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 137.

    Many parts of parenting, from how to bathe a baby, to effectivley controlling a teenager is not instinctive; it is taught. For generations it has been taught by the support of familes, such as granparents giving the parents advice on what to do. These days, for many people there is not the family support and therefore, not the family teaching, lets hope these classes will do what families are not.

  • 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 64.

    parenting isn't hard, it should come naturally. it's about teaching right from wrong, teaching them respect, discipline & spending time with them, socially interacting with them & being there for them. it is not about leaving them with friends or grandparents whilst you go out & have a social life every night with your friends instead of being with your children & teaching them the values of life.

  • 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.

  • 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.


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