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Last Updated: Monday, 3 May 2004, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Parents 'to blame for truancy'
By Justin Parkinson
BBC News Online education staff at the NAHT conference

Head teachers say parents are condoning truancy
Too many families "condone" truancy and must take more responsibility if the problem is to be tackled, a head teachers' union leader has warned.

Many young people "lack good parental role models", said David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.

By colluding in truancy, some families "condemn their children to a life of crime", he added.

Heads should get up to 120,000 a year for working in schools where such troubles are widespread, Mr Hart said.

'Free babysitters'

He told the NAHT's annual conference in Cardiff there was "too much disruptive behaviour in the classroom" and that this was "appearing down the age range to a worrying degree".

Poor parenting was responsible for "atrocious diet, leading to obesity", " children glued to computers" and "neglecting to ensure that homework is done".

It was unacceptable for parents to use "TV or Play Stations as 'free' babysitters".

David Hart
Hart believes parents need to take more responsibility
Disruptive behaviour and violent conduct in schools had led to permanent exclusions, Mr Hart said. He remarked that almost half of young people in custody had been permanently excluded.

He added that two-thirds of persistent truants had committed a criminal offence.

However, Mr Hart told delegates: "This government cannot be faulted for its attempt to break the vicious link between social and educational under-achievement.

"But money does not necessarily buy parental responsibility. Nor do new criminal sanctions necessarily change the mind set of those who commit or condone anti-social behaviour.

"It is the attitude of these families, who know all about rights, but precious little about responsibilities, that has to change."

Parents had to send children to school "properly equipped with the right social skills".

Mr Hart said: "School staff are not surrogate parents. They are not social workers.

"They should not be expected to waste valuable teaching time doing the job that should have been done before the child sets foot in the school."

Extra for heads

Head teachers who run schools in deprived areas, with low attendance and behavioural problems, should get a "special range of salaries".

Those working in primaries should get up to 60,000 a year, and those in secondaries up to 120,000, he said.

Mr Hart said: "To anybody who says that these salaries are of the fat cat variety, I say we need no comparison with the private business sector, where, too often, the salaries are up when profits are down."

Local authorities must also assist heads more in attempts to raise standards, rather than leaving them "hung out to dry" if staff are not supportive, he added.

It was essential, Mr Hart said, that a "new relationship" between government, schools and families was struck up.


But Margaret Morrissey, spokeswoman for the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said: "It is disappointing hear a head teachers' union making negative attacks on parents and parenting skills."

"These comments do nothing to promote home-school partnerships and to build on the very good working relationships between parents and teachers in many schools across England, Wales and Northern Ireland," she said.

The BBC's James Westhead
"David Hart blamed parents for a rising tide of bad behaviour"

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