pregnancies increase after sex education classes
Teenage pregnancies have risen
fastest in areas of the country where the Government
has specifically targeted resources to reduce them,
a new survey has revealed.
The report, to be
published tomorrow, says that the explicit sex
education leaflets and
free condoms provided to under-age girls by the
Government schemes have simply encouraged them to
The report, Sex Education or
Indoctrination?, from the Family Education Trust, an
independent think-tank, claims that there is a
direct link between giving young people such sex
education and a rise in live births.
Official figures released last week
showed that teenage pregnancies in England rose
year-on-year by more than 800, despite the £15
million spent by the Government on strategies to
There has also been a 62 per cent
increase in the
number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases
among young people aged 19 and under, rising
from 25,143 cases in 1997 to 40,821 in 2002.
The Government's Teenage Pregnancy
Unit, established in 1999, said that pregnancies
among under-18s rose from 38,439 in 2001, of which
46 per cent were aborted, to 39,286 in 2002.
Abortion statistics for 2002 are not yet available.
The figures relate to pregnancies among 15- to
17-year-olds - no national statistics are kept on
girls of 14 and below.
Teenage pregnancy rates in Britain
remain the highest in western Europe. One in
every 10 babies born in England is to a teenage
The Government's aim is to reduce
teenage pregnancies by 50 per cent by 2010, with an
interim target of a 15 per cent reduction by the end
of this year.
The Family Education Trust report
analyses areas where the Teenage Pregnancy Unit have
set up programmes to reduce the number of girls
falling pregnant. The unit's strategy involves more
explicit sex education in schools, often conducted
by nurses without teachers present; free condoms;
and sending birthday cards when girls reach 14
asking them to attend confidential health checks
without their parents.
The trust discovered, however, that
in most places the strategy had backfired. According
to the Government figures, one target area,
Cornwall, saw a 17 per cent rise in teenage
pregnancies between 2001 and 2002 (from 306 to 359);
Torbay rose 22 per cent (from 92 to 113); and
Haringey eight per cent (from 281 to 310). In York
teenage pregnancies rose by 34 per cent (from 93 to
125) over the same period and in Solihull by 17 per
cent (from 121 to 142).
In some targeted areas, there was a
decrease. In Rotherham pregnancies decreased by
eight per cent (from 258 to 235) and in Bury by
three per cent (from 156 to 150).
The author of the report, Valerie
Riches, a former social worker, said: "The
Government's teenage pregnancy strategy is based on
the premise that it is unrealistic to expect young
people to abstain from sex. They have embarked on a
damage-limitation exercise dependent on condom use
and the use of the morning-after pill.
"The figures show, however, that it
might be wiser to support the majority in abstinence
and demonstrate to the minority the physical,
emotional and psychological benefits of delaying sex
She is deeply critical of the
material used by the Teenage Pregnancy Unit,
especially of a guide for girls produced by the
Family Planning Association, a charity that is
partly funded by the Government.
One guide, called "4 Girls", tells
teenagers how to obtain contraception, explains
sexually transmitted diseases, and gives reassuring
advice about sex. Another leaflet tells young girls:
"Contraceptive advice and supplies are free to
everyone. It doesn't matter how old you are . . .
there's no right age to have sex."
Mrs Riches said: "The Family
Planning Association sows confusion in a child's
mind about right and wrong and presents only one
moral absolute - the use of condoms."
The report points out that the
promotion of abstinence among young people in
America has lead to a drop in teenage pregnancies by
10 per cent.
Anne Weyman, the chief executive of
the FPA, defended her charity's advice. She said:
"Good sex and relationships education is most
effective as a multi-faceted approach, from within
home, school and healthcare settings.
"Studies have shown that abstinence
education doesn't work, it makes young people more
vulnerable, because they don't have the knowledge to
protect themselves against pregnancy or sexually
A spokesman for Cathy Hamlyn, the
head of the Teenage Pregnancy Unit, part of the
Department for Education and Skills, said: "The
teenage pregnancy strategy is the first
cross-government strategy to tackle our unacceptably
high rates of teenage pregnancy.
"The strategy helps people to
resist pressure to have early sex through improved
sex and relationship education and supporting
parents in talking to children about these issues."