DES takes on Geronimo for university drive

The Department For Education and Skills (DES) has taken on external

PR consultants to help with a campaign to encourage underprivileged

teenagers to go to university.



An erosion of student grants and the need to pay tuition fees have put

increasing numbers of teenagers from low-income backgrounds off higher

education.



The Government has decided to hit back with a pounds 2m campaign called

Excellent Challenge to persuade poor teenagers that university is

worthwhile.



Geronimo PR has been named as the agency to handle the campaign for its

full three years. Geronimo MD Karen Harris heads a five-strong team on

the account and reports to Clare Chandler, DES's senior publicity

officer.



The main thrust of the campaign is to organise and promote a series of

roadshows to schools and colleges of further education.



Up to 13 graduates are currently being recruited by Geronimo to share

their experiences of university, on the roadshows. Geronimo is still on

the hunt for graduates with PR, drama and presentation skills for this

purpose.



Harris said one of the key target groups would be 13 to 15-year-olds:

'We want to reach those who are not even thinking about university at

the moment and to show them the benefits, by the time they are at sixth

form college many have already decided.'



Geronimo is one of six PR agencies on the DES roster. The others are

Fishburn Hedges, Harrison Cowley, Colman Getty, Pure PR and Countrywide

Porter Novelli.



The Government has set a target of half of all under 30-year-olds

experiencing higher education by 2010. Less than one in six children

from unskilled worker backgrounds go to university compared to three

quarters of those from professional backgrounds.



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