Teen pregnancies up as ‘education’ strategy fails

Teenage pregnancy rates in England and Wales increased in 2007, suggesting that handing out contraceptives and information about sex to young people is not working.

The Government’s Teenage Pregnancy Strategy aimed to cut teen conceptions in half by 2010, but is likely to fall desperately short of this target.

Yet the Department of Health has today announced a further investment of £20.5 million into the provision of sex clinics, long-term contraceptive implants and advertising campaigns.

Ministers are ploughing ahead with this approach despite research showing it is unlikely to help reduce teen pregnancy rates.

David Paton, professor of economics at Nottingham University’s Business School, commented on the approach last year: “There has been a tendency for the Government’s teenage pregnancy strategy to focus on creating schemes where teenagers can get the morning after pill or other forms of family planning at school or clinics.

“The danger with this sort of approach is that it can lead to an increase in risky sexual behaviour amongst some young people.

“There is now overwhelming evidence that such schemes are simply not effective in cutting teenage pregnancy rates.”

The Government has also decided to make sex education a statutory part of the national curriculum, beginning with primary school children.

According to new figures released today by the Office for National Statistics, 41.9 girls per 1,000 aged 15 to 17 became pregnant in 2007, compared with 40.9 in 2006.

Among girls aged 13 to 15 the rate rose from 7.8 per 1,000 girls to 8.3. Around 8,196 girls aged under 16 became pregnant in 2007.

Half the under-18 conceptions in 2007 led to a legal abortion, compared with 48 per cent in 2006.

Commenting on the figures, children’s minister Beverley Hughes said parents must be told how to speak openly to their children about sex.

She said: “This is not just about the mechanics of sex, it is about relationships, moral values and about making clear what is right and wrong and what you expect from young people, but it is doing that in a way that enables them to take part in the dialogue.”

Her comments come after it emerged earlier this week that a Government-backed leaflet is telling parents to avoid teaching their children about right and wrong when discussing sex.

Mike Judge of The Christian Institute said: “The Government seems to be doing all it can to undermine parents and create an atmosphere for young people where they feel they are expected to be having sex.

“These young people need to know the emotional, psychological and medical risks involved with underage sex, and the benefits of waiting until marriage.

“Handing out condoms, offering contraceptive injections and pointing them to family planning clinics is not the way to encourage young people to delay sexual activity.”