Legal duty planned for parents over children's education

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Indy Politics

Parents will have a new legal duty to help make sure their children stay in education until the age of 18 under plans unveiled today.

Employers will be required to let young people attend training for at least one day a week while teenagers will face fines for refusing to turn up, under a new Education and Skills Bill.

But the proposals, confirmed in the Queen's Speech, have run into opposition from children's campaigners and the Conservatives, while parents have questioned the plans.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "This Bill is a key part of the Government's commitment to achieve world-class levels of skills and to bring about greater economic productivity and dramatic improvements to individual life chances."

Teenagers who refuse to stay on face spot fines of £50 and possible court fines of £200.

Margaret Morrissey, from the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said she supported the Government's aims to see more teenagers gaining qualifications.

But she went on: "Unfortunately, 99% of the youngsters who drop out are probably the ones whose parents will have tipped them out of the door.

"How are they going to get these parents to take responsibility?"

Officials said parents found to be "wilfully obstructing" their children's participation in education would be served with parenting contracts.

Unions expressed concerns at the plans.

Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary, said he had two problems: "First there is no evidence that using compulsion on young adults will work.

"Second the proposal was not in the 2005 election manifesto.

"GMB advocate sticking to the voluntary approach spelled out in that manifesto."

Employers will be under a duty to release teenagers for the equivalent of one day a week to take part in training.

* The Education and Skills Bill also includes reforms to the registration of independent schools.

Earlier draft plans suggested that independent schools would have to register with Ofsted. Headteachers of leading private schools have expressed concern at the plan.

* Separate measures allow for a major expansion of apprenticeships.

All 16 to 18-year-olds will be entitled to an apprenticeship. Ministers want half a million apprenticeships to be available across the UK by 2020.

* A Children and Young Persons Bill will aim to reform the care system.

Children will have a greater say in decisions affecting their future in care under the Bill.

The plans will also aim to stop children moving schools mid-way through their GCSE courses, which can severely disrupt their education.

* Legislation will be introduced to enable unclaimed money in dormant bank accounts to be used to improve youth facilities.

The measures would cover bank and building society accounts where there has been "no customer-related activity for 15 years". But customers would be able to reclaim their money at any point.