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Last Updated: Friday, 14 March 2008, 12:20 GMT
Celebrity culture 'harms pupils'
David and Victoria Beckham
David Beckham was the most popular celebrity among pupils
Children's educational aspirations risk being damaged by the cult of celebrity, teachers' leaders have warned.

Teachers fear their pupils' obsessions with footballers, pop stars and actors are affecting their progress in school, and limiting their career aspirations.

Some 60% of teachers said their pupils most aspired to be David Beckham, in a survey for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

More than a third said pupils wanted to be famous for the sake of being famous.

Some 32% of the 304 teachers quizzed said their pupils modelled themselves on heiress Paris Hilton.

They believe that they are much more likely to achieve financial well-being through celebrity
Elizabeth Farrar
Primary school teacher from Scunthorpe

The findings were released ahead of the ATL conference in Torquay which starts on Monday.

'Hard work'

Delegates will debate a motion that argues the "decline in this country into the cult of celebrity" is "perverting children's aspirations".

If it is passed the teaching union will call on the government and other agencies to promote positive role models of "ordinary people across the media".

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said celebrities could raise pupils' aspirations and ambitions for the future.

But she warned: "We are deeply concerned that many pupils believe celebrity status is available to everyone.

"They do not understand the hard work it takes to achieve such status and do not think it is important to be actively engaged in school work as education is not needed for a celebrity status."

Elizabeth Farrar, from a primary school near Scunthorpe, said too many pupils believed academic success was "unnecessary" because they thought they would be able to make their fame and fortune quite easily on a reality TV show.

"They believe that they are much more likely to achieve financial well-being through celebrity than through progression to higher education and a 'proper' career."

'Lurid headlines'

A secondary teacher from Colchester, Essex, quizzed in the survey said the media focus on celebrities' "negative behaviour" encouraged underage drinking and anti-social behaviour

"Those celebs who are excellent sportsmen or excellent actors are often overlooked and not shown as desirable to kids."

But nearly three-quarters of teachers said they thought a focus on celebrity culture could have a positive effect as well as a negative one.

Julie Gilligan, from a primary school in Salford, said: "The racism issue raised by celebrity Big Brother created a useful platform for class discussion.

"On the other hand, I have seen and heard negative emulation of celebrity footballer/pop star language and behaviour in the playground and in school - including disturbingly age-inappropriate 'acts' by young girls in school talent shows."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said schools already promoted positive professions such as nursing and teaching.

He added: "While the worst excesses of celebrity culture may lend themselves to lurid headlines, it is worth remembering that there are many more celebrities who set a good example on a local and national level.

"They help in schools and community projects, promote sport and healthy lifestyles, take part in anti drug campaigns and encourage children to stay on in education and to stay safe."

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