Heads and social workers should not baulk at telling some people they are “bad parents”, chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said yesterday.
Neighbours should also be offered “incentives” to go round to their homes and insist they get their children up for school, he added.
Sir Michael was giving evidence to the Commons education select committee about a recent report by standards watchdog Ofsted on the state of council-run children’s services.
He told the MPs that “some clear messages” had to be sent to “parents who behave badly”, adding: “As a headteacher I used to tell parents that they were behaving badly and that they were bad parents.
“It didn’t often go down extremely well but nevertheless that was my responsibility and it is the responsibility of social workers.”
Pressed on what practical steps could be taken to make sure they lived up to their responsibilities, he added: “In my experience in the most difficult communities you are always going to find good people who want to help.
“How do we incentivise good citizens, good people, good family members to engage with the worst and most difficult members of society?”
He said it was a policy issue for the Government but added: “How do you financially incentivise those people to get up in the morning, knock on their neighbour’s door and say ‘your children are not up yet, they have not had their breakfast yet, why aren’t you taking them to school?’”
Bill Esterson, Labour MP for Sefton Central, told him: “You would certainly get a reaction - an accusation of interference, wouldn’t you?”
During the course of his evidence, Sir Michael, an ex-headteacher, said social workers had to give problem families “tough messages” and set them targets with the threat of action if they failed to meet them.
The Ofsted report said almost six out of 10 councils failed to do enough to protect vulnerable children but Sir Michael added that - while social services must improve - families and communities must also take responsibility for ensuring children were brought up properly.
“As an ex-headteacher I saw the result of children being brought up badly by their parents,” he said. “Society has got to worry about what is happening... Children’s services have got a part to play in helping and supporting those families but family has got a huge part to play and communities have got a huge part to play in supporting children.”
Graham Stuart, the Conservative chairman of the committee, warned that many adults would be reluctant to get involved. “How do you stop and talk to a child in the street without someone suggesting you are trying to groom them?” he asked.
“When I was a child an adult could stop and kick a ball with me for 10 minutes. I’m not sure the same adult would do so now.”