Of Roedean and rogue presenters

23rd October 1998 at 01:00
Revolting students in France, revelations about the Blue Peter Man Who Snorted Cocaine; and red faces at Roedean. All diversions from the serious business of raising the profile of heads.

Thousands of lyc e pupils took to the streets over poor conditions in their schools, backed by parents and teachers. Can you imagine our sixth-formers doing that?

Blue Peter had just celebrated its 40th birthday when Richard Bacon, one of its presenters, was sacked after admitting snorting cocaine. The programme's wholesome image had to be preserved, said a BBC spokesman.

The image of Roedean also had to be protected after its head of information technology discovered a rude rugby song on an American website with the same name as the posh girls' school. He was concerned that parents searching for information about the school might be shocked if they opened the US website by mistake. Computer trickery should solve the problem soon.

Peter Mandelson needs to get cracking if he wants to find out about the alternative Roedean. The Trade and Industry Secretary has confessed that although he's on message, he's not on-line because he doesn't know how to surf the net .

Researchers elsewhere are studying the psychological effects non-violent punishments have on children whose parents have forsworn smacking. Such punishments include confining naughty kids to the house for days or ordering them to reflect on their misdeeds in silence.

Jack Straw, our caring Home Secretary, is awaiting the outcome of the Pounds 350,000 study by the Economic and Social Research Council to inform his new parenting institute.

Right on cue: news of a theme park called Streetwise intended to inure youngsters to the dangers of everyday life. Emergency services, councils and 140 companies in Dorset have pooled resources to create this trauma town in a huge warehouse - all in the name of safety. A far cry from the Tufty club and a visit from the local bobby.

Children are growing up faster. According to research by Marcia Herman-Giddens of the University of North Carolina, girls as young as eight are showing signs of puberty.

And kids are being pressed to learn more at an ever younger age. Martin Bobrow, of the Human Genetic Advisory Commission, reckons four-year-olds can be taught the basics of genetics to dispel its Frankenstein image.

French diary, page 12

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