National charities Parentline Plus and the Advisory Centre for Education have demanded changes to the education and inspections bill.
The charities are supported by a coalition of 24 voluntary sector organisations, including some of the most important and influential in the field. They have roundly condemned clauses 96-99 of the legislation which reaches the House of Lords next week.
They claim that enacting these clauses will disproportionately and unfairly penalise parents and children, and do nothing to ensure the safety and supervision of excluded children.
Clause 96 stipulates that parents are committing an offence if their child has been excluded from school for up to five days, and is then found out in a public place. Clause 97 provides for the notice of the offence to be given to the parent, while the other clauses are concerned with the penalty notices, including empowering “authorised officers” (who can be members of the school staff) to hand them out.
Dorit Braun, chief executive of Parentline Plus warned that, while the intention of ensuring children’s safety and well-being as laudable, the clauses risked feeding a “blame the parents culture”.
ACE policy officer Chris Gravell added: “The minister has stated that these measures are needed to address the behaviour of a very small minority of parents and children. In that case the clauses are a sledgehammer to crack a nut, which will potentially cause problems for many other parents and children.”
Parentline Plus and ACE claim the cost of implementing the legislation would be far more effectively spent on supporting children’s special needs and on working with vulnerable families to improve their parenting and communication skills.