Famous old girl - but not spicy enough

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GINGER SPICE may be their most famous old girl, but pupils at Watford Grammar School for Girls were not convinced that Geri Halliwell was a suitable role model for them.

If any singer was, it would be Tina Turner, said Julie Koyanagi, 17. "She was really dominated by her husband - he beat her but she got out and came back stronger. She's still going now and looks really good."

Geri didn't score as well. "She's not had much life experience, has she?" said Hinthepal Virdee, 17. "I don't understand what she's done. She's just sung."

Anita Roddick was mentioned, as was, perhaps predictably, Diana, Princess of Wales. "She did a lot of charity work," said Hannah Galama, 17. "She used her name and you can't think of what Prince Charles has done in comparison. And she was human."

The qualities that the girls were looking for in role models were strength, experience, achievement and good works. Few politicians scored well. Margaret Thatcher was grudgingly admired for being the UK's first female prime minister. "But she didn't do anything for women when she got there. She turned into a bloke." Hillary Clinton scored better, despite being married to the President rather than holding a position of power herself.

"She's really come into her own," said Emma Barker, 18. "She's confident at speaking out. I don't know why she's stayed with Bill but I think she's really asserting herself."

Cherie Blair was also praised. "She's very strong, she's not a typical prime minister's wife. She does her own thing and hasn't given up her job," said Hinthepal Virdee.

Many role models were distinctly unglamorous. Catherine Cookson was a favourite for overcoming her tough background to become a successful novelist. Judi Dench and Emma Thompson were admired for their down-to-earth approach.

For most girls, however, role models were closer to home. Several named their mothers as their biggest influences. "My mum used to work in an income tax office and had to put up with it. But she really worked for what she wanted and became a teacher. She achieved it," said Nepa Chopra, 16.

Emma Blackburn, 17, also nominated her mother. "It's not that she's done anything amazing but she's caring and selfless and would do anything for her children and I really admire her."

Most supported the ideas of a women's unit. "There still isn't equality even though we've come a long way," said Vicky Markham, 16. But some weresuspicious. "Why isn't there a men's unit as well?" said Nepa Chopra. "I want equality. I don't want women to go round wanting to be better than men."

Domestic violence, eating disorders and teenage preg-nancies were the most common concerns. "I don't want women being given jobs or being made cabinet ministers just because they're women," said Vicky Markham.

"Men have problems as well that should be addressed," said Emma Blackburn.

"Despite all our worries I can safely say I've never wanted to be a bloke," said Maddie Pickard, 16.

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