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Moral guardians identified

Teachers are tops and politicians are the lowest of the low when it comes to setting an example, according to new research on young people's views.

Athletes were also praised in the survey by the National Forum for Values in Education and the Community. Pop stars received a drubbing for taking drugs, having bad haircuts and leading "wild and abnormal lives".

The survey was released along with a report by the forum, set up by the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority to examine values in schools and society at large.

The report includes a recommendation that children should do compulsory practical work as part of the curriculum, including community service.

The draft report, to be considered by SCAA next month, spells out four areas - self, relationships, society and the environment - where values can be identified.

Values to be encouraged include striving for knowledge and wisdom, treating people with respect, defending human rights and looking after the environment.

The report by the 150-strong forum, representing 10 groups including teachers, parents, governors, religious leaders, employers and the media, reveals deep concerns over the spiritual and moral landscape in Britain today, first highlighted by SCAA chief executive Nick Tate early this year.

The values promoted in society are "success, self-interest, wealth, winning, successful deception and not getting caught," it says.

Teachers often believed that the values prized by employers were success, ambition, rivalry and deviousness. But employers said they valued honesty, respect for others and integrity.

The report also sparked a division among the forum's members, with one group of parents wanting an extra section included with an emphasis on the need for heterosexual lifelong marriage.

SCAA, however, said it fully supported the view taken by the draft report. "We believe there is not sufficient support anywhere to say the family can only be a good grounding for life if it is based on lifelong marriage between two heterosexuals," a spokesman said.

The national forum recommends that a two-year pilot scheme should be carried out with the Office for Standards in Education and the Teacher Training Agency involving a compulsory element of spiritual, moral, social and cultural education being included in timetables.

The survey of young people's attitudes found 78 per cent of those questioned believed teachers set a good example, compared with only 17 per cent who thought the same of politicians.

Athletes won plaudits from 73 per cent of the 569 youngsters questioned, compared with only 48 per cent for religious leaders and 15 per cent for pop stars.

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