Thousands of Scottish children will soon be able to access free condoms and pregnancy tests at school without their parents’ knowledge.
Scottish Ministers have approved the scheme which will see sexual health clinics opening in Scotland’s rural secondary schools.
Critics say this is a misguided attempt to tackle the country’s high rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
Teenagers as young as 13 could be given contraception, pregnancy tests and advice at the clinics without their parents being informed, unless nurses believe they are being exploited or abused.
A Government spokesman said: “We would anticipate that these services would be available to the whole school population, although this would be determined by local consultation.
“The level of health service provided would depend entirely on the setting. A number of schools in Scotland already provide general health advice, including sexual health advice. These may offer pregnancy testing, chlamydia testing and free condoms.
“No school in Scotland provides emergency contraception – the ‘morning-after pill’ – and there are no plans for this to change.”
But critics argue that the clinics will send the wrong message to teenagers and are unlikely to be successful.
Michael McGrath, Director of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, said: “There are other places where pregnancy testing is available with services that young people can access.
“To place them in the context of schools, where there should be a message about discouraging sexual activity, is contradictory and confusing for young people.”
David Paton, Professor of Economics at Nottingham University’s Business School, has carried out research into family planning services. He says: “Pretty much all the research on school-based family planning clinics suggests they have little or no impact on teenage pregnancy rates.
“There is a possibility that such services change the behaviour of some young people and may increase risk-taking sexual behaviour.”