What E-Coli can teach us about brand-name academy chains


A slightly provocative headline, but in this month’s Guardian column I use Jack-in-the-Box’s disasterous e-coli outbreak in 1993 to show how easily brand reputations can be tarnished. This is true even if the brand works zealously to overcome it. (JITB became so evangelical fast-food cooking changes that e-coli outbreaks subsequently dropped right across the fastfood industry).

While schools are usually in a less delicate position with regards to children’s health, there is a risk that with an increase in ‘branded schools’ child might end up ‘carrying’ around a bad name on their CVs for the rest of their life. It’s not a permanent injury, but it is an issue that needs careful forethought. After all, if Jack-in-the-box had been evangelical about e-coli before the outbreak there are 187 children who would not be suffering with permanent disabilities today.

6 thoughts on “What E-Coli can teach us about brand-name academy chains

  1. Hi Laura, I think I agree that as academy groups expand it means there’s a greater chance of reputational damage happening but I disagree with you on the effect it has on a pupil once she has gone to uni or tried getting a job.
    It’s purely based on my own personal experiences, I went to a pretty average school and when I studied at a RG uni, nobody was bothered about the school I went to – sure the majority had never heard of it but I didn’t fee like it was “bad enough” that this happened like you describe it. When I applied for jobs I really don’t think merely having got my GCSEs/Alevels from a ‘no-brand’ school had any negative consequences. The only thing that did suffer in my life from attending the school was the actual education I received. Perhaps I am in the minority – if you know of any research on effects school brands have on pupils it’d be interesting to read.

    1. In the Guardian piece I raise the fact that being from a no-brand school is fine (in fact I talk about my own school, which incidentally was not good but no one knew that from its name). The problem is that if you go to a branded school, and the brand name becomes toxic, even if you went to a brilliant branch of the chain, you are likely to be tarnished.

      1. I’m a bit sceptical of that assertion, maybe I am being ignorant. I could imagine a kid being treated differently by his local community but would his peers at uni or the recruitment team at John Lewis really care that the school he went to was known associated with with a tarnished brand?

        1. They’re affected by university brand. And parents pay a premium believing a top private school brand makes a difference. So why not believe a band high school brand would also have an influence? Even if only a small proportion of the time?

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