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Labour to major on parenting

Frances Rafferty and Emma Burstall report on a growing emphasis on parental involvement in education.

The Labour party is looking at ways to free up the curriculum to make more room for civic education and parenting skills.

Peter Kilfoyle, a member of Labour's education team, told The TES this week that politicians had to devise a youth policy relevant to a different generation.

"We have all heard of the tragic case of the young girl who took an Ecstasy tablet. People of my generation have no understanding of this culture. There is also a generation that has been brought up among institutionalised long-term unemployment.

"We have to work with young people and give them a new positive perspective. We have to look at ways of inculcating them with values of citizenship and have to provide them with real opportunities and meaningful training."

He said Labour supported many community-based projects and schemes such as the Prince's Trust for raising the esteem of young people.

And Mr Kilfoyle said: "We have to work pre-emptively by raising standards in schools, but we also have to attempt to pull around a disaffected generation of young people - Maggie's generation - by providing training and introducing citizen service."

A forthcoming Labour document on standards will look at ways to strengthen links between schools and parents.

"The standards document looks carefully at the role of parents. Only one-sixth of a child's time is spent at school and the truly formative time, for good or for evil, is in the home.

"It is unfair that teachers are expected to redress wrongs that are created outside the school environment," said Mr Kilfoyle.

His remarks followed reports that Labour is threatening, if it gets into power, to force parents of disruptive children to attended classes and receive counselling.

Jack Straw, the shadow home secretary, also announced tough measures against truancy. One proposal he outlined on BBC TV's On the Record, is to introduce identity cards for children which would be marked by parents if they were to take time off school. Police would be given powers to stop school-age children and demand to see the card. Alun Michael, a member of Mr Straw's team, said many children's experience prevented them from learning to be good parents.

They were not kept in order by their parents and often it was their peer group which had the most influence on the way they behaved.

He said: "There is plenty of discussion in the media about sex and how to have a good sex life, but very little on how to be a parent."

He said Labour would be looking at a range of options from working with schools and youth-workers to promote values, to taking legal steps to ensure that parents fulfil their responsibilities.

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