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Girls given their own star to wish upon

Twinkle, twinkle little star. . . what an unusual gift you are.

English schools are crying out for many things - more computers, more staff, more buildings even. Strangely missing from most heads' wish lists is an uninhabitable burning ball of energy, trillions of miles away in a distant corner of the galaxy.

But that is exactly what the Green School for girls in Isleworth has been given. In a shining example of imaginative present giving, the west London comprehensive has its very own star.

Now known as The Green School, it is part of the Cygnus constellation more than 2,500 light years away.

And although it may not have many practical uses, it will last a lot longer than a teacher or textbook ever could. "It is ours for evermore, or at least until Captain Kirk comes along and reclaims it for the federation!"

said a delighted Bob Usher, the school's head of information technology.

The school's new acquisition has already captured pupils' imaginations, although it may be a while before they can actually look at it.

That will involve booking time on an atomic telescope in the Canary Islands which will have to be rotated to face the star before pupils can view it over the internet.

It was bought for the school from an official British Library star registry for pound;50 by the British Council in Mauritius to mark the bi-centenary of British navigator Matthew Flinders's meeting with French explorer Nicholas Baudin on the island.

The pair, famed for charting the waters around Australia, chose to work together despite their countries being at war. Now the Green School will work via the internet with schools in Mauritius, France and Australia thanks to the British Council in Mauritius's Flinders-Baudin project .

Stars have been purchased for all four because of the role they have played in exploration. "Obviously you can't sell them or give them to your granny," said council director, Rosalind Burford. "But this is a great way of getting pupils interested in astronomy."

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