Ofsted chief Michael Wilshaw is speaking sense by saying we should call out bad parenting

Perhaps parent-teacher evenings should, where appropriate, be as much about the parents as about the children

Share
Related Topics

How would you react to being scolded for your child-rearing techniques? Not well, I’d say. The Chief Schools Inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has told the Commons Education Select Committee that head teachers and social workers shouldn’t baulk from telling people they’re bad parents. I couldn’t agree more, in principle at least, though there are ways and ways of doing things – the best way, I’d have thought, being one that doesn’t involve a punch on the nose.

Sir Michael also said that neighbours should take it upon themselves to get involved, and that the Government should pay them to do so: “How do you financially incentivise those people to get up in the morning, knock on the 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?’” It’s a great idea, though I’d like to see it work in practice without the police being called, and I’m not sure I’d find myself on someone’s doorstep dishing out lectures. The parents most in need of correction are the least likely to react well to having their errors pointed out.

Sir Michael has form in this matter, having spoken last year of “hollowed out and fragmented families” and “a poverty of accountability.” He trundled out the old saw about absent fathers, which I’ve never bought – there are too many terrific single-parent families (and too many fathers who are present but rubbish) for that argument to be convincing. But the accountability issue is one that should be aired – perhaps parent-teacher evenings should, where appropriate, be as much about the parents as about the children. (I’ve always thought that children should be licensed, with would-be parents having to pass fit-and-proper tests, but I don’t quite see that happening, sadly.)

In Milton Keynes one school has warned that any pupil late more than 10 times in a term will incur a £60 fine for the parents. I don’t know how that would work with those on the breadline – poverty brings its own stresses and strains that won’t be solved by slapping fines on cash-strapped parents struggling with their offspring. But the general movement towards making parents accountable for their children is a good one.

My son’s school, for all its insistence on “traditional values”, hasn’t gone as far as instituting financial penalties for lateness. But with a recently arrived head teacher wielding his new broom with zero-tolerant gusto (last year he was in the news for banning street slang at his previous school), latecomers will have their ID card, which allows them to buy food from the canteen, taken away until the last 15 minutes of lunchtime, and their parents will be sent a text informing them of the transgression.

We’ve also been told to expect “unannounced home visits” from the Safer Schools Police Officer in the case of bad attendance records, unacceptable behaviour or welfare concerns. It sounds draconian – I can imagine online forums igniting in anger – but I like it. It reassures me that my son’s school is focussed on turning out the best citizens possible. I’m sure the new head wouldn’t shy away from holding bad parents to account, and I suspect the school will be all the better for it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Customer Support Technician

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Waterlooville based softwa...

Ashdown Group: C# Developer - (C#, VB.Net, SQL, Git, TDD)

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Developer (C#, VB & ASP.Net, SQL Server, TSQL) - Pe...

Recruitment Genius: Associate Sales Consultant

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Associate Sales Consultant i...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The five reasons why I vote

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Daily catch-up: the gap between rich and poor has narrowed (a little) since the banking crisis

John Rentoul
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot