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Wednesday, 27 March, 2002, 14:24 GMT
Q & A: Parenting orders

Ministers are waging a campaign against what they call "feckless parents" whose children disrupt schools, truant or get involved in crime.

They are calling on local councils to use parenting orders to bring parents into line.

The orders - imposed through the courts - can force parents to attend classes to teach them to be better parents.

But what are parenting orders and how are they used? BBC News Online investigates:

What are parenting orders?

Under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, councils can apply for parenting orders to be imposed if a child has committed a criminal offence or has been truanting or has been seriously anti-social on the streets.

They have been available nationally since 1 June 2000, following a pilot.

Parents can be ordered to get training or guidance, to make sure their child attends a course, or to make sure their child avoids contact with a gang.

An order can last up to a year. Government guidance says: "It may include attendance at counselling or guidance sessions, no more than once a week but for up to three months, to help the parent cope more effectively with a child's highly challenging or difficult behaviour and to set and enforce sensible boundaries of discipline.

Are there plans to expand the scheme?

Yes. The government said on 27 March it planned to extend these orders to children who consistently behave badly in school.

It has also been consulting on whether to extend the orders to parents if they behave badly on school premises.

Who can apply for them?

Parenting Orders are made by criminal courts, magistrates' courts acting in civil cases, and family proceedings courts.

Local education authorities (councils) can apply for them through the courts.

Typically, schools could tell council officials they were having serious trouble with a particular child over their truancy or because they had committed a crime.

What can parents be made to do?

They can be fined up to 1,000, be made to attend parenting courses which could include sections on anger management, and could ultimately face a prison sentence.

Are parenting orders used very often?

No, according to the Department for Education and Skills, 219 parenting orders have been imposed for truancy since they were introduced.

The government says use of the orders is patchy, with some local education authorities not using them at all.

What do teachers and heads think of them?

They are in favour of them, saying teachers are often frightened of violence or the threat of violence from pupils and parents.

According to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in the past year, 125 of its members have complained about physical abuse in their school.

They said 65% of those assaults were by secondary school children and 5% were by parents.

See also:

24 Mar 02 | Education
Bad parenting 'causes child crime'
22 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Blair warns parents over unruly children
23 Mar 01 | Education
Parents warned: No 'aggro' in school
06 Apr 00 | Education
Heads fear violent parents
09 Jul 01 | Features
Learning to be better parents
09 Jul 01 | Education
Tackling bad pupils - and parents
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