Big oil schools

Get BP out of schools
Let me start with an obvious but true statement: “young people are impressionable”. If you think back to your own childhood, I am sure a whole wave of questionable life choices come flooding back to you. Luckily for most of us we managed to get over the bad girlfriend or boyfriend and realised Kickers shoes aren’t the coolest thing in the world. However some choices we make at that age are not so easy to forget, especially when it comes career choices and education.

Therefore I was incredibly alarmed to learn about BP’s extensive work in schools in the UK. In particularly one project whereby BP have been going into schools and conducting interactive sessions teaching children to be oil traders. I watched the promotional video which has now been removed by BP, where one BP employees was telling students: ” The trick is to buy oil low and sell it high”. And although their main schools roadshow which has already visited 700 schools has finished they are still operating their similar ‘Enterprise Trading Challenge

Let us remember BP are leaders in an industry that has ruthlessly exploited the worlds natural resources and people in the pursuit of huge profits over the past 100 years. BP irresponsible attitude towards our energy future has contributed to the climate change crisis facing us and future generations. And it was only 2 years ago that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill poured 200m gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico sea. This caused huge environmental damage which has led to BP already paying out $7.8 billion in compensation for the damage caused.

So to me it feels ludicrous to give BP the chance to greenwash their brand in the eyes of children. Is financial speculation with one of the worlds most precious but destructive resources something we want our kids to think is a future career? We need to remember the financial crisis was caused in part by reckless speculation by traders.

Companies like BP who exploit the planets resource in order to make huge profits with no regard for future generations have no place in our schools trying to make a career in destroying the planet seem glamourous.

However worryingly the oil industry in schools isn’t just limited to BP. Cuadrilla the company pursuing the highly controversial form of extreme energy extraction known as Fracking in Blackpool have started running competitions and giving away money to schools in the local area they are trying to destroy. Fracking has been highly condemned by most of the EU with the exception of Poland. In the US Fracking has been shown to cause water contamination, air pollution, cancer and is carbon intensive form of energy production. For a lowdown on Fracking and whether it is planned in your area check out ‘Frack Off‘.

I have heard stories from parents about Exxon Mobil sponsoring kids school bags and books. It appears the fossil fuel industry is following the example of Coca Cola, Mcdonalds and other ethically dubious brands in funding community based activities in order to encourage parents and children to turn a blind eye to the destructive activities of their industry.

If you’re a parent do you want your child to grow up to be an oil trader? Do you want them to live in a world with no summer Arctic Ice, where flooding and extreme weather are the norm and millions of climate refugees roam the globe? Well this is the future we have in store if oil companies like BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil continue in their ruthless pursuit of fossil fuels and profit with no regard for the future generations.

No matter what financial pressures are facing our schools, we need to stand up and say no to these dangerous organisations infiltrating our education system. Fossil fuel companies would have us believe their is no alternative to drilling in the Arctic or fracking for coal bed methane or exploiting tar sands. Allowing them into schools to promote this ideology to children is dangerous. Our generation has a great responsibility but also a great opportunity to harness the natural assets our planet is blessed with. Hydro, wind, solar and Carbon Capture Storage all offer great hope if we invest in the technologies instead of continuing to subsidise the fossil fuel industry. As the CBI reported last year green growth is  creating jobs and offers viable alternative future for the UK.

I would be really interested to hear from parents especially about whether oil companies have been to your children’s schools? If so, what did they do in the school? Do they sponsor sports teams, competitions, or are they teaching kids to trade oil? Please leave a comment or tweet me with your stories. Also there is a fledgling petition on 38 degrees which I urge you to sign to get oil companies out of our schools.

10 thoughts on “Big oil schools

  1. To my knowledge that has not occurred at the schools my children attend, but then I am fortunate to live in an area that is fairly forward thinking. My sons school has an award for being ‘green’, teaches about renewable energy, and even have a small wind turbine generating electricity, which feeds in to a display panel within the school so they can see what has been made along with other info. I would be horrified if BP came in, so will be making sure I scrutinise the schedules just in case! I would love it if McDonalds came to my sons school tho, as he is a 9 year old vociferous vegetarian who hates McDonalds with a surprising amount of vitriol. Would entertain me to see them deal with him, he is bad enough if we pass the meat aisle in Waitrose!!

  2. Not sure I agree with the truism you start with – in fact, I’m sure there’s space for youth-based activism on these things, rather than just parents complaining to protect their kids. Not that adults shouldn’t be angry too – e.g. you know about this, yes? And that the Science Museum’s energy gallery is sponsored by BP and the climate one by Shell…? Surprised there isn’t more outrage on this really. See

    • Hi Alice,

      I would love to see youth based activism on the issue of oil companies in schools, science and art. I suppose this blog is written for the people I am connected with which tends to be more parents than young people these days. And although undoubtedly youth activism on this would be fantastic. However I know from my own experience of going to an academy school activism against corporations was not actively encouraged. And as a 14 year old I wouldn’t have known where to start with organising a campaign. Obviously this isn’t 1998 and the internet has given young people access to fantastic information and support networks to learn how to organise a campaign. And I really hope this happens in schools where the oil companies are involved.

      I had heard about Science Unstained from Anne and I think you’re 100% right we need to protect our science in the same way we have tried to protect arts with campaigns like ‘Liberate Tate’. With the science communications institutions they would still sponsors willing to offer vast sums of money even if they banned oil companies from sponsoring them; because they are fantastic institutions. Their current attitude of taking money from the most short sighted, least creative companies in the world is a sad state of affairs. I will keep an eye on and if I can help let me know. Damien

  3. Thanks Damien for the really interesting blog. It is a worrying situation indeed. Alice, you are right, there is plenty of space for youth-led activism on these issues. I work with an organisation called People & Planet, and we work with students to help them campaign on a variety of environmental and social justice issues in their schools and colleges. I’ve met some incredibly inspiring 14 year old campaigners Damien! You can find out more at or contact me on 01865264180.

    • Hi Juliette,

      Thanks for your comment, I am well aware of people and planet and I have done plenty of work with amazing young campaigners in the past. Do you know if any kids have started campaigns to kick oil companies out of their schools? I would love to know about these campaigns if they exist so I can champion them. Thanks, D

      • When I was about 14 I joined a London Rising Tide action in a lecture by a BP man who was invited to be on a panel at London School of Economics. Without Rising Tide or the culture jammers I wouldn’t have even stepped inside that great place of education.
        Also, BP have been doing this for a while
        And in the USA, check out the “big oil goes back to college” report
        And at my Uni, I remember BP sponsored the Uni vs Trent Varsity sport.

  4. My daughters school has ‘supported by ExxonMobil’ on their bookbags as standard. I’ve just bought a new plain one online as I totally disagree with children being used in this way. Supporting the community is one thing, giving children one option for a bookbag at school with the name of the local refinery on however is not!

    • Hey Annie, Thanks for your comment. What is the feeling of other parents at the school about the book bag? I have read that it is Exxon policy to encourage staff to join School Governors boards. I went to a CTC school which then morphed into these Academy Schools. My school was sponsored by Glaxo Smith Kline who gave us nice shiny sports equipment, computers etc. Because of this I was under the impression that they were a really nice company, as it turns out they really suck. I really worry that kids are being exposed to so much advertising through the media and that spaces should be safe spaces from corporations. Especially those corporations who are working in areas which are undoubtedly contributing to climate change and other big issues younger people will have to tackle in the future.

      Damien xx

      • In our area a lot of people work at the refinery so it wouldn’t surprise me if employees or their spouses were on the boards of Governors. Annoyingly no other parents I have spoken to seem to be bothered by it. I’s a bit like a scene from 28 Days Later and I’m the only non-infected person ( that sounded way more dramatic than I meant it to!)

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