And all because the young ones love Magic

27th November 1998 at 00:00
The lads and lasses are back in Westminster after a marathon Parliamentary session; hereditary peers are fighting for their lives and so are the Teletubbies.

Well, perhaps that isan exaggeration: a new BBC series, the Tweenies, featuring Jake, Fizz, Milo and Bella, will be aimed at three to five-year-olds. It will complement, rather than compete with, Tinky Winky et al, promises the Beeb, and they'll actually resemble real children. That shouldn't be hard to do; but will they earn the corporation the millions the Tubbies did last year?

A card game is the latest craze set to be a nice little earner. A Tolkienesque fantasy game, said to be more challenging than bridge, is gaining a huge following among schoolchildren.

Magic: The Gathering was invented in 1992 by two Americans, a maths teacher and a computer analyst. Their Wizards of the Coast company now sells 350, 000 cards a week in the UK.

Teachers are harnessing the kids' obsession by setting up lunchtime clubs as the cerebral nature of the game improves literacy, numeracy and thinking. Cheaper than a cyberpet too, parents please note.

Also less costly than golf - and safer. The Scottish sport is apparently a danger to children: a survey of hospital records in Paisley and Glasgow showed that an alarming number of children, average age of eight, suffered head injuries caused mainly by the follow through of the club when they were watching another kid's swing.

Another scary story: big cats on the loose on Dartmoor, Bloxham boys' tent attacked, remains of sheep found nearby. The two 17-year-olds from the Banbury boarding school were on a Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme when they were wakened by tearing noises. David Dennehy said he shone a torch out of his tent and saw two pairs of green cats' eyes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lives on.

Such adventures would have appealed to Doris Alice Jourd, the world's first Girl Guide, who died this week aged 102.

She inspired the first guide troop in 1908 after a Sunday school outing with a group of boy scouts from Gillingham, Kent, when she was captivated with the delights of camping and cooking over a fire.

Her troop, which began with a gang of friends, was officially recognised by Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the scouting movement, two years later.

Mrs Jourd can rest assured that her pioneering spirit lives on in today's girls - at least in schools managed by the Girls' Day School Trust. A conference of head girls and their deputies showed they are keen to learn the skills of leadership, responsibility and self-development.

Just the kind of things parents expect from the 166 remaining grammar schools which might be under threat from the Government's plans to ballot on their future. In a selective system, one parent in five will have to sign a petition before a vote can be held on the fate of the school. It is likely the schools will live to fight another day. The peers, however, might not.

Diane Spencer

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