Pregnancy is not an optional extra like music lessons or ballet classes nor should it play a part in the school curriculum, a newspaper columnist has warned.
Harriet Sergeant’s comments come in response to controversial guidelines issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) earlier this week, encouraging schools and colleges to hold antenatal classes for pregnant pupils.
Writing in the Daily Mail she asked “is it really the job of a government body to make out that schoolgirls having babies is so normal and acceptable that we should be paying for classes for them?”
She added: “We are meant to look after children. That should never mean encouraging children to have children themselves.
“Surely schoolgirls will see these classes and presume that the message from the school is: It’s OK to get pregnant.”
NICE wants the scheme to run in schools in areas with high levels of teenage pregnancy but family campaigners have criticised the plan warning that it would simply normalise teenage pregnancy.
Harriet Sergeant continued: “Let us be absolutely clear on this. Having a baby as a teenager is a tragedy for a girl, her child and society. But NICE is reflecting a view held by many social workers and government agencies I have come across, which elevates single motherhood from an unfortunate mistake to an act of self-fulfilment.”
Such groups see it as a “therapeutic experience” where a young mother who has been through a childhood of drugs and self-harm, will emerge more confident and mature, she said.
The commentator pointed to worrying figures, warning: “Babies born to teenage mothers are 60 per cent more likely to die in their first year than those born to other parents.”
She continued: “Mothers of children on the ‘at risk’ register are five times more likely to be single teenage mothers. The mothers themselves have 30 per cent higher levels of mental illness two years after the birth than the national average — another health issue from which NICE appears to have averted its eyes.”
Earlier this week other family campaigners voiced their outrage at the plans.
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.”
Also this week it was revealed teenagers are being offered a new GCSE-style qualification in sex, which teaches them how to use condoms and obtain the morning-after pill.
The course is a Level 1 qualification, equivalent to a GCSE graded between D and G, and is on offer at nine schools and colleges this term, with plans to expand it across the country.
Critics have warned that the qualification, entitled Level One Award in Sexual Health Awareness, undermines parental authority and encourages sexual promiscuity among youngsters.
Norman Wells cautioned: “In spite of its name, this new qualification is more about promoting sexual experimentation and the use of contraception by children than it is about promoting sexual health.”