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Brum goes Down Under for behavioural help

Award-winning positive parenting programme designed to improve classroom discipline is trialled in 50 schools

Teachers at 50 schools in Birmingham are hoping an international behaviour guru will help them to keep classrooms - and parents - happy as they prepare to follow a programme designed in Australia.

Birmingham City Council, England's biggest education authority, has adopted Matt Sanders' Triple P positive parenting programme, which aims to challenge poor behaviour by helping troubled parents understand how their family works.

The classes, developed 25 years ago at Queensland University, have won awards all over the world.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families will evaluate the scheme before deciding whether to roll it out nationally. Triple P has already been trialled in Stoke and Glasgow.

The introduction of Triple P followed a survey of local parents which showed that many were increasingly concerned about their children's behaviour - as were teachers.

Professor Sanders spent a day last week with schools and children's staff in Birmingham to launch the scheme, which will run at first in 50 schools which are part of six extended partnerships.

The city council will spend about Pounds 40 million on parental support, including the Triple P programme, as part of its "Brighter Futures" strategy; much of the funding is from government grants.

Andy Jenkins, Birmingham City Council's parent project manager, said: "Many parents are struggling with their role. Hopefully this will promote home learning and encourage parents to get over the school threshold and get involved."

The first trial of Triple P in Birmingham took place last year with four families at Brookfields Primary School in Hockley. Julie Berrow, the headteacher, says the results were positive.

"It's helped them (the families) become a part of school life and have confidence in their own abilities," she said.

"Parents spend a lot longer with their children than we do so it's important we all work together. We have found that Triple P has helped pupils' behaviour at school."

Educational psychologists and children's centre workers in the city are now being trained to teach Triple P. Only parents who meet the "clinical" criteria can take part; most will have symptoms of stress or depression symptoms. They attend weekly meetings to learn how to deal with difficult situations and then have another three advice sessions via the telephone, plus a follow-up session.

Katy Robson, a clinical psychologist at Birmingham Children's Hospital who is heading Triple P training, said: "Parents will learn how to prepare for times that are hard and how to parent using a mixture of discipline and praise. The benefit for teachers is that if parents are more trained there is likely to be an equitable exchange of information - they can tell teachers what's been working at home."

Professor Sanders added: "We anticipate that Triple P will have a positive influence on children's wellbeing and mental health, including reduced levels of behavioural and emotional problems in children and the promotion of positive parenting practices."

Pounds 40m - Sum spent on parental support - including Triple P - as part of the city's "Brighter Futures" strategy.

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