Teenagers learn confidence that comes from cleanliness: Bad breath and spots are a big worry for the young. Esther Oxford reports

'NOBODY tells me I smell,' said Michelle Carn, 14, a GCSE student at Guthlaxton community college in Leicester. 'They don't get a chance. I carry a bottle of deodorant in my bag wherever I go.'

Michelle was one of a group of 13 teenagers selected by Graham Norris, headteacher at the college, to discuss John Balding's study.

Health and hygiene are taught to the 1,384 students as part of the national curriculum. When the children reach 14 or 15 they are shown Some of Your Bits Ain't Nice - a video about the importance of hygiene. The film follows a girl and a boy meeting at a disco, dancing, talking, kissing, then suddenly taking a closer look at each other. One has greasy hair, the other has smelly feet.

'We use the film to teach students 'sociable' standards of hygiene and to bring health issues into the open. Most of the children already realise about the importance of hygiene but there is always the odd one who has a problem but chooses not to take any notice,' Martin Dare, head of physical education, said.

'The children are usually referred to the sports teachers. We take them aside and say something to the effect of, 'Do you know why people are avoiding you?' They are usually quite embarrassed and do their best to do something about it. But there have been a couple of cases where we were given no choice but to shower the child, give them new clothes and take the soiled garments for a wash.'

Asked how often they showered, everyone in the group said one shower a day was enough - twice if you were feeling particularly conscientious. Hair was washed every day - mousse, spray and gel were popular and hair got sticky if the residue was left in for too long.

Having to shower at school aroused the greatest number of complaints. For the first year or two, showers are compulsory after sport. But as the children get older, it is left up to them.

Bad breath and spots were the biggest worries. Ben, 14, said: 'I suck Polos all the time to make my breath fresh. Everyone in school has pointed my breath out to me. I use mouthwashes but mostly it is just Polos. I hate my spots too. Mr brother gave me some Oxy 10 for Christmas. It tends to work for a little while then it stops. And it dries my skin up. My feet are another worry. People make jokes about their smell all the time. Sometimes their comments reduce me to tears.'

Four out of the seven girls in the group were on diets. One had started smoking as a substitute for meals. 'I am always on a diet,' she said. 'I just don't eat much'.

Wanting to have friends and to attract the opposite sex were cited as the main reasons for the concentration on hygiene. All agreed that 'it gives you more confidence knowing that you are clean'.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Co-Ordinator - FF&E

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior FF&E Project Co-ordinator is re...

Recruitment Genius: Part Time Carer / Support Worker plus Bank Support

£10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A delightful, 11 year old boy who lives in t...

Recruitment Genius: Office Furniture Installer / Driver

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Office Furniture Installer /...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor