Free parenting classes trial to run in England

Parent and child Many parents say they would like more support

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Free parenting classes are to be trialled for all parents with children aged five and under in three areas of England, children's minister Sarah Teather has said.

They are intended for parents even if they are not struggling with raising children, she said.

About 50,000 parents in Middlesbrough, High Peak, and Camden will be offered vouchers for the classes from mid-2012.

Labour criticised the government cuts to the children's programme it set up.

'Firm and fair'

The classes, provided by parenting experts, are likely to cover areas such as communication and listening skills, managing conflict and "strengthening positive relationships in the family", as well as the importance of parents working as a team.

There will also be a stress on discipline, with "firm, fair and consistent approaches" encouraged and the importance of "boundaries" being set out for children.

And there will be advice on appropriate play for children's age and development.

Start Quote

Parenting has to be one of the toughest jobs and it doesn't come with a rule book.”

End Quote Sarah Teather Children's minister

Ms Teather said she wanted to get rid of the stigma over asking for help.

"Parenting classes aren't just for struggling families," she said.

"All parents should know it's OK to ask for extra support and guidance when they need it - just as they do when they attend ante-natal classes before their child is born."

The trial will run for two years, with its impact tracked, the department said. It is hoped the results will lead a greater number of parents to seek help and advice themselves.

The government says it is still working on the details but it is likely that the vouchers will be distributed through various routes. It was unknown if health visitors, GP staff or nursery workers would be involved.

Ms Teather added that there was overwhelming evidence that a child's development in the first five years' of their life is the single biggest factor influencing their future life chances, health and education attainment.

"Armed with all this evidence, it is the government's moral and social duty to make sure we support all parents at this critical time.

"Parenting has to be one of the toughest jobs and it doesn't come with a rule book."

'Out of touch'

Shadow children's minister Sharon Hodgson criticised the coalition's policy towards Sure Start - a children's centre network established by Labour in the late 1990s to give more deprived children a better chance in life.

Some of the 3,600 Sure Start children's centres are being cut because the grant that funds them was cut by 11% in last year's emergency budget, and again in the comprehensive spending review by almost the same percentage.

The government also removed the protection from the Sure Start budget, leaving them potentially at risk as councils seek to make up losses to their central government grants overall.

Ms Hodgson said: "Labour is in favour of support for families and children, but the Tory-led government is completely out of touch if they think this is going to make up for the Sure Start centres that are being closed or hollowed out up and down the country...

"This government's reckless cuts programme is kicking away the ladders for the next generation and the closure of Sure Start centres is just another example of this."

Ed Owen, editor of fatherhood website, said: "Every teacher, psychologist and educationalist will tell you that the first years of a child's life are important.

"Some suggest that the first two years are decisive. This does not mean that every child must be schooled, drilled and disciplined to make them model citizens at this young age. No, it means that in the first years children must be loved."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Children should be treated as children with firm & interactive parenting, structure, routine, non-violent discipline & a wide, varied education from literate, humantiarian, liberal-thinking & committed people. Instead, they are bombarded with unchallenging TV, seduced by a facile world of celebrity & consumerism, schooled by the inept & taught that they can laugh in the face of any authority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    When Ms Teather has brought up two or three children to become law-abiding, happy adults making a positive contribution to society, I might take seriously her lectures on parenting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Once parenting skills were passed on via that socially cohesive group known as "the family" remember? Fragmentation, family breakdown & male irresponsibility have all played their part in the mess some areas of UK society are in. Whatever it takes to instil a sense of responsibility towards new lives created and their impact upon the wider community can only be viewed as a positive in my opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Great idea.

    Get yourself officially recorded with the all-powerful State apparatus as an incapable parent.
    The Social Workers should have a field day.

    your name, your address, national insurance number, home phone number etc etc

    " that we know exactly who you are we'll just pop round now and then to see how you're doing..."

    I can't see the big estates being a very willing participant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    I'm not in favour of a nanny state, but re-educating irresponsible and ignorant parents is something refreshingly welcome.

    The last thirty years or so have seen a worrying increase in unsocial behaviour, largely owing to so-called experts' belief that individual freedom to express oneself in any way one feels is acceptable. A new generation of caring, well-behaved children is long overdue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    ...and if "they" decide you can't control your child properly do they take that child away from you?
    A nice big dossier on each child in it's pre-school years?

    Most of the poorer folk avoid government busybodies, they're afraid of any ulterior motives with these "initiatives".

    So as usual, the middle classes will benefit hugely from this freebie while the poorer classes lose out.

    quid pro quo

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    The last administration was labelled 'Nanny State', by its detractors.QED, this one is even moreso. But the question has to be asked. What sort of country has ours evolved to that needs to provide free parenting classes? The pursuit of the financial led to the demise of the familial

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    As an ex-teacher, I have noticed the gradual decline in parental discipline extending into the classroom with children not understanding the word "No".
    If parents would, as has been reported here, set clear boundaries and not give in to their children so that they, the parents, can have an easy life, I beleive there would be a gradual improvement in society in general.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    Better to educate people from an early age to only have kids when they are ready and mature enough to look after them. Yet another cost for the tax payer and no gain for anyone. Watch the Jeremy Kyle show and then tell me if parenting classes would work

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Probably a good idea, but the 'trial' needs to be properly evaluated for outcomes and cost-effectiveness before being rolled-out. I would hope it would be targeted to those who may benefit most (e.g. parents with limited support and/or had poor parenting/lack of parenting role models themselves and/or those with children showing early signs of behavioural problems) rather than open to all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    What on earth will the government waste our precious finances on next?
    I learn't to be a parent by growing up with my children, playing with them, watching them, listening to them, talking to them, showing them respect, being open and honest with them so they could make choices based on facts and, most importantly, loving them.
    Let children be children and let parents learn the old fashion way!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    No doubt the usual lot will soon be on here, complaining that they should be able to raise their kids how they want, without government interference. But I daresay that many parents need it.

    So long as it's not done in a patronising way it could teach parents-to-be how to manage their finances, cope with the stress, discipline, etc. Good stuff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    "Armed with all this evidence, it is the government's moral and social duty to make sure we support all parents at this critical time".

    Great, can we go back to the time when a single earner could support the family, MIRAS etc etc

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    It's a positive idea in these times of nuclear and quantum (1 parent) families. Historically there have been older generations to pass on skills and provide support for young families near by. But progress, if that is what it is, and increased mobility often leave parents out on a limb and with little of that old fashioned support. It appears to be at least a move in the right direction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    This is a great idea, and something that could be come compulsory in years to come, along with school lessons in common human values such as being a good citizen of society. Parenting is just about the hardest job, and while it won't make a bad parent into a good one overnight it can only help, and hopefully there can be an ongoing support network.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    I would normally say, that seeing as though they broke it, they can fix it.

    But somehow I just don't trust them!

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    great idea. many parents need this. some parents don't pay their kids enough attention so educating or re-educating them would be ideal and may teach the next generation of kids some respect for society and elders.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Are these lessons for the parents or the minders of the children while the parents work to pay their taxes and inflated costs of living?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I don't want to live on this planet any more.


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