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New premium on parenting skills

The emphasis on improving parenting skills, including building better relationships between fathers and children, is linked to the Skinner report's major emphasis on reducing the likelihood of sex offenders reoffending.

In its response to the report, the Scottish Office says that school involvement in parenting for boys and men "will be considered further in the light of existing initiatives and how these might be built on to develop good practice".

But the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association points to the need for staff training if schools are expected to help boost parenting skills.

"We cannot assume that every teacher can teach parenting skills so there are considerable training implications," Barbara Clark, the union's assistant secretary, states. "There is only so much that schools can absorb at a time when resources and staffing are being pared to the bone.

"I am not questioning that schools should have an input but it should be part of a whole social strategy. Other agencies, particularly social work, have a more central role in working with dysfunctional families. Schools on their own can only do so much to counter any negative role modelling that young people encounter outside school, although there is a commitment to try."

Angus Skinner points out that almost all violent sexual crime and sexual abuse of children is committed by men or boys. Mr Skinner argues that the caring focus of women, nurtured by child-rearing, needs to be transferred to males.

This underlines "the importance of the development of nurturing and bonded relationships as internal controls prohibiting abusive acts and treating others as objects".

He also suggests that councils could initiate pilot schemes, possibly run by voluntary organisations, for adolescent boys "whom they deem to be at risk of not developing good parenting skills". Caring and fathering courses should also be run by community, adult and further education.

The report adds: "As sex offenders come from all classes of society, private-sector schools will wish to consider the applicability of these matters in their circumstances."

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