Schools and colleges should hold antenatal classes for pregnant pupils, according to controversial new guidelines issued by the Government’s health body.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), wants the scheme to run in schools in areas with high levels of teenage pregnancy.
However, the suggestion has outraged family campaigners, who warn that it would simply normalise teenage pregnancy.
Patricia Morgan, a social researcher and author, cautioned: “This makes teenage pregnancy socially acceptable and fuels the ‘baby club’ mentality.
“We need to decide what we are trying to say to teenagers. Is pregnancy at this age right or wrong? Is the aim of the Government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy simply to make teenagers happy about it?”
And Norman Wells, director of the Family Education Trust, said: “Schools exist to assist and support parents in the education of their children, not to be the panacea for every social ill.
“The more schools are called on to shoulder the burden of problems created by a permissive society, the more they will lose their focus on imparting knowledge and teaching children to think in a rational and logical way”
NICE claims it is necessary to hold the classes in schools and colleges because teenage girls are often deterred from going to their GP or local antenatal classes by a fear of being judged.
And while admitting the classes may not always be appropriate, Dr Rhona Hughes, chairman of the guideline development group, claimed that they could be beneficial in some cases.
She said: “It would not be appropriate for many teenagers, 18, 19, and 20-year-olds, but we did find examples in the literature of good practice where clinics were held in schools and young women were more likely to access care.”
The new guidelines include a number of other recommendations designed to increase the uptake of antenatal care among those in difficult social circumstances.
Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Western Europe, with more than 41,000 babies being born to women under the age of 18 each year.
Earlier this week it was disclosed that teenagers are being offered a new GCSE-style qualification in sex.
The course is a Level 1 qualification, equivalent to a GCSE graded between D and G, and it teaches pupils how to use condoms and obtain the morning-after pill.
The course is running at nine schools and colleges this term, with plans to expand it across the country.
Critics warned that the qualification, entitled Level One Award in Sexual Health Awareness, undermines parental authority and encourages sexual promiscuity among youngsters.
The qualification, which makes no mention of marriage, is aimed at children between the ages of 14 and 16 who are not yet ready to take full GCSEs.
As part of the course children are asked to name sexual organs, describe two examples of “risky sexual behaviour” and outline two modes of contraception.
Pupils will also study sexually transmitted infections, and learn about the age at which they can access sexual health services “without parental consent”.