Parenting prize for father raising seven children alone

By JAMES TOZER, Daily Mail

Last updated at 14:09 26 May 2006

As a gardener, Graham Burney was used to nurturing little seedlings. But when his wife died suddenly last year, the 40-year-old was left with a rather different crop to raise.

He gave up work to care for the couple's seven children, making breakfasts, doing housework, and helping them cope with the loss of their mother. And despite a tough year, the family is blooming.

Mr Burney has been awarded a prize for outstanding parenting for his efforts with his daughter and six sons.

He was nominated by his younger children's headmistress, who describes him as a "model parent".

"His children are always polite, on time and very well-presented, and Graham is very supportive to the school - he definitely deserves recognition for the wonderful job he is doing," said Shelagh Keegan, of Lily Lane Junior School in Moston, Manchester.

"He is a model parent in very difficult circumstances." It is just over a year since Mr Burney's wife Michelle developed a lung condition and died three weeks later, aged

36. With the help of relatives, Mr Burney set about raising Daniel, now 18, Ashley, 17, Adam, 12, Nathan, 11, Calum, nine, Dylan, seven, and four-year-old Bethany as best as he could.

Yesterday the newly titled "parent of the year" played down his efforts, saying: "My mum and dad and Michelle's dad all help out. They take the kids off my hands all the time and my mum gets the washing."

'Gruelling daily routine'

Nevertheless it is a gruelling daily routine - he gets up at 5.30am to make the children's breakfasts and get them ready for school with the help of his eldest sons.

The family live in a six-bedroom council house in Moston and receive benefits topped up with money from Daniel's job.

Mr Burney admits his wife's death hit them hard. "The kids were all over the place. They were used to seeing her at home." But he added: "We all try and be the best parent we can be, don't we? I've got to do my best for my wife."

The parenting award was organised by Manchester city council, which received more than 220 entries. Along with a plaque, the family were given a trip to go bowling.

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