EDF Energy and Schools

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EDF Energy


Not many people would complain about money being donated to their local school, but the increasing penetration of the private sector into state education in the UK and the commercialisation of school environments through sponsorship deals, and business-provided teaching materials, is a cause for concern.[1] In return for providing cash-strapped schools with resources, companies are given an excellent marketing opportunity and the chance to build brand loyalty amongst children.

George Monbiot quotes the European Round Table of Industrialists who suggest that 'the provision of education is a market opportunity and should be treated as such.' [2] A National Audit Office report in 2001on “Tackling Obesity in England” said that '”commercial involvement” through sponsorship schemes “has the effect of directly promoting sales of particular products”. If that is the case with unhealthy snack foods, it is unlikely to be any different with regard to choosing an electricity supplier, and may help children and parents look more favourably on environmentally damaging proposals from energy companies. [3]

Teaching materials

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) links the growth of marketing in schools to the 'schools funding crisis' and the pressure, resulting from government under-investment, on schools to accept sponsorship deals and teaching resources offered by companies. [4] The government also encourages a climate of cooperation between businesses and schools. The Department for Education and Skills' 'Education and business links' website (EBNet) encourages businesses to have more involvement in Education through which they can acquire better market knowledge... gain new and more loyal customers... and improve our nation's competitiveness in the international arena. [5] The NUT is 'deeply alarmed' at a situation in which:

“…some of the world's largest corporations, who are responsible for undermining health, environment and sustainable development, are at the same time being actively encouraged to become partners with schools and to provide core educational materials and services.”

Ethical company behaviour or greenwash?

EDF Energy says its support for the communities it serves is fundamental to its choice to behave as “a responsible corporate citizen”. “The health of our business is inseparable from the health of those communities, and we rely on their support and prosperity. Wealthier, more stable, better educated neighbourhoods will provide employees of the future and more prosperous customers”. [6]

Does this make EDF Energy a responsible ethical company, which makes a contribution from profits to the community, or is the Company cleverly brainwashing the next generation to support it when it brings forward plans for new nuclear reactors? Sponsorship of adult sport or community activities is one thing, but we should be very wary about allowing any commercial enterprises to use impressionable youngsters as a marketing opportunity.

Building Brand Awareness

The Chief Executive of EDF Energy Vincent de Rivaz, says sponsorship helps the Company build “brand awareness”. In 2006 EDF Energy agreed to sponsor the Anglo-Welsh Rugby Union Cup. But the importance of this to the Company is also that it “enables a connection with almost 2,000 amateur rugby clubs which are at the heart of their communities … this grass roots dimension is a vital part of developing our business and the relationship we want to have with our customers, our employees and the communities in which we live and work”. [7] The Company clearly believes this strategy has worked in France. EDF Group has contributed to the development of French Rugby from grassroots to the professional level, for more than three decades, and is one of the sponsors of the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France. [8]

Rugby in Schools

The Company’s tentacles don’t stop at amateur rugby clubs. It also sponsors the National Schools Rugby Programme (NSRP). This is described as one of the most comprehensive programmes in world rugby involving around 100,000 children and teachers at primary schools across England. Schools where rugby has never been played before will be targeted. Louise Poole, EDF Energy's Head of Brand said: “We’re delighted to become Premier Rugby’s Community Partner. We’re committed to rugby at all levels from the EDF Energy Cup to the grassroots and want to make sure our involvement leaves a lasting legacy for hundreds of schools and tens of thousands of children.”

The idea of the scheme is that each Premiership Rugby Club should work with around 100 primary schools. [9] Unfortunately, Rugby skills may not be the only legacy left for future generations by nuclear-obsessed EDF.

From Basketball to that most English of sports - Cricket

Rugby is not the only sport which EDF Energy supports in schools. The Company says it is building on the success of its sponsorship of ITV’s coverage of the 2006 World (Soccer) Cup and the legacy of its successful support of the bid to bring the next Olympic Games to London in 2012. EDF publicity emphasises its aim of promoting “a healthier lifestyle”. EDF Energy sponsored a Fit for Fun programme in 2005 which gave schools in Kent, Sussex and Surrey a share of £27,000.

Also in 2005 ten schools in Kent and Sussex received “motivational coaching” on exercise and nutrition from one of the UK’s top basketball teams, the Brighton Bears. The idea being “to inspire the children with ways to make lasting lifestyle changes, boosting their energy levels, concentration and general fitness”. [10]

Primary schools throughout Gloucestershire are invited to visit the County Cricket Club Education Centre for a day to take part in a curriculum-based programme of ‘Learning Through Cricket’ activities, rounded off with an hour’s cricket coaching with a qualified coach. EDF Energy sponsors the Education centre, so the service is free of charge. [11]

Sports Equipment

For those not already hooked on a lifetime of brand loyalty EDF Energy joined forces in 2005 with the London Evening Standard in a £1million campaign to persuade London’s youngsters to collect tokens in the Evening Standard which can be redeemed to get new sports equipment. Again this campaign showed EDF’s “commitment to community involvement [and] a healthier lifestyle”. [12]

EDF Energy is also listed as one of 19 sponsors of the Brighton Bears basketball team. [13]

Learning through Landscapes

EDF Energy’s largest company wide community sponsorship scheme is with the charity Learning through Landscapes. Since 1996, EDF Energy has worked closely with Learning through Landscapes to establish the School Grounds Awards, helping schools improve their grounds for the benefit of everyone. This scheme comprises six regional components of local awards of up to £5,000. Additionally there is an overall £6,000 Sustainable Development Prize. [14]

Who could complain about such philanthropy? But when EDF Energy funds projects, which really should be funded through taxation, to create a “healthy and happy lifestyle for children” which also happens to be a marketing opportunity, shouldn’t we at least be questioning whether we are doing the right thing?

Learning through Landscapes (LtL) says: “[m]any companies have discovered the benefits of investing in school grounds and the children and young people who use them. By doing this they have generated significant good local and regional PR for their company and benefited from the positive brand association which goes with this”. [15]

Mike Davy, EDF Energy’s Director of Customer Services, says: "The EDF Energy School Grounds Awards … encourage schools to enhance their outdoor areas making them an integral part of providing a healthy and happy lifestyle for children. The Awards are a key feature of EDF Energy’s community programme and we are delighted to be working with Learning through Landscapes once again." [16]

Capturing Imagination or Seeding Propaganda?

LTL says the scheme helps capture the imagination of pupils of all ages. With such a widespread reach, we need to ensure that this commercialisation of the classroom doesn’t capture anything else belonging to the pupils. For example, more than 500 Cornish schools had been involved with the EDF Energy School Grounds Awards by the end of 2004. On 23rd Feb 2006 Learning Through Landscapes announced EDF Energy were expanding the awards scheme. [17] EDF has awarded £360,000 to 415 schools in the past six years, awarded 546 applicants LTL member support and visited 41 schools to deliver support and guidance. In total over 100,000 children have benefited. [18]

Jazz, Electric Cars, Teaching Materials etc etc

EDF Energy also sponsors a subsidised ticket scheme so that young people can attend the London Jazz Festival; [19] and electric car racing [20] And, of course EDF has a website which provides teaching materials to fit in with national curriculum guidelines and has employees who will come to schools and give talks on safety and energy efficiency to students. [21]


  1. The start of this article is based on one on School Sponsorship deals on the Corporate Watch website: (Accessed 17.01.07)
  2. George Monbiot, 'Captive State: the Corporate Takeover of Britain,' Macmillan, 2000, p. 331.
  3. Tackling Obesity in England, National Audit Office, London, February, 2001, p. 45. (viewed 17.01.2007)
  4. Briefing on schools' role in promoting child health and combating commercialisation, NUT, 2004. (viewed 17.01.2007)
  5. Education business links website, Department for Education and Skills, 17 December, 2002. (viewed 17.01.2007)
  6. Politics.co.uk Opinion Formers website undated. (viewed 17.01.07)
  7. “EDF Energy to Sponsor UK’s Premier Cup Competition”, Rugby Football Union Press Release, 1 August, 2006.
  8. Rugby World Cup 2007 website (accessed 22.01.07).
  9. The EDF National Schools Rugby Programme, run in association with the Guinness Premiership is mentioned on the website of every Guinness Premiership Rugby Club:- Sale Sharks, Bath, Bristol, Gloucester, Harlequins, Leicester Tigers, London Irish, London Wasps, Newcastle Falcons, Northampton Saints, Saracens, Worcester Warriors. It is also mentioned on the Scrum – Rugby news website.
  10. Schools get Fit with EDF Energy Super Bears School Programme, EDF Energy Press Release, 12 September, 2005.
  11. GCCC Celebrates 250th School Attending their Education Centre, Gloucestershire County Cricket Club Press Release, 30 May, 2006.
  12. EDF Energy and Evening Standard Launch £1 million Sport for Schools Campaign, EDF Energy Press Release, 1 February, 2005.
  13. Brighton Bears website.
  14. Learning through Landscapes Website, (viewed 22.01.07)
  15. Learning through Landscapes, The Benefits of being a sponsor. (viewed 22.01.07)
  16. Colin Breed MP Awards School Grounds Prize to Landrake School, EDF Energy Press Release, 15 November, 2004.
  17. Taking the Classroom Outside, Learning through Landscapes Press Release, 26 February, 2006.
  18. Business in the Community Website, EDF Energy - Learning Through Landscapes. (Viewed 22.01.07)
  19. Politics.co.uk Opinion Formers website undated. (viewed 17.01.07)
  20. EDF Energy Regional Heat Goodwood, Greenpower - Electric Car Races for Schools Press Release, 19 June, 2005.
  21. EDF Energy Power Up Website. (Viewed 22.01.07)