Seeking Better Role Models for Young People

Much has been made in the national press this week about role models for young people, with the Headmistress of the GirlsÆ Division here at Bolton School leading the national debate. There is no doubt in my mind, however we frame the debate: whether it be politicians versus reality TV or otherwise, that this is a big issue for our schools.

Like the young of any species school children learn by following example. That is how we learn the basics of walking and talking and social interaction. It follows that who and where those role models are to be found matters to our future. Think of what the young people might be trying to emulate. It might be public figures in parliament or the international stage, it might be celebrities, it could be those involved in professional sport. Now think making a quick tally of how many of those figures you would like your teenager to adopt a sense of character from. You will have selected some great role models. You will also have thought of very many more who you would rather they didnÆt see.

And it doesnÆt stop there. The other place the young look is social media and You Tube. Try searching You Tube for good role models. There are some. There are many more that are bad role models.

So having accepted the issue then what can be done. I would suggest a good first step is for the public to demand good and positive news. The news media insist that they are just providing what people want when they print gossip and enjoy the highs and lows of questionnable lifestyles. What if we made it clear we did not want that? Local papers do this better, with a good number of positive stories. National media outlets do not. We will be told a page celebrating the entirely normal, ordinary life of someone who is a good role model is not worthy. Perhaps the time has come when it will have to be.

About Philip Britton

Philip Britton is the Head of Foundation of Bolton School. He was brought up on Tyneside, took a first in physics at Oxford and did teacher training at Cambridge. He worked as physics teacher, Head of Physics and Deputy Head at Leeds Grammar School before moving to Bolton in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to physics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics where he has been much involved in physics education, encouraging teachers to encourage the next generation of physicists. Follow at X: @Philip_Britton | View X/Twitter archive | Listen at: Exploring Bolton School | Social Mobility, Leadership & Future School Thinking | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton