MPs to vet plans for parent classes

24th April 1998 at 01:00
Plans for compulsory parenting classes come under the scrutiny of MPs next week.

The Crime and Disorder Bill, which reaches its Commons committee stage, gives courts powers to impose up to three months of weekly classes for parents of children who break the law, persistently truant or indulge in anti-social behaviour. They face a fine of up to pound;1,000 if they refuse to attend.

Labour says the Bill demonstrates its commitment to defend teachers against violent or abusive children and their parents. The stance earned Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett applause at last week's annual conference of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers.

Mr Blunkett arrived at Scarborough, bearing gifts of cash for teachers' laptops and school repairs and pledging action on two of the NASUWT's biggest concerns - red tape and "irresponsible " parents.

The NASUWT has long campaigned on the threat to teachers from violence. But members fear Labour's special needs Green Paper - which proposes greater integration - will make matters worse with more children with emotional and behavioural difficulties in mainstream schools.

Mr Blunkett's arrival was preceded by a call for more alternative provision for children with severe behavioural problems.

The Secretary of State told delegates: "I'm not interested in integration in schools for its own sake. But I'm interested in integration in life for those young people who are otherwise on the streets or in prison and who above all become the parents of other problem children you have to deal with."

The Crime and Disorder Bill complements Labour's plans for earlier diagnosis of learning difficulties, including better pre-school monitoring.

It chimes with NASUWT's call for tougher action to make parents responsible for their children, reinforced in a debate on the conference's final day.

Delegates criticised parents who refuse to believe their children can do wrong and who back the word of their offspring over that of their teachers. Past president Sue Rogers said it had taken a video of their child vandalising a bus to convince one set of parents.

In an unlikely echo of the National Union of Teachers' conference, when left-wingers unexpectedly defeated their leaders over teachers' contracts, the NASUWT conference closed with a rebuke to the union executive for signing up to new competency procedures.

Leaders argue the new four-week disciplinary process is a last resort after attempts to help teachers improve have been exhausted. But Sheffield member David Battye called it flawed and members agreed no fast-track procedure could be fair. All teachers had the right to at least two terms to demonstrate their ability to teach.

Laptops for teachers, page 10

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