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Heard anything of the 'boffins' lately?

A journalist recently assured me that pupils in comprehensives who try to work are persecuted by fellow pupils as "boffins" and have to conceal their natures if they wish to survive. Sir Peter Lampl, in less lurid terms, says something similar (TES, April 20).

Any bullying is deplorable, but in the Cumbrian comprehensive where I have taught for many years I have never heard any student use the word "boffin"

-to me an arcane term conjuring up pipe-smokers in tweed jackets in British 1950s war films.

An unscientific survey of colleagues and high-attaining students reveals similar puzzlement: these students might occasionally be called "swots" or "nerds". Are we, along with our red squirrels, in a time-warp in the far North West or is there some media-driven exaggeration here?

Andy Connell Appleby, Cumbria

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