§ 11.15 a.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Worcester
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they agree that the role and responsibilities of parents are essential to the healthy growth and development of children, and whether they intend to introduce education for parenthood into the national curriculum.
My Lords, we share the right reverend Prelate's views on the importance of parents to children. There is already emphasis within the wider curriculum on teaching young people the skills they need to he good parents. We have no plans to introduce education for parenthood as a discrete subject within the statutory national curriculum.
§ The Lord Bishop of Worcester
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his Answer. Is he aware that a recent report by the family studies support group indicated that today our society is so complex and our culture so fragmented that one cannot assume that just because children and young people have parents they can be parents themselves? Furthermore, I have no doubt that he will be aware of the Childrens' Society report Running the Risk, which indicated that many young people run away from home and put themselves at risk because of family breakdown. Can he reassure us on that?
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will want to pay tribute to the Church of England Children's Society which over many years has done a great deal to help children in distress, and which over that time has accumulated a great fund of expertise to which the Government pay much attention. Indeed, the Government welcomed the report Running the Risk in an extensive speech by my honourable friend Mr. Bowis, a copy of which is in the Library for anyone who wishes to see its details. So far as concerns education for parenthood, we feel that it is important to give to children while they are at school a basic understanding of how to take responsibility, how to form relationships, and some feeling of the reality of what it is to be a parent. In terms of the intensive availability of information on what a parent needs to do, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health has announced recently a new initiative to increase the availability of that information through as many channels as may be appropriate.
§ Lord Merlyn-Rees
My Lords, has the noble Lord noticed—as I have because of my background of 30 years representing a northern inner city —that there are many parents with a low income and without a good formal education who are excellent parents and who love and look after their children? Equally there are those who have been to good schools and had a good education, and who have plenty of money, whose 1473 memoirs reveal that they set bad examples to their children. There may be more to good parenthood than O-levels.
§ Lord Northbourne
My Lords, I was pleased to hear the noble Lord refer to relationship education and an understanding of children's needs as being an appropriate subject for school teaching. Does he agree that one of the reasons why that discipline has taken a back seat in many schools is that teachers are nervous and unsure about teaching it? Are the Government prepared to consider making a small amount of additional funding available for a once-and-for-all pump priming of teacher training to give teachers support in teaching the subject?
My Lords, these are important subjects. I am sure that the new Teacher Training Agency, when deciding how teacher training should progress in the future, will take into account the views that the noble Lord has expressed.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, I accept that it may not be appropriate for education for parenthood to be part of the national curriculum, and I welcome the Government's initiative on the part of the Secretary of State for Health. However, does the Minister accept that it might be desirable for the Government to issue guidelines to schools on education for parenthood, including not only advice on the education of older pupils but guidelines on how teachers might work with young parents of children in schools on what constitutes good parenting?
My Lords, the Government must be extremely careful in putting forward one or any particular model of what it is to be a good parent. In this area, voluntary groups, and in particular the Churches, have a role to play. There are many views on what constitutes a good parent and I do not believe that the Government should try to set forward one standard model.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, I am sorry for rising again. Will the Minister accept that I was not asking for guidelines on what constitutes good parenting? I was asking for guidance to be issued to schools on how they might institute work with parents and older pupils on the importance of good parenting and of parenthood in our society.
My Lords, that is something which good schools do already. We hope that the practice will spread, not least because it is one of the primary areas that Ofsted will look at during the course of its inspections.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, is the Minister aware that a great deal of good work is being carried out in some adult education colleges; for instance, the City Lit in London? Parents are brought into schools to work with the children, which is a good opportunity to 1474 educate both the parents and the children. I hope that such work will be encouraged by the Department for Education.