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Sunday, 24 March, 2002, 19:44 GMT
Bad parenting 'causes child crime'
Children fighting
Ministers are anxious to stamp-out unruly behaviour
'Feckless' and abusive parents are to be blamed by the government for youth crime and unruly behaviour in schools, it has been reported.

Education Secretary Estelle Morris will argue bad parenting has created a "cycle of disrespect" among children, in a speech to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers on Wednesday, according to The Observer newspaper.

She will also demand that councils make greater use of their powers to force violent parents to attend counselling or face court and a fine of up to 1,000.

There is a cycle of disrespect starting in school and lasting throughout these children's lives

Estelle Morris

Much the same message came from David Blunkett - now the home secretary - when he was education secretary a year ago.

Mr Blunkett said he wanted to extend the parenting orders scheme, which allows courts to force the parents of persistent truants or children who are committing crimes to undergo training.

Ms Morris's stance has been welcomed by teachers but they called for action to back up the minister's concerns.

Reports of what the education secretary is expected to say follow a difficult week for the government over its record on crime.

Newspapers highlighted the growing problem of lawlessness among children, including the story of two teenage brothers behind a series of crimes and an 11-year-old girl pictured smashing a shop window.


Ms Morris will say she wants to "put teachers back on the pedestal" to give children better discipline and lead them away from violence.

She will tell the conference in Cardiff: "How can we expect pupils to respect teachers if their parents don't?

"Parents must set the right example, and most do. But there is a hard-core of feckless parents who have a corrosive effect on the rest.

We were promised action by previous secretaries of state - now we want delivery

David Hart

"There is a cycle of disrespect starting in school and lasting throughout these children's lives.

"If teachers think their reward for tackling bad behaviour in class is abuse from a parent then many will be fearful of taking any action at all.

"These abusive parents undermine our mission to drive bad behaviour out of schools."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said effective action against disruptive parents was overdue.

Verbal abuse

He said: "Too many of our members have been verbally and physically assaulted by a rising number of irresponsible and negligent parents.

"We have been calling for effective sanctions for years. We were promised action by previous secretaries of state. Now we want delivery."

On Thursday Ms Morris announced a drive to push up achievement among England's 11- to 14-year-olds, arguing it would help reduce teenage crime.

And during a visit to a school in Crumpsall near Manchester on Friday, Prime Minister Tony Blair said parents of unruly children should be prosecuted if they do not curb truancy.

The BBC's Mike Baker
"There is a realisation now, if they are going to tackle discipline in schools, then parents have got to do their part"

Talking PointFORUM
Youth crime
Ask a parenting expert and a union chief
See also:

22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Blair warns parents over unruly children
21 Mar 02 | Education
Keeping pupils away from crime
23 Mar 01 | Education
Parents warned: No 'aggro' in school
09 Jul 01 | Education
Tackling bad pupils - and parents
09 Jul 01 | Features
Learning to be better parents
25 Mar 02 | Education
Q & A: Parenting orders
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