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 119.

    This is good but instead of just picking up the pieces, due to so many inept parents it is vital that parenting skills are taught in school.

    Even maybe add on an extra 2 weeks of education to school leavers and include parenting skills and other basic responsibilitys etc. For completing the extra 2 weeks students could have free passes to leisure/other/ facilitys &/+ or travel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    Its another programme that set up by labour & scrap by the tories & started again so they can take the credit. Like the work programme that was set up by labour but ts was called new deal then & cost the taxpayer thousands because all the stationary had be change

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    It seems parents do need help,especially when it's the first baby and you are afraid even to touch it, to do smth wrong, and there is no one to advise and support. Reading about it is one thing, and doing is different and much more difficult. And those people,who write that, their parents had poor parenting skills and still brought up a normal person, just don't know what they've lost!

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    (Oh dear) social workers.....

    How many does it take to change a light bulb?

    They don't actually change the bulb. They have a case conference to come up with a strategy for coping with darkness.

    Most of these 'unfit' parents have had the five minutes of fun and that was all they were ever interested in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Parenting is the difference I am sure. If you exclude natural intelligence as a factor, then the difference between me and the kids I went to school with is a rock solid family environment and involved parents. I still some kinds I went to school with who you can safely say are bums and the most of them had alcoholic parents, parents constantly fighting etc. Good parenting is the answer

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Too many women these days want it all. A Career and a family. Having children is a full time occupation. As another Poster said it's not having children and then shoving them on to GrandParents whilst they do their own thing. Children need their Mothers to teach them right from wrong. Fathers should also get involved.
    Childcare isnt cheap so look at the alternatives. Parenting Classes great!

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    This money is being wasted, the vast majority of parent know what to do with knowledge passed down the generations through caring families. This money should have been used to devise a set of key markers to indicate when a child is not being cared for appropriately. Then a team of experienced specialist social workers with correct legislation should act immediately to amend the situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    The classes, provided by parenting experts"And are these experts the same kind as the government are letting ATOS use for their so called Work Capability Assessment if it is I wouldn't go because your be told your a parent

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Parenting IS hard. In times gone by, parenting was taught by grandmothers and other extended members of the family to a stay-at-home mother who usually had family members available at all times for help, support, etc. This has now largely gone.

    Parenting is a skill and can be learned, though sometimes better by some than others. The Sure Start programme has been brilliant and should continue.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Ugh, prescriptive parenting. What works well in one family does not in another. Consider how many families have one loutish child and others well-behaved (or the other way around). Letting social workers anywhere near it is a recipe for disaster as most cannot distinguish between valid evidence-supported advice and their own personal preferences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Madness! Labour introduced Parenting Experts (my job) years ago. The Tories cut them last year. And now they're re-introducing them. I think we need classes in How to Run a Country, not Parenting Classes. Idiots!

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    Some of the most dysfunctional people I have ever met were practising social workers. Many of them gave child care advice and training to much better parents than themselves. Who will be running these parenting classes and what are their credentials? Most good parenting is basic common sense. I don't think people can be trained in this. A rubbish tokenistic idea for a deep problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    My parents had very poor parenting skills but fortunately I was brought up up by a 'Nannie' until I went to prep school. I have wonderful memories of my days in the nursery living on mince and rice pudding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Many of the parents discussed in the comments will never have been "parented" properly themselves- they will not be able to parent effectively if they were never shown how to do it! Parenting classes may offer some help and support to these parents and may be enough of a preventative measure to stop some families meeting the threshold for referral to over-stretched childrens services departments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Then perhaps we should make receipt of child benefits dependant on attending these courses.
    We have a problem in as much as some of those who are least capable of parenting, are most likely to breed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    YES! much needed, The only flaw is that the worst parents are likely to think they don't need help an will reject anybody telling them what to do. But just like we house parents who don't deserve it because they have a children and we must think of their needs first, we should be thinking of the childs needs and the impact on them and their long term future in this case too, i,e compulsory classes

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    Classes have already been running in Childrens Centres,I have been on the Webster Stratton Parent Survival Course. I discipline my children, they know right from wrong.But circumstances in our life made things difficult for a while,I was at a point where I felt I couldn't cope. This course has been valuable, gave me a boost of confidence and was fun too. More funding for Childrens Centres!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Parents have and always will make mistakes BUT they do what they think is right for their family at the time. I would prefer my taxes to be spent on castrating those who are not, and will never, be good parents yet produce many a child, expecting the state to finance them and/oror raise them. Link up the parents who need to, and can learn, with a successful parent in their community.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    As a youth leader for over twenty years (over 1000 children) I found that one of the greatest thing a child needs to know is that 'Love' means knowing boundaries, the reasons for them, the security that comes with discipline and a happy home. Being popular by being lax on rules comes at the price of respect. Each child is special and needs to know that they are valued. Most parents do a good job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Remember that children don't come with a manual. Some parents never had good parents themselves so don't understand parenting skills so the more training they get the better. Personally I think parents should be sent a book on the child's birthday advising parents of how to parent their child in the forthcoming year and to advise on standards of behaviour and how to manage them.


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