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Tuesday, 11 December, 2001, 10:50 GMT
School vouchers: Are they a rip-off?
Millions of vouchers collected by parents to provide school equipment are poor value for money, says the Consumers' Association.

An investigation for Which? magazine said such schemes were marketing ploys of questionable benefit.

It said shoppers would need to spend about 220,000 in Tesco, for instance, to get enough vouchers for a computer worth less than 1,000.

Tesco has hit back calling the criticism "astonishing" and say they have provided 70 million of computer equipment to over 20,000 schools in the last ten years.

What do you think? Is the campaign a rip-off? Is it a way of giving schools equipment that they otherwise couldn't afford?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


Whatever they give it's better than nothing

Philip S. Hall, England, UK
I work at a school that has benefited from such schemes as this, although in our case the benefactor is Sainsbury's not Tesco. I think the analysis by the CA is a bit bizarre. Whatever they give it's better than nothing. The only charge that might be laid at their feet is the fact that in operating such a scheme they gain from the positive image that may attract more customers to their stores. It's a bit like celebrities who do a lot for charity but gain from the boost in their popularity. So are they really doing it for selfless reasons? Its best not to dig too deep!
Philip S. Hall, England, UK

The real question is whether or not 0.45p in the pound is enough to justify claims that it's beneficial to you and your school to shop at Tesco instead of elsewhere. It seems a fair amount to me, considering that most people wouldn't ordinarily give ANY money to worthwhile causes, but don't be fooled into thinking that it's "something for nothing", because it isn't.
Daniel, Japan/UK

I must have been mistaken - I thought it was the job of the education services to pay for our schools, not to criticise other organisations that are attempting to pick up the slack
Martin, UK

Unlike some other correspondents, I don't work for Tesco; I work in the education sector. I'm more concerned about Walkers. Buy Tesco branded potato crisps instead - or some healthier food, such as fruit - and give the considerable amount of money saved to schools, by all means. Yours grossly overweight since I left school.
Robert Carnegie, UK


If people feel so strongly that schools should receive more money they can always donate the cash themselves

Tanya Smithson, England
If I had the power at Tesco to make a decision about this I would be tempted to abort the scheme immediately, citing the CA research that it is clearly inadequate. I would, of course, invite shoppers to register their protest at the decision in order to demonstrate the true level of support for the initiative. After all, if people feel so strongly that schools should receive more money they can always donate the cash themselves. If 50 people gave 20 that would buy a computer, and it would be cheaper than spending 200,000 plus on shopping.
Tanya Smithson, England

If the schools received enough funding there would be no need for schemes like these. Good for Tesco and Walkers for supporting schools.
Caron, England

I collected these for years when I lived in the UK. Now I have to ask, are we all mad? Why on earth should it be necessary in the first place?
Roy Marsh, Singapore/UK

Most companies simply sit on their profits, count them and moan when they dwindle slightly. At least Tesco is giving something back. They don't have to provide anything, but of their own free will are injecting a small amount into our schools each year. This is not a requirement and definitely not a rip off. Surely it's better to have something than nothing at all?
Neil Underwood, UK

At least Tesco are making an effort to plough some of their profits back into the community. It may only be a small percentage, but it is more than other supermarkets are giving to schools. Better to make some effort, than none at all.
Will Faulkner, Hale, Cheshire, UK

I too think that anything is better than nothing. I do shop a Tesco but I do not have any school age children, therefore I donate any vouchers I receive to a school participating in the scheme. So they are getting something for nothing too.
Maggie Sutherland, UK

The value of the vouchers is paltry yet Tesco and Walkers expect so much kudos from them and parade themselves as contributing to education.
Gill, UK


Tesco could easily afford to give more away

Graham Smith, UK
It is the job of Which? to make comments on this kind of thing. Its aim is to make everyone aware of what commercial companies are up to. So don't criticise it for being critical, it's what it's there for. But it all seems like a lot of effort for nothing. I heard a school took two years to collect enough tokens for one 1000 computer. I'm sure they could raise this amount of money themselves in a fraction of the time. And Tesco could easily afford to give more away, and without any voucher scheme. It seems a bit rich of it to trumpet this scheme when, despite the benefit to schools, overall it doesn't add up to much.
Graham Smith, UK

How many of us don't collect the vouchers we are entitled to or give schools the vouchers we receive? The staff at my local Tesco go out of their way to make sure the vouchers are given to someone in the queue who will use them.
Kris Heskett, UK

The Consumers' Association has transformed in recent years from a useful group to a highly politicised organisation. It certainly doesn't let logic or reason stand in the way of its ranting. Come off it CA, this is something for nothing - how can it be a rip off? If the proportions aren't generous, they're infinitely better than the CA's own contribution. If I was Tesco I would tell the CA to get stuffed - it's all they deserve.
Paul B, Oxfordshire, UK

No one would be complaining if Tesco gave nothing away at all. Be grateful, they don't have to give free vouchers for schools at all.
Andrew C, England, UK


It should be common practice to give a proportion of profits back to the community

Peter Finch, UK
A company as big as Tesco should be able to double or triple the amount of assistance it gives to schools. It should be common practice to give a proportion of profits back to the community. After all, it is the community that is making Tesco so profitable!
Peter Finch, UK

How can something you get for nothing be a rip off?
Faye, USA

Tesco has a cheek to even try to defend their stance with figures. If you divide the amount by the number of schools and years they have given a mere 350 to each school per year or 0.50 per pupil (for an average school). A total disgrace!
Philip Levy, UK

Phillip: I think it's a total disgrace that the Consumers' Association has the nerve to attack Tesco. It may not give a massive amount but it is a company and it's there to make money. I say well done to Tesco. I haven't seen any schools complain, have you?
James Roberts, UK

Sorry Philip Levy but Tesco does not have to provide this offer so anything that it does is surely to be viewed as a bonus. Picking holes in someone's generosity is dangerous because they may just stop doing it - and that would be worse! I think a few other big stores can learn a few things from Tesco.
Tony, UK

Exactly how much has the Consumers' Association given over the same period?
Sam, England

Most parents are simply grateful that a private organisation has provided 70M of computer equipment to schools - regardless of the marketing behind the action. The government consistently takes money from us and "talks" about helping but has so far failed to get more than a tiny fraction of the taxpayers money actually to the schools.
Frank, England


How many other companies have ploughed 70 million into schools over the last decade?

Mark, UK
I personally feel that it is admirable that a company is willing to donate equipment to schools. Yes, Tesco gets good publicity from it, but I doubt that people are only using Tesco because of their school voucher offer. How many other companies have ploughed 70 million into schools over the last decade?
Mark, UK

The Tesco's voucher scheme represents something for nothing for the schools. It also promotes collaboration and a sense of community amongst staff, pupils and parents. The Consumers Association does not seem to be able to grasp such facts, falling back instead on its rather dreary "I know my rights, large firms are rip off merchants" interpretation of the way of the world.
Rodger Edwards, UK

Is Philip Levy bonkers? Tesco don't have to do this. They choose to do so out of a sense of community spirit.
Andy W, UK


It's like putting blatant adverts for McDonalds on school blackboards!

Richard, UK
I think the principle is awful - many families will have been pressurised into shopping at Tesco by schools themselves. It's like putting blatant adverts for McDonalds on school blackboards! Tesco is a large and very powerful company, and as such it will have made far more in increased profits because of the campaign than it ever paid out in computers. I expect it would be far more efficient to use the time for direct fund-raising techniques instead. Schools should quite simply not be used as corporate brainwashing factories.
Richard, UK

Never look a gift horse in the mouth
Simon Mallett, UK

I buy my shopping based on my own requirements, but if Tesco as a result give money to schools then to criticise the amounts seems more than a little unfair. I'm sure the motives are primarily commercial rather than altruistic, but so what?
Paul Ruffley, UK


How much has Which? given to schools in the last 10 years?

Anthony, England
How much has Which? given to schools in the last 10 years? I find their 'research' insulting and obnoxious. Perhaps they had they had to come up with these 'findings' to boost their profile and sales figures.
Anthony, England

A company as big as Tesco should be able to double or triple the amount of assistance they give to schools. It should be common practice to give a proportion of profits back to the community. After all, it is the community that is making Tesco so profitable! Surely it is common sense?
Peter Finch, UK

Remember that Tesco is a company, they don't have to provide schools with anything! Isn't that the government's job?
We buy products from Tesco because we need them, not so that we can get school vouchers, so it's a bonus - is it not?
Klynn Alibocus, UK


Better to make some effort than make none at all

Will Faulkner, UK
At least Tesco are making an effort to plough some of their profits back into the community. It may only be a small percentage, but it is more than other supermarkets are giving to schools.
Better to make some effort than make none at all.
Will Faulkner, UK

See also:

06 Dec 01 | Education
School voucher schemes under fire
10 Apr 01 | Education
Funds not charity say teachers
20 Jun 00 | Correspondents
Funding schools with vouchers
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