Leading article: Unlikely role models

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The Independent Online

The attempt by the Learning and Skills Council to turn the notorious wives and girlfriends (Wags) of the England football team into role models for young girls looks, on first inspection, about as sensible as trying to convince Amy Winehouse to become the new anti-drugs tsar. Whose bright idea was it to project a group of women whose reputation is founded on shopping and boozing as aspirational figures for young girls?

But appearances can deceive. The Wags are by no means all airheads with scant interest in intellectual self-improvement. Lisa Roughead, the wife of midfielder Michael Carrick, has a business degree. The girlfriend of Jermain Defoe, Charlotte Meares, has three A-levels. So does Melanie Slade, who is stepping out with the young striker Theo Walcott. And even those Wags who dropped out of education earlier had the sense to gain at least a minimum set of qualifications. The LSC campaign should at least make this side of the Wags story known.

Of course, it is far from an ideal educational marketing strategy. It would be better if young girls could be persuaded to look up to women such as Susan Greenfield or Doris Lessing. But, sadly, most girls on the cusp of dropping out of education are unlikely to have even heard of such intellectual paragons.

Nor is it ideal to promote women who are famous simply because of what their male partners do. We look forward to the day when the husbands and boyfriends of a successful England women's team can be held up as role models for young men. But, until that day comes, why not champion the qualifications – if not the lifestyle – of the Wags?

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