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Teachers: Citizenship: Legal rights

Last Updated: Friday November 24 2006 12:50 GMT

Who's responsible - you or your parents?

Hoodies in Bristol

PSHE Confidence and responsibility


The government is spending around 4m on experts who will give tips to families with children who misbehave.

Research shows that more than half of people think bad parents are to blame for naughty kids. Politicians have already agreed a law that means people whose kids mess around too much could be forced to go to classes to learn better parenting.

Students take a quiz on legal ages and design parenting lessons.

Learning aims

  • Ages of responsibility for different activities
  • Minimum legal ages for different activities
  • Child, parental and group responsibility
  • The consequences of not taking responsibility

Parent looking at the age ratings video games

Legal ages quiz

Students take this quick quiz on legal ages. There's an online version or a worksheet version of the quiz that can printed on two sides of A4.

Quiz answers:

  • 1 - C
  • 2 - B
  • 3 - B
  • 4 - C
  • 5 - C
  • 6 - A
  • 7 - A
  • 8 - C
  • 9 - A
  • 10 - B

Main activity

When should your parents take the blame?

Ask students: Are there any occasions when parents should be punished for their children's actions?

Make a class list of their suggestions.


  • Skipping school
  • Poor school work
  • Poor homework
  • Hanging out with the wrong kind of friends
  • Bad behaviour e.g. bullying
  • Committing crime
  • Under-age drinking
  • Under-age sex
  • Watching films that are too old
  • Playing games that are too old
  • Watching too much TV
  • Downloading music illegally
  • Bad habits e.g. smoking
  • Eating too much junk food
  • Not exercising enough
Students rate parental responsibility for each item in the class list.

They do this by marking responsibility on a barometer using the scale below, with the left hand 5 being a child's full responsibility, 0 being dual responsibility and the right hand 5 being complete parental responsibility.

5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 - 0 - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

Responsibility barometer

Design a parenting class

In the US, researchers have found that some children whose mums, dads and carers went to parenting classes were better behaved. Their school work and exam results also improved.

Blackboard and chalk

In pairs, students design two lessons for a parenting workshop. They select TWO items from the class list they have just made, which score highly on the parental responsibility end of the barometer, and decide what they would teach parents about them.

Using the printable worksheet, they write down a rule, reason for the rule, suitable punishment for not following the rule, consequence of not following the rule and teaching method. Below is an example:

Subject: Health

Rule: You should...not smoke in the house.

Reason: It is important to do this because...your children will inhale the smoke.

Punishment: If you don't do this, you will be...fined 50.

Consequence: If you don't do this your child could...end up with lung cancer.

Teaching method: The way I would get this across is by...showing parents a video of a child in hospital because of passive smoking.

Extension activity

One pair of students joins up with two other pairs. In the parenting workshop there is only enough time for four lessons. Students decide which four will they keep and which two they will bin?

They also decide on the lesson order.

Ask students:

  • Which is the most important lesson?
  • Would this be good to teach at the beginning of the workshop or should it be saved until last?
Students present their parenting workshop, explaining how they came up with the finished schedule.


Ask students to think of areas where the whole class should take group responsibility.

Curriculum relevance


4a. Take responsibility

The number refers to the National Curriculum guidelines for PSHE at KS3.

Teachers' background

Below are snippets of articles about parental responsibility which can be used to prompt discussion.

Skipping school

In Nottinghamshire, parents whose children are absent from 50 per cent of their classes over eight weeks can be fined 50.

The fine is due to be given to parents if their children fail to turn up for a quarter of their lessons over a six-week period.

Education bosses said it was the responsibility of parents and carers to get their children to school.

BBC News Online, 13 June 2005

Downloading music

A mum who doesn't know anything about computers is facing a 4,000 fine and a jail term because her 14-year-old daughter illegally downloaded music.

Newsround website, 21 June 2005

In the US, the record industry says it can sue anyone, including kids. Some parents have had to pay big fines because their kids were downloading illegally.

Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain and Italy have already taken similar action, says the International Federation for the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

In Italy at least 75 people have been taken to court.

Newsround guide: Could I be sued for downloading music? 8 June 2005


Parents often ignore age warnings on computer games and let their kids play 18-rated games, research shows.

Games which are rated 18 are often violent and scary but lots of parents still let their children play them.

"Most parents think their child is mature enough so that these games will not influence them," researcher Jurgen Freund told a games conference.

But a Nintendo spokesman said the games industry needed to look at ways to make parents more aware of games content.

Newsround website, 22 June 2005

Health, smoking

Millions of children living in the UK are affected by smoking every day, even though they don't light up themselves.

Almost half of all children live in a house where they are exposed to tobacco smoke, according to the organisers of No Smoking Day, which is on 9 March.

The chief executive of the charity, Ben Youdan, told Newsround living with parents who smoke is the same as puffing on 80 cigarettes a year.

In January 2005, a survey of kids living all across Europe found they were three times more likely to get lung cancer than children who live in smoke-free homes.

Newsround website, 9 March 2005

School discipline

Bad parents were blamed for badly-behaved pupils by an important head teacher on Monday. David Hart, of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said many parents let their kids skip school and don't make sure they do their homework.

He also said that parents didn't back teachers up when their kids needed to be punished, and went against teachers.

He said: "Teachers continue to be blamed, unfairly, for under-achievement that is so often home based."

Newround website, 3 May 2004

Health, obesity

Many parents struggle to know which foods are healthy for their children, a survey shows.

When they are able to opt for healthy choices, about two-thirds struggle to get their children to eat healthily, a poll of nearly 800 parents found.

Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 20 years, official figures show.

BBC News Online, 28 September 2005

For hundreds more news based lessons, click on Teachers on the left-hand side.

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