Thursday, 9 August 2012


In response to last summer’s riots, the government has decided to create Ofspare (the Office for Standards in Parenting).

Parents will be regularly inspected with their standard of parenting being graded on a 7 point scale. Any parent who scores 1 will have their children immediately removed from them.  A score of 2 will result in them being placed on ‘notice to improve’ with their parenting being inspected every four weeks and their children being taken away from them if they do not rapidly improve their scores.

The strongest and most convincing complaints have come from those parents who allow their children a lot of freedom.  They are worried that while the skills of strict parents are obvious, their skills are more subtle and less easy to identify and correctly grade.  They say that they like to watch their children and allow them to make mistakes and explore the world as much as possible, intervening only when necessary and usually through subtle methods of encouraging their children to reflect on the consequences of their behaviour which a stranger would be unlikely to spot and may confuse with poor parenting.  They are arguing that the purpose of inspection should be to eliminate unacceptable behaviour and some of them think that this is best done through support rather than the immediate punishment of the confiscation of children.  They think that acceptable parenting should not be graded as the grade definitions proposed will reduce diversity of practice, freedom and innovation and enhance the likelihood of parents moving towards stricter, more overt and excessively interventionist styles of parenting which are easier to accredit.  They are also concerned that parents who do not understand the challenges associated with raising children with specific needs or raising children in difficult economic and social circumstances will negatively judge good parents who are coping with very challenging circumstances.

Parents have also complained that the schedule of high stakes inspections will force them to focus on passing those inspections rather than on their other activities which contribute to society which they feel that ultimately their children will benefit from seeing them participate in.

In response to their criticisms two concessions were made.  The first was that the definition of the highest rating has been loosened to allow it to encompass excellent parenting which allows significant freedom.  The protestors say this is not good enough as parents who allow more freedom need to progress as well (they don’t suddenly emerge as being outstanding parents) and the issue whereby not all inspectors may have they experience to assess this type of parenting has not been properly addressed. They are, however, more positive about the provision that parents should be allowed to select from accredited inspection bodies – allowing them to reject those which do not have the relevant expertise to assess their practice.

However in a last minute unexpected twist the second decision to allow parents to select their own inspection body has been reversed.  A couple of proponents of strict parenting who had been defeated during the consultation processes quietly submitted an amendment to force all parents to be assessed by one regulator.  They managed to get that amendment scheduled for debate at midnight on the night before Ascot so that it went through without anyone noticing soon enough to object.

So now Ofspare exists.  What do you think will happen next?

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