they should do to meet their corporate social responsibility targets let young people know about their company/institution/product.

'I know', says one, 'lets have a competition.  That's bound to get schools involved.'

'Fantastic!' replies a colleague. 'What a great way to enrich school life.  I loved entering competitions when I was at school.'

And so a competition is launched.

And schools do enter.

But perhaps not all the schools, and maybe not the ones that might need company support and engagement the most.
. . .

To be honest, I'm conflicted about competitions as public engagement.  It feels like it ought to be an easy way to engage with schools.  Choose a topic, publish a few rules, name a prize and you're away. Indeed, I'm involved in a competition with a local organisation.

And yet...

It would be fascinating to analyse the winners from the various competitions that are held each year.  I wonder if  schools with supportive parents and low pupil premium numbers predominate (BP Ultimate STEM competition, National Science and Engineering Competition) or maybe grammar schools (or ex-grammars which are now academies National Engineering competition for girls).

Certainly, if I was running a large scale competition to engage with schools, I'd want to look very closely at exactly who is entering and whether the competition was attracting a particular demographic of schools.

I'd also think about when the deadline for my competition was.  The middle of May is not a good time for secondary schools to do anything other than prepare for exams (Looking at you, Generation Green).  Schools have other things to be thinking about.  Many teachers run after school revision, so even if your competition is aimed at a lower age group, it's likely that the teachers will be involved in this and have little time to support extra-curricular activities.

My conclusion?  I don't know.  For those schools that enter, I'm sure that entering competitions may be a good way of enriching the curriculum and of real benefit to their students.  But there are far more schools that don't enter, and they may be the ones that actually it would be better to try to engage.