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TOWN WHERE ONE IN 60 IS PREGNANT WHILE AT SCHOOL; U-16s in Merthyr top list but national rates drop.

Byline: Berny Torre

A TOWN where one schoolgirl in 60 gets pregnant before she's 16 is revealed today as the worst in Britain for underage mums.

And experts warn the problem is getting worse in Merthyr Tydfil, south Wales, with the number of unwanted pregnancies rocketing from one in 100 in two years - even though UK rates are plummeting.

Second place is shared by South Tyneside and St Helens, Merseyside, with one in 87 schoolgirls getting pregnant.

The Office of National Statistics figures were way above the norm for England and Wales, where there were 5,991 underage pregnancies in 2011.

That was an average of one girl in 164 and marked a fall of 16 per cent in the previous 24 months.

Poverty Experts said it was no surprise a town like Merthyr in a rundown old coalfield topped the list.

Nottingham University's Prof David Paton said: "Educational levels are one aspect, poverty levels are another and factors like family break-up and religion are very important as well. Merthyr fits into this pattern of deprived areas having low expectations among teens and perhaps ongoing cycles across generations of early pregnancy."

The best spot to avoid unwanted underage pregnancies was Blackburn, Lancs, with one schoolgirl in 454, followed by Barnet, north London, with one in 416.

Third place was shared by Powys, mid Wales, and north London neighbours Harrow and Camden with 384.

Nationally, two-thirds of underage pregnancies end in abortion. West Berkshire carried out the highest abortion rates for underage girls, with only one in 14 pregnancies carried to full-term.

The Department of Health last night insisted teenage conception rates continue to fall and vowed to slash the number of all unwanted pregnancies.

But Norman Wells, head of the Family Education Trust, said Government strategies had failed and they had to do more.

He added: "Teenage pregnancy rates remain stubbornly high."

features@ people.

TEN WORST Merthyr Tydfil 16.3* St Helens 11.5 South Tyneside 11.5 Newcastle upon Tyne 11 Barnsley 10.8 Manchester 10.6 Sunderland 10.6 Southampton 10.5 Tameside 10.2 Redcar & Cleveland 10 TEN BEST Blackburn with Darwen 2.2 Barnet 2.4 Harrow 2.6 Powys 2.6 Camden 2.6 Buckinghamshire 2.8 Bedford 3 Swansea 3.1 Brent 3.2 Bracknell Forest 3.2 *U-16 pregnancies per 1,000

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SHOCKING: Number of underage mums is up

DEPRIVED: Merthyr
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Publication:The People (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 7, 2013
Words:400
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