Under a dramatic extension of the state's power to intervene in family life to be unveiled this week, education chiefs will be able to force parents whose children have been expelled from school to take parenting lessons. The new powers will be controversial with accusations of a 'boot camp' approach and fears of damaging trust between parents and teachers if schools are seen to be judging families on how they bring up their children.
However, ministers will argue that it is unfair to children not to tackle inadequate parenting and that 'tough love' measures can divert them before they slide too deep into trouble. 'We will try to help first and, if that help is refused, we look to a legal sanction,' said a spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills. The move, which is to be introduced on Friday, springs from alarm about anti-social behaviour.
Last week a 13-year-old girl became subject to an order banning her from going into Leeds city centre or travelling on a bus unless accompanied by a responsible adult; wearing hooded tops that disguise her face; and mixing with other named children.
Until now, youth offending teams could only seek parenting orders against children convicted of a crime, but from Friday they can intervene with those merely considered at risk of getting into trouble.