Former Labour minister prepares review on 'how to prevent poor children becoming poor adults'.

The coalition's poverty adviser, Frank Field, will call for all children
to be given parenting classes at school when he presents a
government-commissioned review into poverty to the prime minister later
this year.

The theme of Field's review is "how to prevent poor
children becoming poor adults". He recommends a move away from a mainly
financial approach to tackling child poverty, favoured by the last
government, to a strategy that focuses on parenting, and on the early
childhood years, up to the age of five.

"Being a parent, apart
from running the army in Afghanistan, is the most important thing we
will ask anyone to do and we assume people get the knowledge by osmosis –
and they don't," the former Labour minister said.

He said he was
disturbed by research showing how accurate a prediction can be made as
to where a child will be in their 20s, by looking at their ability at 22
months and just before five years.

Narrowing divisions in children's readiness for school at five was central to tackling divisions in later life, he said.

report by the Sutton Trust charity, published last week, showed that
poorer children are twice as likely to start school with behavioural
problems, and warned that the gap had widened over the past 10 years.
Field interprets those findings as evidence that although the Labour
government was successful in reducing the overall number of children
living in poverty, parallel work needs to be done on reducing
non-financial inequalities.

He argued that with generous
investment, the foundation years – the first five years of a child's
life – could "become more powerful than class in determining where
children will be at five, 10, 16 and where they will be at 20".

Part of the problem was a decline in people's understanding of good parenting, he said.

has been a rupturing of the level of parenting skills in my lifetime.
There was a collective wisdom about the beneficial effects of tough love
– you set boundaries for your children, but you loved them within those

During his research for the review, he met numerous teachers who said those boundaries were no longer being set.

think it is more difficult to parent now than it was. The pressures on
you are greater. It is expected that people, mothers, should work, and
rather quickly after birth, even if they are on their own. Postwar
housing developments have split up communities. You are bombarded with
demands from television about the things that children should have. It
puts a much greater pressure on parents. To add to that you may not have
had a good role model yourself
," he said.

"I've met lots of heads
who say children are worse prepared for school now than they were 30
years ago. Children should be able to sit still, they should know their
own name, they should be able to take their coat off, they should
understand the word 'stop', they have to be able to hold a crayon."
Teachers had told him they were increasingly obliged to teach children
these skills, he said.

In recommendations that he will present to
the education secretary, Michael Gove, this week, Field will suggest
that parenting should be taught as a theme within other subjects – "not
as a separate ghetto subject", so students would look, for example, at
the development of a child's brain within their science GCSEs. The
teaching would help children understand what would equip them to be a
"five-star parent".

"While money is important," he said, "I will
be arguing in the report that there are other circumstances which, the
research shows, are as important as money in determining outcomes: the
interest you take in your children, how you bond with them, whether you
read to them, the interest you show in what they are doing at school."

government is committed to the same goal of eradicating child poverty
in the UK by 2020 as set out by Labour, and has increased child tax
credits paid to families falling below the poverty line.

who was a director of the Child Poverty Action Group charity before he
went into politics, said he thought the extra money should have been
spent on Sure Start projects, aimed at helping children in their early

"I would have argued, though I wasn't in the game to argue, a
different split of that money, between tax credits and the foundation
years, because if we are serious about transforming the lives of poorer
children, it won't simply come by increasing tax credits, however
generous they are."


Source: The Guardian –

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