A PIONEERING virtual school could be set to break the "cycle of poverty” in Wirral by giving teenage mums extra support.

The new scheme – Springboard – was proposed to the council's cabinet by Birkenhead Labour MP Frank Field on Thursday night.

He wants to establish a free school which will teach young people parenting skills and ensure children are ready for their first day of school.

It is hoped the project would begin during the early stages of pregnancy and would go some way to halting the cycle of "intergenerational poverty."

Mr Field's plans follow his work with local young people who told him they wanted to learn how to make life-long friendships and how to be good parents.

He said: "The idea is not to worry about buildings but to begin a service from the 12th week of pregnancy where we can work with expectant mothers. We are witnessing a breakdown in good parenting here and elsewhere and something should be done.

"During the first years of a child’s development, their life chances are determined – particularly those from the poorest backgrounds.

"We want to work with parents when their baby is still in the womb to make them more useful than they would otherwise be.

"Although this would be a virtual school, it would still have a governing body and we would hope all parties would be a part of that.

"It will be very much a Wirral project of cutting edge ideas – no-one has done it before and it thinking very much outside of the box."

Under the proposals, the school will operate from a number of centres with its headquarters based at Tranmere Community Centre and the most vulnerable mothers and children would gain enhanced support.

And the Birkenhead Education Trust, which will run Springboard, is also working with St Anselm’s College and Prenton High School on a pilot scheme to find out how parenting skills can be integrated into the curriculum.

If successful, Springboard is expected to be rolled out across the country to improve skills among young people and create better life chances for future generations.

Following Mr Field's proposals, cabinet recommended that £300,000 of the £400,000 budget set aside for the Roots and Wings strategy be allocated to the project.

And it is hoped that it would eventually be given free school status to allow for central government funding Backing the plans, council leader Jeff Green said: "I am very excited by this idea because it is so new. I'm particularly taken by the idea of intergenerational inheritance of poverty and that for certain families there is no way to break out of this cycle.

"This can make a start to help to reduce poverty and will be the opportunity for Wirral to be at the forefront of it."

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