Marcus Rashford’s much-lauded use of social media to pursue his campaign against child food poverty and persuade the UK government to expand free school meals is to be studied by pupils as part of their GCSE media studies course.
The Manchester United and England footballer has won plaudits for his social justice campaigns, including tackling racist abuse and launching a book club to improve disadvantaged children’s reading, and his use of social media has been key to his ability to spread his message and influence debate.
Pupils studying AQA media studies from next September will be able to learn about Rashford’s online presence and his communications on social media platforms, and the way in which they have successfully engaged followers. They will also learn more about the social and race issues he cares about.
The move is part of a wider effort by exam boards to diversify their qualifications to make them more relevant to and representative of modern students. AQA has set up an expert group in equality, diversity and inclusion to look at representation across the curriculum and assessments.
Sandra Allan, the head of AQA’s creative arts curriculum, said the footballer’s inclusion on the course would inspire and motivate pupils.
Other new topics, or “close study projects”, in the updated curriculum include the Marvel character Black Widow, the Kiss radio breakfast show, Heat magazine and the television series His Dark Materials, based on Philip Pullman’s novels.
“Marcus Rashford is one of the most influential and inspirational young people in the UK, so students can learn a huge amount from how he uses social media to make a real impact,” said Allan.
“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.”
Rashford’s social media messaging was crucial in his campaign to persuade ministers to provide free school meals for vulnerable pupils in England throughout the school holidays during the pandemic, which prompted a series of embarrassing government U-turns. He has since been described as one of the country’s top lobbyists by PR industry leaders.
Media studies courses have been much maligned and dismissed as a “soft” subject, but Allan said there had never been a better time to do a media studies course that would help students develop creative, analytical, research and communication skills.