Madonna and Child Painting a New Picture; Britain Is Still Considered by Many to Offer the Best Education in the World and Madonna Obviously Wants Lourdes to Have the Opportunities She Lacked. Ros Dodd Looks at Why a Rock Star Should Choose to Send Her Daughter to School in England

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Pop superstar Madonna is not known for her traditional values. Even by music industry standards, she is something of a rebel - upsetting the Roman Catholic church with her raunchy videos and shocking many of her fans by publishing a book about sex and hi nting at a lesbian affair.

Although the singer has mellowed somewhat over the past few years, the birth of her only child, Lourdes, now aged two, also caused controversy.

Not only is Madonna not married to her daughter's father, Carlos Leon, the couple split up even before the baby's birth and there were even rumours she had made her former fitness trainer sign an agreement forfeiting all paternal rights to the child.

Yet we now hear the pop icon has put her daughter's name down for a top boarding school in the Midlands.

The singer wants Lourdes to be educated at Cheltenham Ladies' College - one of the best-known and most respected independent schools in Britain.

Though its fine reputation understandably attracts many welff parents, it is a surprising choice for Madonna.

For the College, founded in 1853, is one of the last bastions of traditionalist, independent single-sex education in Britain. It has a strict disciplinary code and pupils' extra-curricula activities are closely monitored. Contact with the opposite sex, f or example, is carefully controlled.

Why, one might wonder, would Madonna choose such a school in a foreign country for her daughter? Wouldn't a brasher, liberal Hollywood establishment be more fitting for a child whose mother has spent much of her adult life flaunting her sexuality and sti cking out her Gaultier cone-shaped bras at convention?

For a start, Cheltenham Ladies' College could not offer more of a contrast to Madonna's own upbringing and education. Born into a Catholic, working-class family in Detroit, Michigan, she was just six years old when her mother died of cancer - forcing the young Madonna Ciccone to take care of her four brothers and two sisters, as well as her father Sylvio.

The schools she attended were unremarkable: at her first, the nuns are said to have taped her mouth up for talking. At her second, she reportedly lost her virginity in the "back of a caddie".

Although she didn't shine academically, Madonna won a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan in 1977. However, in letters written to a friend - auctioned last year in America - she reported frequenting gay clubs and smoking marijuana because she was bored.

"There are gay discos and kinky people that keep me going," she wrote. "I have been smoking marijuana more than ever. I guess I'm turning into a degenerate. Isn't it wonderful?"

She dropped out of university after only a year, at the suggestion of her ballet teacher, and went to New York to find fame. Money was so short, however, she was forced to scavenge for food in dustbins.

Life continued to be a struggle until 1983, when her first album, Madonna, sold three million copies.

Lourdes's childhood and education will - Madonna must fervently hope - be rather different. …