PAT chair will demand compulsory lessons in parenting. Jenny Legg previews the union's 2006 conference
Teenagers should learn how to bath babies, change nappies and recognise common childhood diseases at school, a teaching conference will hear.
Lynn Edwards, outgoing national chairwoman of the Professional Association of Teachers, will propose a motion to make parenting classes compulsory for key stage 4 pupils at the association's annual conference next week.
Mrs Edwards, who teaches geography at Saltley secondary in Birmingham, said: "When I came out of hospital with twins I didn't know how to change a nappy and I'm sure I was not alone. That is not acceptable.
"Not all current parenting classes are necessarily accessible to young people. The logical place to put this kind of training is in key stage 4 just before pupils can legally become parents."
She said rising teenage pregnancy rates and the fact people often lived too far away from relatives for support increased the need for parenting classes.
She said the motion was an outline proposal without a detailed curriculum.
But she suggested pupils should learn things such as how to change nappies, recognise diseases such as measles and meningitis and discipline children.
Che Ramsden, 17, from the UK Youth Parliament, said: "This is a great idea.
At the moment, unless pupils take a GCSE in child development they get no information about being a parent."
She said classes should be introduced earlier than KS4. "We have kids in Year 8 or 9 getting pregnant. To leave this kind of education until they are 15 or 16 is too late." Becky Holloway, 17, an executive council member of the English Secondary Schools' Association, said: "I don't think parenting should be compulsory.
"Although a lot of young people become parents, I don't think parenting skills are the priority for most people leaving school. Managing finances, mental and sexual health and politics are probably more relevant."
Gill Frances, director of children's development at the National Children's Bureau, said: "It's not a bad idea. The problem is it simply would not fit into the already crowded personal, social and health education curriculum."
She said a national framework should be drawn up for compulsory PSHE lessons but parenting classes should not necessarily be part of it. "If you had all the space in the world, parenting classes would be brilliant, but there will always be competing priorities such as food, bullying, drugs and sex."
Melissa Dear, a spokeswoman for the Family Planning Association, was sceptical about the plan. She suggested instead "discussing the issue more broadly and getting teenage mothers to go into schools to give girls thinking of having children young a glimpse of reality".
"Changing a nappy on a doll isn't the same," she said.
Other topics for discussion at the conference include the minimum entry standards for childcare training courses; whether the Government's policy on inclusion has led to a decline in the number of state special schools; and whether targets for exclusions should be scrapped.
A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said schools can teach some lessons about good parenting as part of the curriculum for PSHE in KS4. But these are not statutory and do not cover hands-on skills such as changing nappies.