As Barbie turns 40 students turn to nuns;The week in view;Opinion

26th February 1999 at 00:00
AS PARENTS digest the latest league tables and the nation reflects on the report on the death of Stephen Lawrence, we hear of high-living school inspectors, a serious student and the long-distance learners.

Inspectors from Cumbria came under fire from heads for staying in luxury hotels while looking over hard-up and run-down comprehensives the other side of the Pennines. "It defies belief," said one disgruntled teacher.

But help could be at hand for cash-strapped schools as the Government is reported to be lobbying businesses to give money to schools instead of charities or the Conservative party.

Eric Brooke seems more like a Tory candidate than a contender for the presidency of the National Union of Students. The 27-year-old computer buff who seldom drinks and who compiled his first business plan before he was 20, hopes to be the first non-Labour president in 17 years. He intends to "rebrand" Britain's three million students as hard-working, responsible young citizens, not the lazy ne'er-do-wells depicted in the 1980s TV series, The Young Ones.

A group of women students at Roehampton Institute in London are setting a fine example for Mr Brooke. They are living like nuns, but without the vows, in an experiment with the Society of the Sacred Heart which has started a pioneering community of sisters and students.

Robert Spence is similarly serious about his studies. He commutes 400 miles a week to school from suburban Sheffield to Manchester Grammar, 40 miles away, as his parents were dissatisfied with his local comprehensive. He is part of a growing crowd of travelling pupils not confined to independent or selective schools, as evidenced by the Blair family.

The Bard is rarely out of the news these days. The film, Shakespeare in Love, has prompted soaring sales of his sonnets and an Israeli academic to muse on the many references to breath in the author's works. Mel Rosenberg, of the University of Tel Aviv, told a dentists' conference in Stratford upon Avon that Shakespeare probably suffered from halitosis. Do we wish to know that?

The professor's research also revealed that politicians, lawyers and teachers were especially cursed with this affliction because they talk a lot. "Their mouths dry out as they talk and the saliva, the body's mouth-wash, cannot carry away the bacteria."

Turning to more fragrant matters: the frothy pink-clad, politically incorrect Barbie is 40, and still popular, much to the dismay of high-powered working mothers who find that their daughters are still addicted despite girl power.

And boys will be boys. Employers are cracking down on staff whose energies are focused on Internet games rather than the company spreadsheet. Their nightmare is the office "game boy" who discovers a simulated football tournament and passes it on to colleagues. Soon entire departments are engulfed in a battle to save the world from alien forces.

A brief burst of Space Invaders might be revitalising - the modern equivalent of a coffee and fag break; but could prove addictive, warned a technology consultant.

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