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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
Contraception lesson 'good for pupils'
Emergency contraception
Detailed knowledge of emergency contraception is poor
Giving school pupils a single lesson in emergency contraception could reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy, according to a report.

A study published in the British Medical Journal says the lesson improved pupils' knowledge but did not make them more likely to have sex.

Two sets of pupils aged 14 to 15 were studied to find out how much benefit a lesson in emergency contraception would be.

Pupils who had attended the lessons were compared with a separate group who had no such tuition.

Poor knowledge

The findings suggest that a lesson in emergency contraception could have a positive effect on the number of teenage pregnancies.

The UK has one of the highest levels of teenage pregnancy rates in the developed world.

Emergency contraception it is said could prevent 75% of unplanned pregnancies but detailed knowledge of the subject is poor.

Added to this is the fact that the average age at which young people in England start having sex is now 16 after going down steadily over the years.

An advert for the morning-after pill
An advert for the morning-after pill

Some 4,000 pupils in year 10 took part in the study - half were given a lesson by a teacher who had been coached in giving tuition about the contraception. The other half had no lesson.

Six months later it was found that those who had the lesson had not shown any increase in their sexual activity or in their use of emergency contraception.

The authors said: "It was important for us to show this lack of effect, in view of the ongoing debate on the effects of sex education and the argument that promoting the use of contraception encourages sexual activity."

What the class did display was a much greater knowledge - particularly about the timescales of effective contraception.

Fictional scenario

All the pupils involved answered a test using a fictional scenario of a girl who worries about having got pregnant while on a drunken night out.

Pupils who had the lesson were found to be far more informed than their counterparts about the contraceptive options - including emergency contraception - than their counterparts who had not been given a lesson, researchers found.

They said it would be beneficial to learn whether the effects of the lesson would last beyond six months and the options for further lessons in contraception.

The study was carried out across secondary schools in the county of Avon.

It was carried out jointly by researchers from the University of Bristol, Cardiff University and the University of Southampton.

The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Nationally, we have a problem"
See also:

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