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SHOPPING - the very word strikes terror into the hearts of children everywhere.

Being dragged reluctantly around a supermarket while their mother ponders the merits of Daz versus Surf is their idea of a nightmare.

But that could all be about to change. There are moves to introduce shopping to the National Curriculum, along with core subjects such as Maths and English.

The Government plans to teach children in England and Wales shopping skills and how to complain about shoddy goods. What happens down south could soon follow in Scotland.

Pupils as young as five will be taught their legal rights and shown how to compare food prices.

The reasoning is sound. After all, we live in a frantic consumer society, and our children are becoming increasingly aware of that.

Every day, they are bombarded with adverts on television and at the cinema, and they spend hours combing through catalogues for items to add to their Christmas and birthday present lists.

It's a world of choice out there, but so much choice can be confusing when you're still at primary school.

Consumer Affairs Minister Kim Howells explained: "We want to work out how to raise consciousness and prepare children for purchasing and assessing what is a good buy.

"Giving them information could help them make choices about healthy eating. Young people should be choosy."

The hope is that tomorrow's consumer-conscious children will push up the quality of goods thanks to a greater knowledge of their rights.

Lessons will also help them understand information on food labels and other products.

But how ignorant are our children about shopping?

To find out, we took one family - Margaret and Ian Fairgrieve and their children, Douglas, 10 and eight- year-old Julie, of Pencaitland, East Lothian - and asked each one of them to buy a week's shopping for the family.

There were certainly lots of surprises in store.

We told them to keep to around pounds 70 for their purchases at their local Tesco store in Haddington.

One of the biggest shocks was that dad Ian didn't do too badly, but mum Margaret should make plans to get back to school to take a maths class .

The men of the family spent the least. Douglas' bargain trolley wheeled in at pounds 52.89. Next came dad at pounds 64, then Julie, who was almost spot on at pounds 72.35.

Her sceptical parents scoffed: "Just luck."

Margaret took a quick look in Julie's trolley and said: "She's got expensive tastes - like me."

No kidding. Margaret's trolley groaned in at a wallet-bursting pounds 96.20.

She confessed: "Well, I didn't pay much attention to the pounds 70 figure. I just got what I thought we would need for a week."

So, 10 out of 10 for the kids and dad on price - but what about the contents?

Crowned by a massive chocolate egg, Julie's trolley was a chocaholic's dream, yawning under the weight of chocolate eclairs, chocolate yogurt, chocolate breakfast cereal, chocolate sundaes, chocolate crispies, chocolate sweets, chocolate biscuits (three packets, at least) and three chocolate eggs.

Then came yum-yums, dweebs (you shouldn't ask, but it's a kind of sweetie), marshmallows, iced gems, Wotsits, crisps and Pringles (all in large sizes), Peparami Minis and three packs of cheesy snacks.

On the positive side, she had obviously given some thought to the family's needs and had bought fruit and veg - asparagus, cashew nuts, a coconut, a pineapple and limes.

Eyeing the lychees, papaya and mangoes, Julie said vaguely: "I think mum sometimes uses limes in drinks."

"The limes and cashew nuts actually go in stirfries," said her mother, who was left wondering what she would do with the rest of the exotic fruit and veg - none of which is normally part of their weekly shop.

Mum and dad were impressed with Julie's potatoes, bread, tinned soup, apples, broccoli, tinned tuna, milk and teabags.

And they were also amused to see a packet of tortillas and a chicken.

Margaret said: "Julie loves chicken tortillas."

Douglas appeared to follow what women consider the male tendency of shopping for himself rather than the whole family.

His parents predicted he would be strong on fruit and veg.

Margaret said: "He loves it and it's not unusual for him to eat chunks of peppers and cucumber."

Well, the cucumber and peppers were there as expected, but so were pot noodles, ice cream, cream eggs, a box of Match- makers, a big bar of chocolate, a mutton pie, chewing gum, crisps and a jar of pickled onions.

Thoughtful young Douglas explained: "I bought the chocolates for mum and dad."

As well as showing admirable diplomatic skills, he also shows promise as a budding chef.

Ready-made jelly, tinned fruit, fresh strawberries, and meringue nests were also in his trolley because he likes to concoct his own desserts.

He said: "I make knickerbocker glories as well."

Other than some eggs, a pizza, a loaf of bread, milk, tinned soup, fresh pasta and pasta sauce, there wasn't much for family use.

The children also forgot about cleaning agents, though Douglas sensibly put in toilet paper, and both included toothpaste in their trolleys. To make up for all the sweets, presumably.

Their father's trolley also included toothpaste and toilet paper, as well as shampoo and washing powder. There were no cleaning agents for the house, however, so though the family would be clean, the house would not.

Still, Margaret pronounced Ian's efforts as "pretty good", but as he occasionally does get the household shopping, that was no real surprise.

So, what do the parents think of the Government's plans to introduce shopping as part of the National Curriculum?

Ian said: "I think it is a good idea. It will give children an appreciation of the value of things and a better idea of weights and measures."

Margaret agreed: "It could be tied in with the other things they are already doing.

"It is important for them to have practical tasks because it reinforces what they are learning."

However, the proposal hasn't met with universal approval down south where teachers say they are already expected to teach too much.

A National Union of Teachers spokesman said: "It is a terrific idea, but the difficulty is that the National Curriculum already has 10 subjects, plus religious education.

"The school day is crowded enough."

But what do the kids think? Douglas and Julie agreed: "It's better than work."



Bargains: Apples 51p, potatoes pounds 1.29; mince pounds 2.09, shampoo pounds 2.15. Extravagances: Fillet steak pounds 6.24, wine pounds 3.99, luxury tissues pounds 1.85

TOTAL SPENT: pounds 64.00


Bargains: Value bread 7p, broccolli 45p, fresh pasta 99p. Extravagances: Fillet steak pounds 6.89, two bottles of wine pounds 7.98

TOTAL SPENT: pounds 96.80


Bargains: Soup 75p, Nutragrain Bar 29p, apples pounds 1.30. Extravagances: Meringue 93p, Matchmakers pounds 1.55, Pringles pounds 1.29

TOTAL SPENT: pounds 55.02


Bargains: Bananas 95p, apples 64p, tuna 67p. Extravagances: Three chocolate eggs, pounds 4.24, crisps pounds 2.76, Jaffa cakes pounds 1.05, yum yums 95p

TOTAL SPENT: pounds 72.35
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Spowart, Nan
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 24, 1999
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