Hollywood Bratz tips take on the primary bullies
The Bratz are unlikely classroom heroes. Launched in 2001, as a counterpoint to Barbie's blonde hegemony, the controversial dolls are notorious for their stilettos, strappy-vest fashion and their in-your-face attitude to authority.
But now the Bratz are sashaying their way into the classroom. A new teachers' pack has been sent to most primary schools in the country, intended to help combat bullying the Bratz way.
The pack, compiled jointly with the Anti-Bullying Alliance, draws heavily on Bratz: The Movie, to be released on DVD on November 26. The film, described by The Daily Mail as "unrelenting agony", deals with the experiences of the four Bratz as they defeat bullies without smudging their make-up.
The pack, which includes film stills and classroom activities, draws on their experiences, presenting a Hollywood-style version of school reality. A classroom handout recommends that victims "try and stay with your friends. Bullies don't like a crowd, so keep friends close by."
Occasionally, however, pupils may find themselves without a nearby supporting cast. In these cases, the handout recommends: "Walk away. It's more difficult for a bully to pick on someone who won't stand still."
Gill Frances, of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, raised an eyebrow at the effect of the editing process. But, she added, the Bratz will nonetheless provide a springboard for important classroom discussion.
"You have to use the material that's in children's lives, whether it's Harry Potter, or EastEnders or Bratz," she said. "That way you grasp their interests and get them to think through issues that are metaphors for their real life."
For example, she would encourage pupils to consider how they would feel if they were one of the Bratz, and their friend was being bullied. How would they help her?
She said: "It's helping children develop emotional resilience to deal with bullying."
Chris Davis, of the National Primary Headteachers' Association, said: "The pack is just saying, here are some things we suggest that might then be discussed. Bratz is just a hook to get kids interested in talking about bullying. Though I can imagine some boys moaning."
But Cheryl Pell, pastoral-support officer at Warren Hills Primary in Leicestershire, will not be using the Bratz pack. "It seems a good package for teenage kids," she said. "But for primary school?
"Our pupils tend to trust what we say, so they might think they can dress like the Bratz do. And would the lads be taking away an anti-bullying message, or would they be looking at the short skirts?"