Compulsory lessons for parents of unruly pupils

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The Independent Online

Parents who fail to ensure their children behave at school or turn up on time for classes will be forced to attend compulsory lessons on how to bring up their children, the Secretary of State for Education, Ruth Kelly, says today in The Independent on Sunday.

Responding to our six-week IoS series Inside Britain's Schools, which exposed rising levels of classroom violence and indiscipline, Ms Kelly says parents of disruptive pupils will be made to "face up to their responsibilities to their children and their community".

Her threat follows shocking new evidence, first revealed in the IoS, that a teacher is seriously assaulted every seven minutes of the school day, and that the number of assaults has doubled within the space of a year.

Many schools are already starting to make use of new-style contracts, which insist parents bring their children to school on time and reinforce the school's discipline code.

"For the very small number of parents who deliberately ignore such voluntary measures, local authorities can apply for compulsory Parenting Orders to ensure that they attend parenting programmes and comply with any other requirements set out in the order," she writes.

Her "zero tolerance" stance on school discipline has been criticised both by Sir Alan Steer, the new head of the Government's task force on school discipline and headteacher of Seven Kings High School in Ilford, Essex, and Marie Stubbs, who turned around St George's School at Maida Vale, west London, where former head Philip Lawrence was murdered.

Both say "zero tolerance" is an expression that has little meaning. Lady Stubbs underlined the point in a public lecture at the University of East Anglia last week.