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'Schools not sole answer to ending teen pregnancies' EDUCATION MATTERS.

Byline: By Shahid Naqvi Education Correspondent

Too much emphasis is put on sex education by politicians as a "panecea" to cutting Britain's high teenage pregnancy rate, a Midland think tank has warned.

As a result, schools may end up being blamed for the failure of the Government's 10-year campaign to halve the number of gym-slip mothers.

The alert comes from the Coventry-based National Association for Pastoral Care in Education - an organisation that promotes better care of pupils. Writing in the charity's journal, NAPCE member Kerry Vincent said the causes of teenage pregnancies were complex and bigger than just education and much to do with socio-economic factors.

But she said there was a fear that Ministers believed too heavily that schools were the solution to solving the problem.

"The launch of the Blair Government's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy in 1999 marked the beginning of a focused 10-year campaign to reduce conception rates and increase the participation of teenage parents in education, training or employment," said Ms Vincent.

"Featuring prominently in this strategy is the need for better sex and relationship education.

Seven years on, the results of the strategy are mixed - teenage conception rates in some geographical areas have shown some decline while those in other areas have remained static or increased.

"Teenage pregnancy is a complex issue that cannot be separated from its wider social and economic influences. It would therefore be prudent to be realistic about the role of sex and relationship education.

"On its own, it is unlikely to be the sexual health panacea that is sought by politicians."

Britain's teenage pregnancy rate is five times that of Holland and three times higher than France. The Government has blamed lack of education, low aspirations and an increase in sexual images in the media for the legacy.

In 1998, 46.6 per 1,000 of 15 to 17-year-olds in England got pregnant, of which 42.4 per cent were aborted. Ministers set a target of halving this by 2010, but by 2005, figures from the ONS show this had only fallen by 5.5 to 4.1. The abortion rate rose to 46.9.

In the West Midlands, teenage pregnancy was at an above average rate of 51.7 per 1,000 under 18-year-olds in 1998 of which 41 per cent were aborted. By 2005 it had dropped to 45.3, but the abortion rate had risen to 45 per cent.

Three years ago, The Birmingham Post reported how the teenage pregnancy rate in one part of the city - Longbridge - was at a phenomenal 112.5 per 1,000 girls.

Though declining nationally, based on the current rate of fall the Government is set to significantly miss its 2010 target.

Ms Vincent claimed the statistics indicated Governmental emphasis was not working and warned of the danger of schools being held responsible for the failing.

"This situation would be undesirable both for schools and the young people they serve," she said.

"Teenage pregnancy is a complex issue... it would be prudent therefore to be realistic about the role of sex and relationship education NAPCE member Kerry Vincent
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 24, 2007
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