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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 February, 2005, 11:42 GMT
Teen pregnancy 'hotspots' tackled
Image of a pregnant woman
The campaign will run for 10 years
The government is launching a campaign to target areas with the highest teenage pregnancy rates.

The news comes as latest figures show the number of under-18s who became pregnant in England and Wales rose from 41,868 in 2002 to 42,173 in 2003.

In 2000, the government pledged to halve the rate by 2010.

Advice is being sent to the 150 local authorities where the 'hotspots' are to encourage them to provide better sex education.

The government has stopped short of making sex and relationship education part of statutory provision in schools and we urge them to reconsider this
Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association

Although the absolute number of teenage pregnancies has gone up across England and Wales, the rate - which is the number of pregnancies per 1,000 teenage girls - has actually gone down in England from 42.6 to 42.1.

Across England, there will be more sex education training for teachers and healthcare workers under the new strategy.

Teenagers will be taken to nurseries to teach them about the responsibilities of parenting.

Young mothers will also be encouraged to go back to school or work to help hit the government's other 2010 target of reducing the risk of long term social exclusion by 60%.

'Hotspots'

Britain has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in Western Europe.

In urban areas, which account for the majority of the hot spots, as many as one in 10 young girls become pregnant.

Around 20% of conceptions among under 18s are second pregnancies.

Hot spots
Lambeth - 104.9 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15-17
Blackpool - 80.3 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15-17
Nottingham - 73.5 pregnancies per 1,000 women aged 15-17

Some believe more sex education and family planning is the way forward, but others say this is fuelling the problem and abstinence is the answer, citing the US as proof of this.

Following an abstinence drive, the US birth rate among 10-14 year olds is now the lowest since 1946.

Robert Weenan from CIVITAS, the independent social policy think tank, said: "The only way you are going to get down teenage pregnancies is by discouraging teenagers from getting into sex at very young ages and having lots of partners."

Elaine Doherty who is an options advisor for young people on sex and relationship issues in South Tyneside, said: "Abstinence is something that is part and parcel of sexual health, but abstinence alone does not work.

"There is every chance that they will risk having unprotected sex."

We have got to have a really complex multifaceted approach
Children's Minister Margaret Hodge

Alice Wiseman, a teenage pregnancy coordinator in the same region, said the most important thing to do was to support young people to enable them to make informed decisions about what is best for them.

"We need to provide different information for different young people. It's about tailoring the provision and the support for the most appropriate needs of that person," she told Radio Five Live.

Compulsory sex education

Young Parent's Advisor Julie Jeffrey agreed saying those young who did chose to have a baby could be fantastic parents.

"The age is not what is relevant, it's the quality of the parenting and the support given to enable them to be effective parents."

Anne Weyman, chief executive of the Family Planning Association said high quality school based sex and relationships education (SRE) prevented teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

"To date, the government has stopped short of making SRE part of statutory provision in schools and we urge them to reconsider this stance as a matter of priority, given its contribution to reducing inequalities in health."

Children's Minister Margaret Hodge said every school taught SRE but that it was leaft up to individual schools to decide precisely what is taught because "heads know their children best".

She said: "There is a real link between raising aspirations and achievements in schools and cutting teenage pregnancy rates.

"It's partly about resisting peer pressure. It's partly about better sex and relationship education.

"We have got to have a really complex multifaceted approach."

She said parents also had a responsibility to talk about relationships and teach their children to practice safe sex.

Jan Barlow of Brook said: "It's time that government grasped the nettle and guaranteed that every young person will receive comprehensive sex and relationships education as a compulsory part of the national curriculum."




SEE ALSO:
Strategy 'tackles teen pregnancy'
16 Feb 05 |  Northern Ireland
Teen pregnancy rates revealed
29 Nov 04 |  Northern Ireland


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