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 39.

    You may be a good parent so "good-for-you" !
    But unfortunately, this country has a big problem with bad parenting (something which is obvious to anyone with eyes, ears and an ability to think) - anything which can be done to improve matters in this respect is a good thing - don't knock it !

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Great idea, completly agree. The most important thing kids need to learn in to get along with other people. This starts with parents and before the child gets to the age of five.

    My only reservation is that the parents that need this most will not engage. Their children will grow up without respect for others, without the self decipline to get a job and the circle starts over with their kids.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I find it bizarre that someone who has absolutely no first hand knowledge of parenting can even be a Childrens Minister, and to have the gall to suggest that real parents need teaching.
    having been an avid viewer of PM's Question time, she should put her tremendous skill in this area to the infantile behaviour we see in the Westminster Nursery.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    29. HaveIGotThatWrong

    The inclusion of "bankers" was inspired by your whining about paying for the parenting scheme, I merely wanted to create some perspective on the issue of what we already are paying a heck of a lot for. I'm surprised that you couldn't deduce that for yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Excellent project but how do you the get the feckless parents who spend their days in a haze drugs and alcohol from the council estates to attend? They won't even give up enough money to spend on the bus fare as it might just buy another can of cider. These classes should be mandatory for the parents of any child seen to be struggling at school or identified as lacking in care or discipline.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Whilst parenting classes are a step in the right direction, I doubt they will make much difference.

    I think we are approaching the problem from the wrong direction, maybe we should deal with the accepted norm of feckless breeding by un married teens who see having babies as a career path to benefits and a council house for life!

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    I think Sarah Teather needs to check out the bookshops, libraries and the internet! When she does, she'll discover a whole wealth of parenting books (free for the time being from the local library!) Another ridiculous idea which will be used by the wrong people rather than the ones who actually need it. Sure Start Centres, anyone?

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Working with 'challenging' kids I see daily the amount of money wasted on ineffective nonsense purely to placate middle class sensibilities. People don't need classes, they need to live in a country where they are expected to take responsibility for their own choices. Condescending excuse making to say anyone is so daft they are incapable of working out how to parent properly. No is a single word!

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Society has run for thousand of years without the need for "parenting classes". One must ask what has happened in the last 20 years which has made people so moronic that they cannot even raise their own children?

    Government hindrances? Childline? Child Benefits? Banning smacking? All children are innocent and tell the truth myth? - More than half of pupil abuse claims are malicious!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    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."

    You don't have to be a parent to know what is acceptable and non acceptable behaviour. Look at Supernanny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    27. ship-of-fools needs to be paid for, so do the banks and their delinquent ranks remember?
    What has this topic got to do with banking ? Or did you just want to get a 'bankers' comment in ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    Here's a novel idea.Why don't we try the traditional format for a family.You know,the one where there's a mum and dad and one or other stays at home to look after/deal/teach their kids.Heck, you never know,it might just work.Bring in a reformed but better family allowance so the age old excuse of money isn't used for family failures.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    24. HaveIGotThatWrong

    We already pay for the fallout that results from bad/non-existent parenting so what's the problem with an attempt to pre-empt the situation before it happens? The problem really does require attention and that's fine with me and yes, it needs to be paid for, so do the banks and their delinquent ranks remember?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    A good idea, but I suspect that the parents who sign up will be the ones most concerned about their children's upbringing and therefore most likely to make the best parents without help.

    That said I find the kindest parents can have the worst children as they don't like to discipline them. Sometimes "Now darling we don't want to be doing that, do we?" should be "Stop that now!".

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    When public figures point to poor parenting as the root of social problems, as they have done for decades, that's usually where it ends. As any good mother or father will tell you identifying the cause of the trouble is just step one, step two is what you're going to do about it. I'm glad to see that finally we have reached step two but equally dismayed it took the riots to do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Free parenting classes ? I think you'll find the taxpayer is paying for them. So, not free at all then.

  • Comment number 23.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    As a paediatrician who has looked after many children with difficult behaviour, I find some of the comments below show ignorance of how common behaviour problems are, and how effective is parenting education. For sure, behaviour is related to family splits and poverty, but cannot parents of all social backgrounds should be offered the chance of help - it works, and is used by many other countries

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    The best thing they can do is reverse this asinine "the more the merrier" philosophy that Labour and certain EU states have applied, which has led not only to over-population and increased depletion of resources but has led to children being born for financial gain to parents who have no business looking after them.

    Children are not a means to an end. Nothing will change until we realise that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    There has been free access to parenting support teams and classes for years provided by councils and sure start teams. These have, in the last few years, repeatedly had their funding cut and been shut down. So essentially they have wiped out the established serivces, started a few new 'trials' in limited areas and called it progress.


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