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Last Updated: Monday, 13 November 2006, 18:33 GMT
TV shows 'are abetting bullying'
obese boy
Over-simplifying issues around obesity 'could worsen bullying'
Reporting of the push for better school meals may exacerbate bullying of fat children, a teachers' leader has said.

Chris Keates of the NASUWT union also said TV programmes showing celebrity business figures humiliating their staff encouraged bullies.

They appeared to legitimise the behaviour, she said at a conference in London organised by her union.

Ms Keates also said "ill-informed" comments about cultural differences had "fanned the flames of prejudice".

"We know from members in schools that this has exacerbated an already existing problem of racist attitudes and bullying and victimisation associated with it, and has been interpreted almost as giving permission to bully," she said.

She said media coverage of the school meals issue tended to oversimplify the problem of obesity as "irresponsible parenting, poor diet, lack of exercise and lack of self-control".


"There is emerging anecdotal evidence that the government's important and well-intentioned healthy eating programme for schools has increased the pressure on overweight youngsters and made them even more vulnerable."

Asked later which TV programmes she was criticising, she said she was referring to "boot camp" programmes featuring tough tactics to deal with disruptive youngsters.

"It seems to me that they are just premised on dealing with people by bullying," she said.

"Clearly I was talking about programmes where you have got celebrity chefs who run their whole kitchen on the basis of shouting, swearing and humiliating employees.

"And also programmes where people are competing to get top jobs in business."

An element of toughness and ruthlessness was necessary, she said, "but I don't think that necessarily means you have to relate to other individuals in that way".

"I was really talking about a trend in TV, without wanting to single out individuals," she added.

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