Marriage lessons for children

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Former Labour minister, Frank Field, says marriage and parenting lessons should be introduced in schools, developmental checks brought in for every child at two-and-a-half and benefits withdrawn from ineffectual mothers and fathers.

In a major report for the Prime Minister, David Cameron, the MP highlights shocking research showing that it is possible to predict whether children will hold down jobs and how successful they will be as adults by the age of two-and-a-half.

He says the decline in parental standards began in the late 1960s with the ‘loss of deference’, leaving children increasingly confused about what was acceptable behaviour.

He told the Daily Mail there was clear evidence that two parents are generally more successful than one at bringing up children – and argued that pupils should be taught so in schools.

A key recommendation of his report is that Sure Start centres – currently run by local authorities – should be handed over to GPs, groups of parents and charities, who would run them as co-operatives.

They should, in future, play host to ante-natal and post-natal classes, registration of births and applications for child benefit so that all parents engage with them.

Parents would be offered midwifery and maternity advice, a home visiting service and a wide network of voluntary support.

Mr Field said: "I think we have to move to a welfare contract. When you go to work, you have an employment contract. When you get benefit, you should have a welfare contract."

Other points made by Mr Field include:

  • Health visitors should conduct compulsory checks on all toddlers’ cognitive, language, social and emotional development.
  • Free nursery care and even welfare payments should be withdrawn from problem parents who refused to co-operate.

Mr Field went on to say: "Children should come through school with quite a lot of knowledge about parenting. We don’t want it as a subject – it should be taught as parts of other subjects.

"So in science, children would learn about the importance of those early years on a child’s brain, and in English, they’d read books contrasting different styles of parenting.

"One of the things that would be taught at schools is that all other things being equal, two parents do a better job than one parent.

"That doesn’t mean to say that some one-parent families don’t do brilliantly, or that some two-parent families aren’t hopeless. But as a group, it does make a difference."