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Shoulder the burden, nerds

Mr Blair may have declared that more backbone is needed. But in truth there is rather too much of it about.

Sixty per cent of adults experience back pain every year and, ironically, nurses suffer most. Teachers, despite lugging work home in heavy plastic crates, are in less danger. However, more could be done to ensure that teacher's back (Friday, page 6) doesn't become as much of an occupational hazard as teacher's voice (or lack of it).

Nevertheless, our main concern must be for overburdened 11 to 14-year-olds. We don't want to emulate Italy, where teachers who force children to carry too many books have been threatened with disciplinary action. But schools should support National Back Pain Week (starting October 5) by trying to provide more lockers - and ensuring that they are used.

However, the really hard task is to persuade children to do the "nerdy" thing and wear a rucksack on both shoulders. Perhaps we should also employ some lateral thinking and encourage a few nerds to copy the one-shoulder trend-setters. Rucksack sales would then start soaring.

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