GCSE media studies to cover Rashford's food campaign

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Marcus RashfordImage source, PA Media
Image caption,
Students will examine how the player uses social medial to make an impact

Pupils starting media studies GCSEs this year will study Marcus Rashford's role as an influencer.

The footballer and food campaigner's media impact will be included in the syllabus of the AQA exam board.

It will focus on his use of social media to speak out on issues such as free school meals and racism in sport.

The Manchester United and England player was awarded an MBE last year for services to vulnerable children during the pandemic.

Rashford has used his public profile to reduce the stigma surrounding free school meals.

He talked frankly of his own experience of relying on free lunches at school.

Pressure on ministers

In an open letter to MPs last year, he wrote: "My mum worked full time, earning the minimum wage, to make sure we always had a good evening meal on the table - but it was not enough.

"The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked."

The footballer's high-profile interventions, often on social media, put pressure on ministers to extend food support through school holidays.

But as well as allowing him to campaign, his celebrity profile has also exposed him to racist abuse, such as after missing a penalty during the Euro 2020 shootout at Wembley.

Rashford was widely praised for dealing with the pressure, however.

And after a mural was defaced in his hometown, of Withington, Greater Manchester, there was an outpouring of support.

Fans of his social campaigning made a pilgrimage to what became a shrine of tributes, shared one photo at a time on social media.

And Rashford responded on Twitter "At one of my lowest points, the outpouring of support around this mural really lifted me and I am truly grateful for that."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Hundreds of messages were left on the mural in Manchester

When the former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson recently muddled meeting him with the rugby player Maro Itoje, Rashford commented with restrained irony, tweeting: "Accent could have been a giveaway."

Now, his media presence could form the basis of questions in GCSE exams in 2023.

AQA head of curriculum for creative arts Sandra Allen said students would learn how social media could make an impact.

"It's not just an opportunity for them to learn about social media - it's also a great way to learn about important social and race issues as part of our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion in the curriculum," she added.

Teenage bedroom

GCSE media studies courses are often a barometer of social trends.

And AQA has chosen Rashford to replace the influencer and businesswoman Zoe Sugg, know to millions as Zoella.

She was among the first influencers to break through from posting from her teenage bedroom to a large and lucrative following.

But now, at the age of 31, she appeals more to young mothers than teenagers studying for GCSE exams.

Role model

Steff Hutchinson, assistant head teacher at Caludon Castle School, in Coventry, said her pupils were very excited to hear they were going to be studying Rashford's use of the media.

"He is very, very relevant to all of my students, particularly those who are of colour themselves and the lads who are into football seeing someone who is a massive role model," she said.

"It will make sense to them, as they're also using social media to brand themselves and I think they'll understand how they could possibly be more careful and more accurate about what they do."

Also included in the updated syllabus is the BBC TV adaptation of Philip Pullman's novels, His Dark Materials, as well as commercial radio shows and magazines.

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