Teen girls urged to follow star role models

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The Independent Online
A PANEL of "role models" for teenage girls, including celebrities such as the former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, the heptathlete Denise Lewis, and the pop starlet Billie, is to be set up by the Government as part of its drive to promote women.

Baroness Jay, Minister for Women, will tomorrow announce that teenage girls are a priority area, amid concerns that they are more likely to "drop out" than boys are.

Ministers will set up an advisory group of female high-flyers to inspire teenage girls. Ms Halliwell, recently appointed a UN ambassador and an advocate of "girl power", has expressed interest in joining.

Other celebrities likely to be asked are the actress Emma Thompson and the therapist Susie Orbach. They will work with less-famous successful women in persuading teenage girls to have higher aspirations.

"Role models are important in the development of teenage girls," Lady Jay said. "We are trying to create a group of people we can use to be that." Ministers also plan to send girls on "awaydays" where they could discuss issues such as sex and drugs with counsellors.

Research shows that girls out-perform boys during their early school years, then fall behind. Ministers are worried about growing drug and alcohol abuse among girls, and the rising number of "girl gangs".

Focus, pages 20-23