BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Health  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
Medical notes
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 10:27 GMT 11:27 UK
Pupils' contraceptive plan prompts fury
The government wants to cut teen pregnancies by 15%
Free condoms and contraceptive Pills will be handed out to pupils in secondary schools under plans announced on Thursday by the Department of Health.

The plans have prompted outrage among family groups, worried it will encourage promiscuity among the young.

The proposal is part of a new government strategy which goes further than ever before to try to cut the UK's soaring teenage pregnancy rate.

Diseases

The UK has the highest rate in western Europe and the second highest rate in the developed world.

Teenage pregnancy facts
90,000 teenage pregnancies in England each year
Of these 7,700 are under 16
2,200 of these are aged 14 or under
Half of under-16s do not use contraception the first time they have sex
In addition, the average age at which British youngsters lose their virginity has fallen from 20 for men and 21 for women 40 years ago, to 17 for both sexes today.

The government is aiming to reduce teenage pregnancies in the under-18s in England by 15% by 2004.

Pupils already receive sex education at school - although a report from school inspectors in April said this was failing to teach pupils enough about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases.

Individual choice

It also said schools needed to broaden sex education beyond factual knowledge to give greater emphasis to relationships, values and personal skills.

Under the new Department of Health proposals, a nurse or doctor would need to be at the school to supervise contraceptive services.

We cannot believe the Department of Health still thinks that handing out condoms and pills free to schoolchildren will help reduce teen pregnancy

Nuala Scarisbrick, Life

The BBC's education correspondent James Westhead says the medical staff would hand out free condoms or the Pill including, where appropriate, to children under 16.

But the Department of Education and Skills, which will issue guidelines in September, has stressed it will be left to individual schools to decide whether to offer the service.

A number of schemes are already up and running in some schools.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the government did not believe that providing more access to contraception would lead to pupils engaging in more sexual activity.

She said: "None of the evidence suggests that if you give young people better access to advice and information they have more sex.

"Countries which have this kind of programme running properly in conjunction with good sex and relationships education in the classroom have the lowest rates of teenage conception."

In a recent report, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said the UK had made little progress in combating the problem of teenage pregnancies.

It put poor quality sex education as one of the most significant factors for the high rate.

Split opinion

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, said: "We welcome the government's acceptance of the recommendation that health services should be provided on site in schools.

"The rate of teenage pregnancy in this country is too high and action to bring it down is essential.

"Measures such as this are eminently sensible."

But pro-life charity Life said it was outraged by the move.

Spokeswoman Nuala Scarisbrick said: "We cannot believe the Department of Health still thinks that handing out condoms and pills free to schoolchildren will help reduce teen pregnancy. It won't.

"We have had 30 years of value-free contraceptive-rich sex education in our schools and the UK still has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe and, worryingly, instances of sexually transmitted infections are rocketing."

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said: "Decisions are being detached from schools and parents and given to central authorities.

"These people do not have to pick up the pieces if this policy goes wrong."

Conservative peeress Baroness Knight of Collingtree said: "You might just as well say you will curb burglary by handing out jemmies."

Sandra Gidley MP, Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman, said: "It is surprising that the government has moved ahead with this plan to distribute contraceptives without saying how it plans to improve sex education.

"Ministers have panicked and in doing have put the cart before the horse."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's James Westhead
"It's all part of the government's strategy to reduce teenage pregnancy"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Contraception
Should it be available in schools?
See also:

30 Apr 02 | UK Education
26 Feb 02 | Health
04 Mar 02 | Health
26 Feb 02 | Health
14 Feb 01 | Health
30 Nov 01 | Health
28 Feb 02 | Health
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes