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EDITIONS
Friday, 1 June, 2001, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Heads call for 'beacon' parents
parent and children
Head teachers joked they wanted parents to stay in line
By BBC News Online's Katherine Sellgren at the NAHT conference in Harrogate

Tips on good parenting should be printed on the back of cereal packets and milk cartons, posted up on buses and shown on television, head teachers recommend.

And the government should introduce "beacon" parents, the naming and shaming of bad parents, parent achievement awards, a system of fines for parents who failed to meet their targets and child benefit bonuses for those who performed well.

Heads say this may go some way to reducing the growing body of parents who consider it acceptable to abuse school staff.

"What we need is a national awareness raising campaign, organised and funded by the government," head of King's Road School in Trafford, Greater Manchester, Monica Galt, told delegates at the National Association of Head Teachers annual conference in Harrogate.

It was time to start hitting errant parents over truancy rather than schools, Ms Galt said.

"It's not just the truanting children, but the huge number of unauthorised absences which parents condone," she said to applause from her colleagues in the hall.

Aggressive parents

While her suggestions were largely tongue-in-cheek, Ms Galt was making a serious point which has underpinned the union's conference this year - that parents are becoming more aggressive towards school staff and less accountable.

She spoke of how, during a truancy sweep in her area, parents "got nasty" when asked why their children were not in school.

They produced a "myriad of trivial excuses" and accused well-meaning people of "poking their noses in".

"Their excuses ranged from getting a haircut or buying new shoes to getting up so late that it was not worth coming into school," Ms Galt told delegates.

For many children their first years in school were the first time they had heard the word "no" and staff were having to undo years of parental mis-management, she said.

Responsibility

The School Standards Minister, Estelle Morris, who addressed the conferenece, said the initiatives suggested by heads were not - and were not about to be - government policy.

"It's just not that easy - it's far more complex," Ms Morris said.

But she agreed it was crucial to get parents to accept their responsibility.

"The saddest thing is that it's happened in a generation - something's changed," Ms Morris said.

She said she did not remember this sort of behaviour from parents when she was a teacher, but knew it to be all too often the case nowadays.

1980s culture

She put it down to the 1980s environment, when many people were unemployed in the recession and lost their faith in the education system to deliver.

"And those people are the young parents now," Ms Morris said.

She stressed that head teachers did have the right to exclude unruly and disruptive parents.

"No teacher should have to put up with a pupil who makes their life a misery".

"One disruptive pupil in the classroom can make the whole day seem a nightmare," she said.

It must be made clear to parents and pupils that disruption was not for schools, she added.

See also:

31 May 01 | UK Education
23 Mar 01 | UK Education
28 May 01 | UK Education
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