Business gurus, leave our kids alone


I have now received sufficient criticism for my blog on corporatism in schools to reappraise my blog. Sometimes you write a blog with the right idea but it falls on your readership in the wrong way. This may have been what has happened here, and that I wasn’t able to get my point across properly, I’m cross with myself.

But having re-read the blog – and the criticism – a few times, I’ve decided to keep the blog up, because what the blog is saying is important to me and is what I think.

The argument

The argument in my blog is not that business should not be allowed into the workplace – it has a place to play teaching children and young adults. The argument is that they should not be gloating over access to schools and publicising their success as Zurich were doing.

What none of the commentators on the blog have mentioned, is that the majority of the blog is given over to Michelle Cracknel’s beautiful account of her conversation with school children, which she promoted on linked in at the same time as Zurich did.

While Michelle included  a link to TPAS in her article, she was teaching about getting old, the tone was educative and appropriate for a teaching environment. This was the opposite of the Zurich approach.

I am for financial education in our schools but I don’t want my kids or grandkids being sold careers.


A number of comments have started

“I normally agree with you Henry but…”.

Let’s be clear, I don’t agree with anyone all the time and I don’t expect people to agree with me all the time either!

When I was a “progressive” private school in the late seventies, we had a number of “industrialists” (as they were billed)  – coming to talk to us about a career in business.

I remember one of them telling us that it was all very well teaching humanities in schools, but what we should really be preparing ourselves for was a career in the law, or in manufacturing or some other commercial activity. I knew this was wrong when I was 17 and I know it to be wrong now.

When you are at school and at college (and thank goodness we give young people the chance to be at college), we have the opportunity to think for ourselves without the pressure to monetise this thinking.

But again and again, I hear people talk of the work they do in schools as a kind of business evangelism designed to convert free-thinking into “their thinking”.

Children and young adults do not need wham bam thank you mam business evangelism. They need the opportunity to think things through for themselves. That is what I saw Michelle’s approach as doing. I’m sorry Rose, but this sounds exactly what we don’t need

I absolutely love that Zurich Insurance Company Ltd enables employees to give back and inspire the next generation. After all a career in insurance / financial services can offer super cool opportunities

Swimming against the tide

I appreciate that I am swimming against the tide here, but I don’t blog to be popular and I don’t blog to promote First Actuarial LLP or Pension PlayPen Ltd or AgeWage Ltd’s tolerance in allowing me to blog!

Having worked at Zurich Insurance for 10 years, I know that there is no free lunch and that every “educational opportunity” is a “commercial opportunity”. Back in the noughties Zurich sponsored a Maths Bus to teach kids numeracy skills. The bus would literally drive into the playground.

The bus was so plastered with Zurich logos that it made it also drove its way onto staff magazines and became the acceptable face of our business in public promotions. It was a brilliant value for money program in terms of corporate PR!

I wonder how many of the children who came on the bus, did so because they wanted to. My memory was of pushy parents keen to promote their children’s maths skills to a prospective employer.

I hated the way Zurich were promoting Zurich in the schoolyard  then, and I can’t see much has changed .

We have a major under-funding problem in many schools, if I ever get to the position where I can dish out shareholder funds, I will be focussing on maximising the capacity of teacher’s to teach- not replacing teaching with corporate baloney.

Schools are for teaching and learning.

Down the ages, we have kept education special. We have kept corporates away from the classroom – or asked them – when in the classroom to teach rather than preach.

I do see teaching as a skill we should encourage , I’m fascinated by Lucy Kelleway’s conversion from journalist to teacher.  I have a brother who is acknowledged a fine teacher and he has often berated me for working for organisations who annoy him and his kids with quasi-educational business promotions.

Schools are for teaching and learning and they are not for corporate hi-jinks! If Rose and Zurich want to gloat about their access to schools and their enlightened attitude to worker empowerment, then keep that to your internal KPIs.

Hey Zurich, leave those kids alone.



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Business gurus, leave our kids alone

  1. Catherine says:

    One of the things I love about your blog is how receptive you are to feedback and how you reflect, correcting matters when you feel necessary. Admirable qualities!

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