Today's teddy is a jet-setting playboy

10th September 2004 at 01:00
Paddington arrived from Darkest Peru in search of marmalade sandwiches, but Britain's army of primary-school bears can expect rather more than a hastily-made snack as parents compete to give them a great time.

Many schools use soft toys to encourage writing. Around the country, teachers are sending bears or other toy animals home with children, asking for a diary entry in return. And contributors to the TES online staffroom reveal they - and their friends - pop up all over the place.

"We had Ted the bear behind the deli," said one teacher who asked the local supermarket to give Ted a summer job. "He was working in the bakery complete with hat and on the checkout."

Another said: "In preparation for September, Eddy the Teddy has been to the cinema, walked along the seafront in the sun and will be going to the pub."

One bear got married at Gretna Green, another met Niall Quinn, former Sunderland and Republic of Ireland footballer while Jasper the toy dog, gathered gifts including a new lead, blanket and coat.

But being a travelling bear is not always easy: one class had to make "Wanted" posters after its bear went missing, another re-appeared after a term's absence dirty, dishevelled and minus its clothes and bag.

The parent of a nursery-aged daughter awoke to a blood-curdling scream at 3am when the bear went missing. George had simply fallen out of bed - but the next day was taken to an Italian restaurant to recover.

Some families are feeling the pressure as they struggle to generate excitement for their bear. One teacher said: "There is nothing worse as a teacher-parent than finding that all your child can think of to write is 'Bobby bear and I watched TV. We had tea and went to bed'."

But few could compete with Penguin Pete, one of the most adventurous toys.

He was adopted by an aircrew after his teacher took him on a flight to Paris . He sent postcards from around the world before returning with souvenirs for the pupils, a tiny suitcase... and a wife.

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