HRF participates in a Civitas event at House of Lords

On Wednesday, May 15th, our development director Susan Peatfield attended a Civitas event organised at the House of Lords to start up a public conversation about parenting. It was also overdue as the issues and research data discussed at the meeting spelt out in the open, as it were, a situation that has been self-evident for decades. There has been, and remains, a political reluctance at touching the role of parents. It is both encouraging and depressing that as some choices and behaviours are increasingly understood as having a measurably deleterious effect on children that this public conversation can be held.

Civitas is to be commended for commissioning the School Readiness Survey by Kindred Squared, to add research weight to the argument.

In summary, the survey of over 1000 teachers and 1000 parents revealed what many in the teaching and care professions have been aware of for many years. Too many children are behind before they begin Reception:

  • 46% of children are unable to sit still
  • 38% find it hard to play/share with other children
  • 37% are unable to listen or respond to basic instructions
  • 37% are unable to dress independently
  • 25% are not toilet trained

Alongside many findings comes this figure: 69% of school staff think parents should receive more guidance to help them understand their child’s development.

At the session, sponsored by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts CBE, each member of the panel gave a short account of their context and their response to how best to support parents and prepare children. Broadly it was accepted that action is needed. No one present believed that continuing the current laissez-faire approach to parental responsibilities was possible or desirable. Given that, there were varying responses:

Baroness Blower cited the declining number of health visitors, the cost of living crisis and the closure of family-support centres as having a major contribution to the survey’s findings.

Keith Reed championed raising parents awareness of the critical developmental needs of children. His organisation, the Parent-Infant Foundation, has recently published A Manifesto for Babies, aimed at parents, to address the decline on child health and development.

Fiona Gillespie of Kindred Squared explained how her organisation’s research on school readiness is only one line of inquiry on the need for parental understanding. She welcomes projects from other interested organisations to add more survey data to the debate.

From the floor questions and statements underlined the variety of concerned groups and their specific insights. These included Anne Fennell, Chair of Mothers at Home Matter, who questioned successive government’s determination to provide childcare outside the home rather than making it economically viable for a parent to remain at home during their children’s vital early years.

Dr Samantha Callan OBE, described the work of the Family Hubs Network to support parents in gaining both support and guidance.

Miriam Cates MP summarised the current situation as one where the old model of parenting being “caught not taught” no longer operates. Smaller families, family breakdown, misapprehensions about family life have all contributed to this. Parents do need guidance on how to be parents, as the “osmosis” effect is no longer an option for many families.

Sally-Ann Hart MP explained her Private Member’s Bill she is putting through parliament: the Bill is intended to support a baby’s cognitive, emotional and physical development during the 1,001 critical days from pregnancy up the age of two, by making support information available easier to access.

Home Renaissance Foundation has a distinctive voice and vision to offer to this debate. HRF’s perspective is the need for the reskilling of the home with an emphasis on childcare and child development. For many reasons, as discussed during this event, the home has been deskilled and parents are less confident in how to best make a home that nurtures all its members, including the youngest and most vulnerable.

At HRF we are determined to continue this conversation and to add our experience of training for excellence in the home – the first steps to a healthier, happier and better prepared next generation.