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Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
Parents 'need more help'
Children playing truant
Should parents be blamed for their children's actions?
As the extension of the government's parenting order scheme is announced, the head teacher of a comprehensive school tells BBC News Online much more still needs to be done to help both parents and children.

Janette Smith believes parenting classes are a good thing.

But she doesn't agree with waiting until a child has been identified as unruly before giving help - forcibly - to its parents.

"It's shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted", she said.

As a head teacher, Ms Smith has seen her fair share of difficult children - and parents.

But while she acknowledges there are some negligent parents out there, she believes that as a general rule, it is not right to blame parents for the actions of their children.


Parents are crying out for support... there's not much about

Janette Smith, head teacher
"I would welcome calling parents to account where parents are not working with agencies to effect changes in their children's behaviour or attitude at school," she said.

"Every school has got some parents who are just uncooperative.

"But the vast majority of parents are crying out for help, and I would like to see government recognition of this.

"Parents are made to be responsible for the actions of their child when they don't have many rights.

Mentors

"If the child decides it's going to truant from school, the child can just absent itself. Why punish the parent when they're doing what they can? They need help."

Mother with two children
Many parents "would welcome" advice on bringing up their children
Ms Smith says this help should be given long before there is any need for a court to make a parenting order forcing parents to attend classes.

"When parents start to feel uneasy about particular aspects of their children's behaviour or attitude, they should, without stigma, be given help to deal with that.

"I've yet to meet the parent of a teenager who tells me they're really enjoying bringing up a teenager. Parents are crying out for support, and to be honest there's not really very much about."

At Ms Smith's school - Lealands High, in Luton - there is a social inclusion centre where a team of teachers, counsellors, mentors and others work to help children with problems.

Children can become difficult for a wide variety of reasons, says Ms Smith, including a bereavement or medical problem.


Once a child is unruly it has learned there are no limits

Janette Smith, head teacher
Staff at the centre are able to work together to get to the root of the problem, and children are offered help appropriate to their circumstances - such as anger management classes.

Ms Smith says that as a result, children who might otherwise be excluded from school are helped to work through their problems and become fully reintegrated.

She wants the government to take a two-pronged approach - set aside more money for schools to establish and maintain social inclusion centres, and provide more funds for voluntary parenting classes well before a child is deemed "unruly".

"Parents do need parenting skills classes. If you have a drug problem, there's somewhere to go, if you have a drink problem there's somewhere to go, but if you have a problem with your child, where do you go?

"As soon as there is a problem you need to nip it in the bud. Once a child is unruly it has learned there are no limits."

See also:

16 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blunkett targets young criminals
27 Mar 02 | Education
Q & A: Parenting orders
09 Jul 01 | Features
Learning to be better parents
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