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Youngsters are desperate to bend it like Beckham or Spice up their lives

Boys want to be the next David Beckham; girls model themselves on his pop star wife. Many do not care what they become famous for, so long as they are famous.

Teachers are slating the "cult of celebrity" that tells children they can become famous without working for it. Robert Sanders, a Bath primary school teacher, said one girl in his class wanted to be a Wag - famous, essentially, for being in a relationship with a footballer.

And, according to Julie Gilligan, a Salford teacher, primary school girls are mimicking pop stars with "disturbingly inappropriate" performances at school talent shows.

At the annual conference of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) next week, teachers will call on the Government to promote positive role models of ordinary people. They say that the cult of celebrity is perverting children's expectations, so they feel like failures if they do not find fame.

But a spokesman for David Beckham said the footballer took his status as a role model very seriously - as a sportsman and through his work with children's charity Unicef and his sports academy in Greenwich.

"He hopes to set a positive image for kids, on and off the field," the spokesman said. "He's always told kids they need to dedicate themselves and work hard. You only get to play for top clubs and your country through application and hard work."

But many teachers believe television has made their pupils more obsessed with celebrities over the past few years, an ATL survey shows.

Seven out of 10 of those questioned said they believed celebrity culture influences pupils' aspirations, with the most popular role models being David and Victoria Beckham, footballer Frank Lampard, actors Keira Knightley and David Tennant, and socialite Paris Hilton.

But Mary Bousted, ATL general secretary, said celebrities could be a positive influence. "They can raise pupils' aspirations and ambitions for the future," she said.

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