Fathers who are 'behind-the-times' are putting pressure on families

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Fathers who have failed to adapt to the modern world are putting pressure on their families by not playing a full role in the upbringing of their children, a leading private-school head teacher said yesterday.

Brian Maybee made the remarks after taking over as chairman of the prep schools' association. Its former head, Paddy Holmes, was forced to resign last week amid a furore caused by her remarks that mothers were farming their children out "like young animals", so that they could go to work.

Mrs Holmes said that young children needed to remain with their mothers and that they were not getting the care they needed in private nursery schools, where they can start from the age of two.

Yesterday Mr Maybee appeared to criticise his colleague as he praised working mothers for their efforts to cope with both children and a career. He cast the blame on fathers for the strain which is often placed on modern families.

"In this family still, more often than not, there is a father. What is his position? Is he aware of the changing role of the male in such a situation? I suspect that where there is real pressure, it is often because the father is behind the times," he said.

In most cases, mothers who were reassessing their own positions had to reorganise their lives so that they could both work and spend time with their children, he said. Fathers, on the other hand, needed to reassess the part that they played in family life.

The age at which a child went to nursery was not important, he said, because some children were as mature at two as most others were at four. Independent schools ought to concentrate on highlighting the ways in which each child was unique as well as the ways in which they could help each one to develop, he said.

Too often, prep schools were seen by the public as an escape route for parents who could afford to pay. An expansion of the assisted places scheme to the early years might help to dispel this image, he added.