Barbie and the Army to be reshaped at the top

21st November 1997 at 00:00
In a week of league tables and accompanying anguish, let's turn immediately to more frivolous matters. Barbie, aged 38, is to shed her top-heavy image to become a slightly more realistic shape - if you think 34-22-33 is at that age. And she's getting a new face and dark hair. Will 1990s realism give her boyfriend Ken a beer gut?

Aspiring Barbie-shapes, old or new style, should take note of a Sheffield University study. This found that teenage girls who drink a large glass of milk a day have stronger bones which should keep them in good form for their 40s.

A good week for headteacher Ian Blakeley who was cleared by Bradford Crown Court of slapping an unruly 10-year-old pupil with a history of bad behaviour. Teacher unions condemned the Crown Prosecution Service for bringing the case and Mr Blakeley said he was glad that common sense had prevailed.

But that virtue seemed to be missing from a former archaeological lecturer who threatened to shoot a university vice-chancellor and a head of department following her dismissal from Leicester University. Ann Dornier appealed against the revoking of her firearms certificate for a shotgun to shoot clay pigeon and wildfowl. But the court ruled that the police were right in considering her a risk to public safety.

On another combative note, Defence Secretary George Robertson called for the Army to recruit more potential officers from state schools. Four out of five Royal Navy and Royal Air Force officer recruits went to state schools, but only half of the Army officer corps did so.

His appeal came three months after the publication of a Fabian Society pamphlet written by Major Eric Jones who accused the Army of being class-ridden and run by a posh public-school-educated elite. He almost got court-martialled for his pains.

Talking of toffs, Eton College, now home to the heir to the heir to the throne, celebrated its rugby centenary by playing its old rival, Harrow - and lost by 8 points to 12. The result might have something to do with Harrow's coach, Roger Uttley, who happens to run the England team as well. But the match was played in a sporting spirit, unblighted by aggressive parental support that has been increasingly prevalent, even at top people's schools.

A new elite is being created in the once despised world of catering. The proliferation of celebrity chefs who fill the telly screens have turned cooking into a desirable, even glamourous, career choice. But, as one food critic points out, chauvinism still rules: "As usual it's the pushy men who hog the headlines. More women are becoming successful chefs, but they don't get the stardom," said Time Out's Caroline Stacey. Women are cooks, men are always chefs, this column has noticed.

As the Formula One row rumbled on, the Lancet, the influential medical journal, brought more bad news for the Government when it released research showing that more than a quarter of 12 and 13-year-old boys who watched motor racing knew the names of cigarette sponsors compared with fewer than 17 per cent who did not follow the sport. And fans were twice as likely to become smokers.

Another health warning - this time from the Brook Advisory Centre, which is concerned that one in 10 sexually active under-25s could be carrying a sexually transmitted infection and that few are aware of the more common ones -although they know about the dangers of HIVAids. The Public Health Laboratory Service warned that STIs are on the increase, especially among 16 to 19 year-olds.

It's not only the conventional facts of life that teenagers must learn, but the financial ones too, says Demos, Downing Street's favourite think-tank. Fast-changing economic and social conditions, such as job insecurity and family break-up, make financial literacy more important than ever. People could save Pounds 50,000 over a lifetime if they spent half an hour a week on managing their money, says their latest report.

The more commonplace literacy and numeracy concerns have driven a couple to send their 13-year-old son to Ghana, where his mother was born, to get a traditional British colonial-style education. Mrs Charlotte Nightingale said Deryl's "grammar was way out and his spelling was awful; there was no discipline in his school, and he had no grasp of the three Rs". A vindication of the Government's draconian 'zero tolerance' stance?

A word of caution as Christmas creeps upon us: think twice before buying a cyber pet. A Cornish pet cemetery owner has come up with a wheeze which would make Jessica Mitford laugh from her grave: Terry Squires has set aside a corner for distraught children to bury their dead computer toys at a mail-order cost of Pounds 4.50. You can't make that up.

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