Scores of youngsters have missed school in the past few weeks to tread the catwalks of Europe. Nadene Ghouri reports
ON Monday, model Rosalind Halstead was in Milan, on a major advertising shoot. But before flying home, she called her mother - to ask her to iron her school uniform.
Because on Tuesday 14-year-old Rosalind was back studying for her GCSEs at school in London.
Rosalind is just one of many schoolgirl models who, in recent weeks, have traded school for the catwalks of Milan, Paris and London.
"Rosalind's a very ordinary kid," says her mother, Barbara. "She's had a fantastic time, but she's exhausted and has really missed school."
Barbara says the school gave Rosalind permission to take a week off, but says: "I doubt they'd be happy if she missed more term time."
Maxine Henshilwood, Rosalind's booker at model agency Select, and a former teenage model, agrees: "School comes first. We never ever mention a job without checking with a child's parents first. Imagine it, we say: 'Oh, here's a 40-grand job in Paris, and then mum says 'Sorry, you've got too much homework'."
Fiona Ellis is a talent scout for another major agency, Models One. She prefers taking on girls who've done A-levels first, because they have more discipline and maturity: "Looking after the younger ones can be a nightmare. If we let a 15-year-old go off to an after-show party and get out of her head, how would that reflect on us?" Not all adults involved in the fashion business appear to have the best interests of young models at heart.
Fashion photographer Phillip Berryman cites the story of a recent casting for a nude advertising shoot. Among hundreds of hopefuls was a 13-year-old, chaperoned by her mother.
Mr Berryman says: "The agency knew about the nudity and had still sent her, and both the child and her mother said they had no problem with it.
"But how could a 13-year-old possibly have begun to understand the psychological implications of posing nude? For us it was obviously a total no-go area."
Every school holiday, hundreds of teenagers clutching portfolios knock on photographers' and agencies' doors. Few are taken on. But if they succeed, the benefits can be enormous. A jobbing 15-year-old model could earn thousands in the school holidays alone.
Maxine Henshilwood says: "At the age of 20 I was earning more than the average man in his fifties."
Phillip Berryman agrees: "For less academic girls who never saw themselves as having high-flying careers in medicine or law, it can be the only way to earn a lot quickly.
"Others see it as a lucrative way to spend a gap year or a nice way to fund themselves through university."
As for Rosalind . . . when she grows up, she wants to teach.