Parents: too fearful, too busy, too patronised;The week in view;Opinion

30th July 1999 at 01:00
LACK of sport in schools was again cited as a cause of the decline of cricket as England lost the second Test against New Zealand. Not true, said one commentator: the real culprits are too much traffic and over-protective parents. Kids can't go out to play like they used to as parents fear paedophile predators and they can't chalk stumps on lamp-posts as streets are choked with cars.

British men seem so worried about child abuse that they have distorted views about family life, unlike men in other European countries, a recent study of the "Euromale" has revealed. In France, Spain, Germany or Italy, men consider it normal to spend time with children and show them affection whereas British men worry about revealing paedophile tendencies.

Another survey found that parents don't spend enough "quality time" with their children. Some even pay someone else to choose birthday presents. Working families have become considerably richer over the past 30 years, but "time poor", said Bridget Walsh, of the Abbey National bank, which commissioned the study.

So parents no doubt will support the Campaign for State Education's call to refuse to sign the Government's new home-school contracts due to begin in September.

David Gordon, chairman of CASE, said the agreements are "patronising", adding: "It is an insult to parents to suggest that they will only get their children to school on time, properly dressed and help them with their homework if they sign a contract."

The Government received another broadside, this time from John McIntosh, head of the London Oratory where the Prime Minister sends his sons. Good state schools are in financial difficulties, he said, despite promises by David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, to protect them. Scrapping grant-maintained status for schools such as his, he argued, was largely to blame.

It is not known whether he supports William Hague's plan to give tax relief to people who send their children to independent schools. The Tory leader thinks it will be a vote-winner. "Mad", says Labour. "This will be seen as a party of privilege advocating tax relief for Etonians."

One famous Etonian, Prince William, charmed the press with his driving skills at his father's Highgrove estate in preparation for his test later this summer. The Palace hopes the news hounds will leave him alone when he takes to the public roads for real practice.

Eleven-year-old Terri Paul from Edinburgh will not be practising her skills as a boxer as she's been banned from the ring by the sport's governing body. Terri, aka the Bingham Bruiser, wanted to become the youngest girl in Scotland to compete in a match and is keen to become a professional. Pity she doesn't play cricket.

Diane Spencer

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