School head blasts double standards of 'lying' parents

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The Independent Online

Girls who attend prestigious private schools are being taught that lying is acceptable by self-centred parents who "connive" to deceive the school, the headteacher of a leading girls' school warned yesterday.

Girls who attend prestigious private schools are being taught that lying is acceptable by self-centred parents who "connive" to deceive the school, the headteacher of a leading girls' school warned yesterday.

Mary Steel, headteacher of the School of St Mary and St Anne in Staffordshire, warned that selfish parents risked creating a "rootless and restless" generation of young people, who do not know the difference between right and wrong.

Mrs Steel told the annual conference of the Girls' Schools Association, which represents more than 200 fee-paying schools, that some parents were happy to lie to explain unfinished work or non-attendance.

Mrs Steel, whose school charges up to £16,899 a year for boarders, said parents concocted elaborate fantasies in order to get their own way.

She said: "If I had a tenner for every parent who said that their daughter doesn't tell lies I would be a rich woman. Yet these are the same parents who connive with their daughters to deceive the school. An increasing number of parents seem to see issues of values as marginal or irrelevant.

"Many parents seem never to consider whether something is right or wrong and have no value system to use as a yardstick to measure their actions."

This dishonesty and lack of community spirit threatens to teach pupils the wrong message, she added.

"Parents choose our schools for their traditions and long and distinguished histories but then they write time after time to say that their daughter will not be at commemoration day or speech day because of some important family event.

"Parents ask is it necessary for their daughter to attend speech day because she's not getting a prize. The suggestion that she might want to be there to support others is met by puzzled silence."

Mrs Steel said most parents were honest and supportive but she was alarmed by the growing minority who were not.

She told the conference in St Andrew's that a growing number of children from wealthy families were starting school having never been read a bedtime story and knowing no nursery rhymes. "We have children arriving aged four who do not know any nursery rhymes, fairy stories or Bible stories. An increasing number of children have never been read to. I think that's a dreadful deprivation.

"I had one father who asked me if he could drop his children off at school by helicopter. Clearly there was no lack of material things, but his three daughters never had a story read to them until they started at our school as boarders.

"Do stories matter? I think that they do. It's not just the shared bond between the reader and the child, it is the stories themselves. Stories are vital because they help children de-code the world around them."

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