Page last updated at 13:48 GMT, Thursday, 27 January 2011

Debate on the importance of good early parenting


The debate in full: from BBC Democracy Live

Lord Northbourne has led a debate on "the role of good early parenting in preparing a child for success in school".

In an online pilot with the BBC's Have Your Say, he took part in a webchat, to respond to readers' comments and questions about children's early years and success at school.

You can continue to contribute to the discussion at BBC Have Your Say's online forum.


1415: And that wraps up the debate and our coverage of it. Thank you for joining us.

1411: The final contribution of the debate is left to Lord Northbourne: "I thought it was a wonderful debate," he declares, urging ministers to provide more time in the near future to debate the government's evolving policies on parenting and schools.

1410: The more likely a couple is to stay together, the greater chance a child has of growing up to lead a fulfilled and happy life, Lord Hill says, telling peers that the government is exploring ways to make relationship support more widely available.

1405: Lord Hill also hinted that the government's approach to Surestart centres will differ from its predecessor by putting more emphasis on local needs. He told peers that the number of health visitors would be increased by 50%, and they would be deployed to help build relationships between GPs and Surestart centres, and advise parents on topics such as healthy eating and accident prevention.

1401: "The government accepts fully that the quality of care and support for early learning that young children receive and their positive engagement with their parents can make a real difference to later outcomes in life," he says. Surestart centres "remain at the heart of the government's vision for early learning". Funding will be provided for extra health visitors.

1357: Lord Hill tells peers: "It is not the case that a child labouring under some of the disadvantages we have been discussing is doomed to failure."

1355: Responding to the debate, schools minister Lord Hill of Oareford says: "This government, like the last government, wants to reduce inequality in our society." The coalition "absolutely recognises the importance of the early years in children's lives and development", he adds.

1350: "What role should government have in supporting good parenting?" Lady Crawley asks, before hailing the "wide range" of services provided by the previous Labour government, including parenting classes at Surestart centres.

1343: "When parenting is poor, the negative effects start to accrue very early and well before the child goes to school," Lady Crawley warns. "Moreover, they are cumulative."

1341: Winding up the debate for Labour, Baroness Crawley congratulated Lord Northbourne for choosing to focus minds on one of the most "intractable issues facing our society today".

1335: A significant number of Surestart centres are expected to close by the end of the year, Crossbench peer the Earl of Listowel warns. He suggests one way to ensure that funding is sustained: the "Robin Hood method", in which wealthier parents pay for the service, and poorer ones do not.

e-mail sent in by reader
Artemisia writes: "In the first three years of a child's life, good parenting is crucial. However in today's society, it is more difficult than in yesteryear because of economic and other pressures on the family." Have Your Say

1315: Scientist, TV presenter and Labour peer Lord Winston says that Surestart centres have proven to be of "massive benefit", boosting social cohesion and reducing crime levels.

e-mail sent in by reader
Marie writes: "I do think it's important to be a positive influence on your children from the start, teaching good behaviour by praising the good and punishing appropriately when needed and having firm boundaries." Have Your Say

1305: Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a Conservative councillor, has also chosen to make his maiden speech in this debate. He was a governor at Wimbledon Park School from 2003 to 2006.

1259: Lady Benjamin urges the government to ensure the continued funding of quality public service broadcasting for children. "Children may not inherit all our talents, but they will certainly absorb all our influences, so let us teach them well," she concludes.

1259: Lady Benjamin adds: "Education is their passport to life, and the best way for them to learn is through fun and play."

1257: Children's TV presenter Baroness Benjamin, who sits on the Liberal Democrats benches, argues that children need "unconditional support, not just from their families, but from society too".

1252: Crossbench peer and former chief inspector of prisons Lord Ramsbotham recalls meeting a 17-year-old in a young offender institution who had been excluded from playgroup at the age of four and was never allowed to go to school. "Decades of late intervention have failed," he concludes.

1248: Good parenting is instinctive in some countries, Conservative peer Lord Eden of Winton argues. "To some extent, we've lost that here. That is why it must be helpful that that the practice of parenting is taught."

1245: Parents from poorer backgrounds start with high aspirations for their children, Lady Stowell says, but they end up too often with low expectations.

e-mail sent in by reader
Alan T writes: "History is replete with examples of remarkable people who - as adults - did good and/or great things, as a reaction to having been the victim of bad parenting. So, clearly good parenting is not the be-all and end-all of the story." Have Your Say

1242: Also making her maiden speech today is Conservative peer Baroness Stowell of Beeston, who was the BBC's head of corporate affairs until 2010. Before joining the BBC, she worked for William Hague when he was Tory party leader. She now runs her own communications firm, and lists the NSPCC as among her clients.

1235: Labour peer Baroness Sherlock, who was an advisor to Gordon Brown during his time as Chancellor, notes that parents who lack confidence in their abilities are sometimes too embarrassed to ask for help.

1233: Bishop Pritchard tells peers: "The work of Surestart is beginning to bear fruit, and needs continuity."

1229: The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Reverend John Pritchard, was introduced to the upper House in November 2010 and is making his maiden speech in this debate. Financial support to vulnerable children is important, he agrees, but: "At a much more fundamental level, we want childhood to be joyful and exciting."

e-mail sent in by reader
Lippylippo writes: "Genetics, society, luck - all these play a huge role. Some terrible parents raise great children, somehow, despite doing everything "wrong". Some brilliant parents despair at their lazy, troublesome children, despite doing everything "right". It's a lottery." Have Your Say

1225: Crossbench peer Baroness Butler-Sloss, the president of the High Court Family Division from 1999 to 2005, describes the difficulties faced by children who must be taken into care at birth or when they are very young. On average, a baby must move four times before he or she finds a permanent foster home, she says.

e-mail sent in by reader
Brady Fox writes: "It's all very well saying that good parenting improves educational outcomes but the real question which should be addressed is "What causes and instigates bad parenting?" Have Your Say

1220: Baroness Walmsley, a former PR consultant who used to speak for the Liberal Democrats on children and schools, tells peers that the income of the poorest families does need to be raised, but "money on its own is not enough".

1215: Lady Massey argues that investment in the lives of vulnerable young children may reduce the need for welfare expenditure on them in later life: "We must save early to save later."

1213: Labour's Baroness Massey of Darwen, the president of Brook sexual health advisory centres and the author of a series of publications on sex education, tells peers about the "importance of boundaries" to good parenting.

1211: Delivering his maiden speech, Lord Lingfield, the Tory peer formerly known as Sir Robert Balchin, is Brunel University's Pro-Chancellor. He worked as a senior education policy adviser to the government in the early 1990s, devising a programme to give state schools greater freedom.

1207:Lord Northbourne tells peers that Frank Field's report on child poverty, published before Christmas, confirms what he has long suspected: that "problems created in the first three years in a child's life cast a long and dark shadow over their future".

1203: "Self-esteem is the parent of hope," Lord Northbourne says. "Confidence is what makes success possible."

1203: Lord Northbourne claims that children from single parent families are 75% more likely to fail at school and 70% more likely to develop a drug addiction, although he emphasises that the single parents themselves may not be to blame.

1201: "Why are some parents failing their children?" he asks. It is harder to know how to be a good parent if you have not experienced good parenting yourself, he tells peers, adding that "tough love" and "intellectual stimulation" comprise the optimum approach.

e-mail sent in by reader
Rita Kleppmann writes: A child needs two parents who love him unconditionally, whereby 'love' does not mean giving him what he wants, but what he needs. Have Your Say

1155: To underscore the importance of good parenting during these "foundation" years, Lord Northbourne cites the conclusions of a study by thinktank Demos: "Parents are the principle architects of a fairer society."

1151: Crossbench peer Lord Northbourne, kicking off the debate, tells peers that the first three years of a child's life are crucial to his or her development. "By the age of three, the brain is 80% formed," he says.

1145: Perhaps as an indication of the strength of feeling on this subject among the new intake in the upper chamber, three peers have opted to make their maiden speeches in this debate: the Bishop of Oxford, Baroness Stowell of Beeston and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon.

1141: An impressive and typically diverse array of peers have signed up to speak in this debate, including a Bishop, a former president of the High Court Family Division, and a children's TV presenter.

1030: Good morning, readers. We expect the debate to kick off at about 11.40am.

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