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.”

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.

Source – BBC News

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