MP thinks parenting GCSE could tackle 'toerag parents'
Parenting skills should be taught in schools to address a "vicious downward spiral" of broken families in the UK, the government poverty tsar has said.
Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, fears many children are being dragged down by what he calls "toerag parents".
His solution, outlined in his first report to the Prime Minister, is to place parenting at the heart of the national school curriculum.
But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) expressed doubts about the plan.
The coalition government has tasked Mr Field, a veteran Labour MP, with reviewing poverty in the UK.
Writing in the Daily Mail on Tuesday, the MP said Britain was facing a social crisis because of the huge number of families who "live in a state of permanent squalor, chaos and hostility".
He claims they are presided over by "toerag parents who haven't got a clue how to raise children, and delegate the role of breadwinner to the social security system".
In an interview with the BBC, Mr Field said many children lacked positive role models and actively wanted to learn how to be good parents.
"I was knocked sideways when I asked a group of 15-year-olds in Birkenhead what would they most want from their school if they were setting the school contract, and every one of them said they wanted to know how to be good parents," said the MP.
Mr Field argued that Britain became a "respectable nation" during the Victorian era, when parents brought up their children within a very clear framework of how they should behave.
But he told the BBC that the model had become fractured in the past 50 years - and believes reaching out to school children could be a way to re-establish it.
"What I'm looking at now is whether we could teach it [parenting] through the other subjects, but also that the modules could actually be built into a separate GCSE," he said.
"So it's not trying to impose more on schools, who already in many respects have to do too much of making good for the failure of families, but to see whether we could do that naturally as part of the national curriculum.
"And in a sense the bonus would be both for the pupils and the schools that they'd be picking up an extra GCSE."
Many teenagers in England already take a module in parenting as part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and the NUT believes this remains the best format for teaching the skills.
Avis Gilmore, the NUT's north west regional secretary, told the BBC: "We're not convinced that parenting classes on their own would be the great value that Frank Field seems to think.
"It raises all sorts of questions about whether it would be mandatory. If it was what would be dropped? And if not, how would you encourage the right pupils to sign up for it?
"PSHE does need reviewing and it can very easily be reviewed to accommodate the sort of things he is talking about.
"We just don't see how it would work."