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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 November 2006, 16:33 GMT
Parents must do better - Johnson
mothers and babies
Mr Johnson said parents could make "a massive difference"
The Education Secretary has said he wants to make it easier for parents to do more to educate their children.

Speaking at a conference in London, Alan Johnson said it was time to challenge the perception that education began and ended at the school gates.

His comments came amid calls from the Daycare Trust to extend free childcare places, particularly for disabled children and those from poorer areas.

Mr Johnson said there were now twice as many childcare places as in 1997.

The minister said parents who took an active interest in their child's education could make "a massive difference".

Although parenting is an intensely private matter, it has immense public consequences
Alan Johnson

But he stressed it was not for the government to dictate to parents.

"Everyone needs a bit of help sometimes, whether it's a confidence boost, some practical advice or an urgent intervention," he said.

Among the suggestions he highlighted were to make parents' advice services more accessible and better publicised, and introduce longer opening hours into schools.

"Although parenting is an intensely private matter, it has immense public consequences," he said.

"We must make it easier for parents to do more to help the state with the education of their child."


For every hour a child spent in compulsory education, they spent more than 10 in the care of their parents, he said.

Mr Johnson said many parents wanted more help and were turning to television programmes for advice.

"I have become aware of the voracious appetite that there is among parents for more information, more support and advice.

Alan Johnson
Mr Johnson stressed parents' responsibilities

"A recent survey showed that almost three quarters of parents watched parenting programmes like Supernanny and over 80% have found them helpful."

Children's minister Beverley Hughes told the conference bad parenting blighted communities and their children's prospects.

"There are circumstances when parents' behaviour or indifference is damaging their children."

She said schools, health services and council services like libraries and sports facilities must focus on parents, in particular on fathers instead of always on mothers.

Expensive care

Earlier, Alison Garnham, joint chief executive of the Daycare Trust, said the government had made tremendous progress in developing new childcare places.

"But two years into the 10-year national childcare strategy there remains a considerable way to go in achieving our aim of universal childcare," she added.

"Childcare remains expensive and out-of-reach for too many low-income families including lone parents and also families with disabled children."

She said this appeared to be the case even after government help with the costs.

The trust also called on ministers to scrap plans to allow nursery class sizes to rise from eight children per teacher to 13.

Latest figures show there is one place for every three children under eight, compared with one place for every nine under-eights in 1997, according to a report by the Daycare Trust.

It also found parents in England met 75% of all childcare costs in 2004/5, considerably more than in Denmark where parents pay 30% of the costs.

Mr Johnson told delegates at a Daycare Trust conference that the government had already invested more than 20bn towards 1.3 million childcare places.

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