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Parents have duty to play with children

May 1, 2015 by

Children are arriving at school unable to speak properly because parents are not playing and talking to them enough, Labour’s Tristram Hunt has said.

Many heads believe the problem has got “markedly worse” in the last 10 years, said the shadow education secretary.

Parents need to get “down on all fours” and engage with their children from an early age, he said.

Mr Hunt spoke to journalists after addressing the National Association of Head Teachers’ annual conference.

Parenting skills

After his speech to the conference in Liverpool, he told reporters: “Whenever I talk to head teachers one of the big issues is the development and underdevelopment of speaking and listening skills, those motor skills, and what that comes from is playing and talking to children, getting down on all fours from goo-goo, ga-ga onwards.”

He suggested the problem could be down issues like technology, time-poor working parents or a lack of understanding about the importance of engaging with babies and toddlers.

Parents need to engage more with their children from an early age, said Mr Hunt

He said mothers and fathers have a duty to ensure that they are playing and talking to their young children.

“I’m struck by how often head teachers say this has got markedly worse over the last decade, and whether that’s a story of technology, with TVs and smartphones, whether it’s poverty through both parents both working and not having enough time or whether it’s about a failure to understand the importance of this, I’m not sure, but it’s definitely a challenge in the education system.”

Mr Hunt insisted that this is why the Labour Party has been critical of the closure of Sure Start children’s centres, saying that 750 have now shut their doors.

“We do think that teaching parenting and promoting attachment and having mums learn from mums and dads learn from dads, and children learn from children in children’s centres is an important way in which the skills of parenting are crowd-sourced amongst communities.”

Academic evidence has shown that a stable and loving family structure, and good attachments to parents, are important for a child’s progress, said Mr Hunt.

“There’s a lot of criticism sometimes directed towards teachers about attainment, but I think that there are responsibilities in terms of playing and talking to children that parents have a duty to engage with.”

Policy guide: Education

This election issue includes funding for schools, university tuition fees and early years education.

Mr Hunt said that, given the importance of a child’s early years, it was important that politicians speak out and tackle these kinds of issues.

On Sunday the conference is due to hear from Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and from Schools Minister David Laws.

The union’s general secretary, Russell Hobby said: “We are pleased to welcome the education leads from the three main parties to our conference.

“On the eve of the general election it is vital to hear what the politicians have to say.

“It is just as vital for those in power to listen to what school leaders are saying about the key issues facing education.”

Mr Hobby said it was encouraging to see Tristram Hunt addressing some of these issues.

“We hope that David Laws and Nicky Morgan will do the same when they address our delegates on Sunday,” he said.

Source: Parents have duty to play with children, says Hunt – BBC News

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