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Last Updated: Friday, 29 April, 2005, 23:40 GMT 00:40 UK
Heads back parent lessons for all
By Gary Eason
Education editor, BBC News website

Parents need to be told to play with their children, the head said
Head teachers are calling for new mothers to attend weekly sessions to learn how to bring up their children.

David Gray, a head teacher from Devon, said they would learn to teach a child the difference between "yes" and "no".

Research showed that parents who played and talked with their babies improved their chances in life, he added.

The National Association of Head Teachers conference backed his call for funding to ensure badly-behaved pupils did not disrupt teaching for the rest.

'F word'

He was supported by Irene Cox, head of Sedgemoor Manor infants school in Bridgwater, Somerset, who said children in her school could "swear like troopers".

They used obscenities they heard at home as nouns, adjectives and verbs - "clearly showing they can sequence familiar vocabulary into sentences", she said at the conference in Telford, Shropshire.

When she had raised this with one mother, the woman had said "we use the F word all the time - but we don't swear."

When she pointed out that was what had concerned the school, the mother said "I thought you meant real swearing."


Ms Cox said she had had to ban parents from the school site for fighting in front of the children.

She had seen schoolwork children had laboured to produce screwed up and thrown away by a parent, with a comment such as "What's this rubbish, then?"

Irene Cox said her pupils could "swear like troopers"
"No wonder so many children say they want to stay in school at the end of the day," she said.

Schools were rapidly becoming the only places where children were given any boundaries - "where no means no, it doesn't mean 'if you carry on annoying me I will eventually give in and say yes'."

Mr Gray, a member of the association's national council, told the conference parents got ante-natal training on the immediate practicalities of caring for their new babies, but were then "left very much to their own devices".

Researchers at Exeter University had reported on how parents who provided a secure environment with intellectual stimulation could transform children's chances, regardless of social class or income.

"How much better then it would be if the local education authority provided weekly sessions which mothers and babies from all social levels would be expected to attend."

Experts could be on hand to discuss any concerns.

Mothers who did not attend should lose their child benefit, he explained later.

"The parents could be taught the importance of a regular routine for their baby, the importance of teaching the child the difference between 'yes' and 'no' and the necessity of playing with and talking to one's baby."

In the meantime the next government should propose more coherent policies on inclusion and exclusion, he said.

The funding he was calling for was necessary so the vast majority of "normal children" who just wanted to get on and learn received more of their teacher's time.

The conference unanimously backed their resolution.

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