The mother of three sisters who gave birth aged 12, 14 and 16 has blamed schools for not teaching sex education properly.
Julie Atkins believes her daughters, Natasha, Jade and Jemma Williams, are a good example of how schools and parents are failing to cut the number of schoolgirls becoming mothers.
Mrs Atkins told The Sun, "more and more kids are getting pregnant younger and younger and sex education needs to start a lot earlier".
Is sex education good enough in schools? Should schools be solely responsible for providing sex education or should parents take more responsibility?
This debate has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I agree that sex education is very important - and that it should be provided at an early age. But sex education needs to be supported and integrated into a wider education, social and moral framework which provides children and young people with enough self-respect and confidence to put delay the initiation of sex until they're grown up enough to emotionally and often physically old enough to handle it.
I am in my 30s and of the opinion that sex education should not be the school's responsibility. Responsible parents should educate their children in understanding the consequences of sex and that it is something for adults. Children are growing up far too early nowadays and their innocence is taken away from them. Let children be children.
A, London, England
Abstinence may be a worthy ideal, but for those teenagers who will have sex anyway it is better that they should know how to protect themselves (and their current and future partners).
Nicola, Bristol, UK
Back in the mid-eighties I worked as a staff nurse on a neonatal intensive care unit in the south of England. We had many infants born to teenage mothers - though none as young as 12. Unfortunately there is a section of society where being a teenage mum is seen as a badge of honour. No amount of sex education in schools is going to change anything while these children live in an atmosphere where family and neighbours consider it acceptable to be a teenage parent - especially if the best example they have is a mother who was herself a teenager.
Jane, UK living in US
How typical of the mother to waive all responsibility of teaching her daughters sex education. It is unfair to place the responsibility for sex education on the schools. As far as I am concerned a mother is responsible for bringing up their daughters not the state or country.
Stop blaming schools! Too much media and teen sex propaganda and not enough parental control the problem.Just say NO!
Fran Deacon, Keighley W. Yorks
I think it is wrong that people can blame it on poor sex education. I think it is simply a sign of the times we are living in. The family has to take ownership of this as those the society. The more we move away from religion, extended family units, the more our children lose out on life. Everywhere you look its all about sex, whether it's TV, magazines, commercial. If the family does not teach the child basic values, why should the school be to blame? It's all a bit too easy these days with the government throwing money at people like these. Why worry about getting yourself a place and a job, when you can have a child and be a single parent and you'll find yourself claiming benefits and being prioritised for housing.
Sam, Bedford, Beds
I personally do not think that the mother is to blame for her 3 children becoming pregnant. How would she have stopped it? Kids in this generation would go ahead and do it anyway! Everybody is responsible for their own actions I believe no matter how old or young. These children obviously knew what they were doing and if they are mature enough to make that decision to engage in a sexual relationship, then they must accept the responsibility for themselves.
I've just left a Catholic school whereby in my 6 or so years at school I had only ONE sex education lesson! That's terrible! However sex is still an embarrassing subject for both teachers and parents to talk to their children about which is why children don't learn about sex education and the long lasting effects of sex! More certainly needs to be done
The State of Chicago reduced teenage Pregnancy to half when they reduced benefit payments for each subsequent child. All the while we fund stupidity, we will encourage it! It has nothing to do with the Education system, it is up to the Parents to teach their kids the wider view once the mechanics of it have been covered by the School.
Nigel Bull, Southampton UK
Having worked in a school in Essex I have seen any number of inadequate little girls producing a baby to use as a status symbol and to build up their credibility with their peers. No amount of sex education is going to combat that but better parenting might. But how many people these days have the time to be good parents? The issue is much more complex and far reaching than newspaper reports indicate.
Sex education is fine, when I was at school we all knew what it was but our attitude was different. Yes, there were a few teenage pregnancies in my year, but they were the exception rather than the norm and usually the result of broken homes. I think we have just become more tolerant to underage sex and turned a blind eye, like everything else. Parents need to take a stricter view in allowing their children to mix with those of the opposite sex .
Sara, Livingston, Scotland
The more sex education there is the more children seem to get pregnant. Result? Calls for yet more sex education. It seems to me that the answer is to stop sex education and tell our children that they should not have sex before they are married. They will, of course, but they are more likely to start later not earlier and earlier as is presently the trend.
Jonathan Mitchell, Southwell, Notts
I believe that it is the responsibility of the parents and family to educate kids about sex, pregnancy and contraception, not the schools however, schools have to adopt this responsibility as this family demonstrates to perfection: nobody else is!
Nick, Cardiff, Wales
When I was at school 10 years ago, sex education was all very theoretical, it was described right out of a text book like some clinical operation. The gap between theory and practice needs to be bridged, sex is happening everywhere and with all ages, its not an obscure act from the pages of a text book, it needs to get real and say it like it is.
Although I agree that sex education could be far better than it is now I am firmly of the opinion that we need to improve the standard of children's moral and social education.
Jimbus, Harleston, England
I am 59 and children were allowed to be children and didn't know about sex until it was necessary. Nowadays infants know what it is. There is too much knowledge and when I was young not very many underage children got pregnant. If they did, it brought great shame on their families. This grandmother and her three daughters are an absolute joke. It makes me mad to think I have to pay taxes to keep them and their ilk.
M Grant, Dundee
We didn't have too much sex education 20 years ago but we knew what was what and not that many of us had kids when we were that young. Many of today's kids can't speak English properly and I bet they have more lessons on that! It's down to the parents to teach that. In this case, what did the parent do or say after the first child got pregnant? She obviously didn't care? Maybe more teenage magazines could start trying to get the point across by having more about contraception and not glorifying sex?
Dick Sharp, Leeds, UK
A school exists to educate young people academically and to only supplement the moral and philosophical education given by their parents. Why people believe it is the school's responsibility to bring their children up is beyond me but it is clearly representative of a popular culture that feels it is owed a great service by society, a culture that takes no personal or communal responsibility and one which is slowly killing this country.
Paul, Durham, England
I was unfortunate enough to attend a Catholic school where no practical sex education was given. I believe that schools which provide inadequate sex education should receive no state funding. I also believe that state funding should be withdrawn from all denominational schools as they are a shameful source of bigotry.
Owen Duffy, Glasgow, Scotland
Sex education does not cover relationship counselling - so that young people can be coached to have more self-respect and respect of their partners. This can only lead to more mature attitudes towards relationships and sex - and the focus should be on the boys as well as the girls.
Dana Rodericks, London
I think it's time we stopped blaming schools for the ills of the world. Parents have the responsibility to teach their children right from wrong, good from evil. Schools can and do support that but very often the ideals of the school are not supported by parents.
Franz Atkinson, Dorset
Clearly the stories on the news and in the papers demonstrate that sex education is nowhere near good enough.
Paul Davis, Yateley, Hampshire
I think sex education is perfectly adequate in schools but backup from parents is lacking. It is the duty of parents to educate their children not only in sex matters but just as importantly in moral standards. Many parents of today's children lead very immoral lives and it is only natural that children will think it is perfectly in order to follow their parents examples.
Maureen Condron, Preston, UK
Sex education in schools actually promotes sex. There is very little taught to children about morality. The give advise about condom use, abortion, morning after pill but nothing about celibacy.
Education begins at home. If parents can't be bothered to teach their children what's right and what's wrong, they shouldn't become parents in the first place.
James Hardaker, Skegness, England
Well maybe if the state stopped paying for under-age pregnancies we might get a grip. A parent is responsible for the child until 18, maybe that should apply to a grandchild born to a teenage mom. Maybe then the parents would start and take control.
Sex is pushed at everyone these days, is it any wonder that emotionally immature but physically well developed kids are going to try it? All the sex education in the world won't work if society and their parents seem to condone it.
Chris, Telford, UK
I lived and went to school in Spain - which has a much lower teen pregnancy rate - and noted that they don't teach sex education until around 14-15 years old, and that even then, it concentrates on a couple who eventually decide to take the next step. It also goes graphically into STDs, showing someone going to the doctor with an STD to be checked over. It embarrassed me terribly when someone over there asked me why the UK has 'so many 12 year olds pushing prams'.
J B, UK
I would love to have children right now but my husband and I have been busy working hard to pay off student debts and be in a sensible financial position to support a child. We are still not there yet and it makes me angry to see stories like this. In this day and age kids know about sex before they reach the age of 10 and I don't believe all 3 can accidentally get pregnant. There are reasons but no excuses. I could be wrong but they seem totally feckless and I feel sorry for the babies who are destined to grow up and join the country's underclass.
Helen, Oslo, Norway
I am 22 and left school four-and-a-half years ago. The sex education I got was competent and well taught but it was my parents who sat me down and made sure that I knew sex was special and, because no contraceptive is failsafe, pregnancy is a possibility. I think more should be done on both counts. Not only should parents have more access to things like e Speakeasy (fpa's course to help parents talk about sex with their children) but children should be told that sex equals babies and if you're not ready to face that possibility, you're not ready to have sex.
Rachael, London, UK
I may be old but in my teens, it was rare for teens getting pregnant. It seems to be a way of life nowadays. You get looked after and paid and also a council place. Beats going to work. I do think schools teach sex education adequately but these teenagers know what they doing.
Don K, Taverham Borfolk
This is not just an issue of sex education, but an issue of education about the law. Nothing is said about the 'fathers' of these babies - who have broken the law having intercourse with an under age female, which I understood to be statutory rape if she was under 13 (willing or not). Surely we cannot blame the schools for their actions?
Paul, Chippeham, UK
Unreal. The mother is now demanding the council provide them with a bigger home. She and their father have not given their daughters a responsible example to follow. True to form she refuses to accept responsibility and can only blame others. If I were a pessimist I would say the same situation will recur in approximately 14 years time.
Elaine, Newcastle, UK
This is clearly the breakdown of many things - the parenting, the local culture, the way in which the benefits system worked. In all of this however, it is the man who is not (but must) take the brunt of the responsibility. If the men of this country understood that sex with an underage girl meant time in prison, and impregnating someone meant working for their living, pregnancy rates would soon drop. Where are the fathers?
It is unfair to place the responsibility for sex education with schools. I feel that young people would find it harder to approach a teacher about sex and contraception. When I was at school we had sex education from teachers, but we also had a weekly drop in centre, where we could talk to people who were trained to talk to young people about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. This wouldn't stop teenagers having sex but it would ensure they were more prepared and educated.
Realistically considering these girls potential educational and professional prospects, do they really regard pregnancy (resulting in benefits) as undesirable? And if not, then what is the impact of sex education? Surely the best way to encourage responsible behaviour is to create an environment in which there is a realistic economic alternative, that is to say, the prospect of a meaningful career.
Sander, The Hague, The Netherlands
How this woman blames the school her daughters went to amazes me. The responsibility is hers to make sure her children understand the risks of underage sex, not only of becoming pregnant but also STDs. I have a 14 year old daughter and 12 year old son and have always been extremely open with them and have always explained anything they have wanted to know, and have never fobbed them off or thought that it was the responsibility of their school to teach them about sex education.
Tuarita Lawson, Bristol, UK
I can't help but wonder whether or not these girls would be parents if they weren't guaranteed a steady income from the benefits system.
Brian, Newbury Berks
I can find no words to adequately describe the horror of this "blame everyone else but myself" attitude. I am a parent and the buck stops with me when it comes to how my teenage son behaves. My heart sinks as he works so hard to aspire to a professional career, only to be paying heavy taxes to support those like the Atkins daughters.
Simone Wu, Newbury
The internet does a better job than schools for informing children of sexual options. Schools cannot stop children from having sex. The schools can help adults to learn how to play a more useful role as parents, but do the ones who need this the most want it?
David Stephen Ball-Romney, Seattle, USA
All teenage girls read magazines and watch telly, so regardless of what the school does or doesn't provide in the way of sex education, there is no excuse for any young person not knowing the basics. And if Mrs Atkins lets her children have sex under her roof then she has absolutely no leg to stand on.
There is too much sex education in schools, and way too young. Giving out information comes with the expectation that it is to be used, therefore sex education says: go have sex. This message needs to be taught later in life and it should be taught in the home.
Rob Darrington, Ipswich, Suffolk
I am 53 and had no sex education at school. However, it was clear to me that sex without contraception leads to pregnancy. I really cannot believe that these 3 girls did not realise what was likely to happen. It is much more likely that they knew that it would get them a cushy life on benefits.
Roger, Stockport, England
This 'grandmother' is an absolute joke of a parent. I saw her being interviewed on TV this morning, and if I were the interviewer, I would have rolled off my seat laughing in her face. She openly admits that her youngest daughter was having underage sex in her own home, and then blames the school for the situation. However, she may be having the last laugh. Her daughters are now bringing home an income (from benefits) exceeding that of their local teachers.
Graeme, Reading, UK
I find it hard to blame anyone else but the mother for her three children's own pregnancies. Her own ignorance and stupidity shows clearly. Mistakes happen of course, but three underage daughters pregnant? And now the benefits system has to support them, some thing as a disabled person who became disabled through no fault of my own, I find despicable. I have to fight for every penny I get whereas they'll now get benefits money for many years without question.
Rowena, North Yorkshire
When I read that the mother of these three young girls blamed the school for the condition of her children, I laughed in utter amazement. How she could have the nerve to pass the blame over in that way? I am paying for the upkeep of her family and it makes me sick.
Steve, Burnley, UK
Today's youth are far more sexually aware at an earlier age than my generation was (and I'm only 35)! Good sex education is needed in schools - in ALL forms of sex along with the STDs that can result from it. It needs to be done by professionals - not by school biology teachers as a bolt on to their job. Parents can also play a part in sex education, but their advice is limited to their own experiences and hearsay. Best left to professionals. But hey, the government will likely keep its head in the sand.
As a parent I have sat down and discussed all aspects of sex with my kids. It is a shame many parents are unwilling, embarrassed or simply believe that the schools will do this for them. At the end of the day it's the parents responsibility and trying to blame the education system for their lack of parenting skills is pathetic!
I think the issue here is more about educating parents than children. Some parents were children themselves when they first had children and didn't benefit from the same type of sex education that is available in schools today. Julie Atkins is not a bad parent, more a victim of circumstances. Parents undoubtedly have to take responsibility for sex education and perhaps if Julie Atkins had of been better informed herself then she would have dealt with it in a different way. No one is born a model parent.
I am not a parent, but I understand that being a parent means that you are primarily responsible for your children's learning. When I do become a parent I will make sure that they are armed with the knowledge and understanding of subjects like this so that they can live successful and fulfilling lives in this big wide world, which is what my parents taught me. Yes, it is true that sex education is not taught enough, but to blame the school for your total lack of parenting skills and responsibility is disgusting especially when these girls are now getting twice my wages in benefits (which I have been working for, for 10 years).
Georgina, Bexhill, East Sussex
I can't believe the mother is blaming the school. It would be interesting to see how many children from the same school fell pregnant under age. The mother and children need to take responsibility for their actions and stop blaming other people. I think people are being educated enough regarding sex and particularly STI. However, they seem to have a lack of respect for their own and other peoples' bodies.
Whether or not the school or mother has the primary blame for failing sex education and proper contraception is irrelevant. This is a much wider social problem than is depicted here; just have a look at the UK's embarrassing top position as a country with one of the highest teen pregnancies. If at all something is to blame, it is down to the good old English prudishness in dealing with subjects like sex, which is reflected in the general sex education and provisions in this country.
JJR, Haverhill, UK
Sex education provision should be removed from individual schools, and carried out by trained professionals. Is a teacher, with many other roles (their actual subject teaching) the best person to teach something as important as sex education? I remember my time at school, and having sex education taught to you by an ill-prepared/resourced teacher was embarrassing for them, and unproductive for us.
Richard, Southampton, UK
You will never stop teenagers from having sex, simple fact. However, making contraceptives more easily available and educating them on STDs will encourage them to take precautions. This should be reinforced by both the school and parents. However, the schools can only do so much as children tend to adopt the same attitudes as their parents regardless of what they are taught are school. It obvious in this case that the 3 teenage sisters have the same 'whateva' attitude to sex as their mother, who herself was a teenager when she had her first child.
Elizabeth, London, UK
This is a very sorry result of two things which permeate every corner of British society in this day and age. The blameless culture we are driving where parents seem to abdicate every level of parenting to someone else and hold their hands up in a woe is me way when their complete lack of discipline and moral education leads to this hardly surprising result. And a nanny state government who reward them for doing so. Pregnancy is a lifestyle choice and I have no doubt that if the government removed all benefits for those who choose to get themselves in this situation the teenage pregnancy rates would plummet in a short space of time.
Even if the sex education at the school was poor, why on earth was this woman relying on the school to do it in the first place? OK, an unwanted pregnancy can happen to anyone once but several times and with all three girls? And now the new grandmother is going to be helping to bring up the babies - how long before they are pregnant too? This whole mess is just the latest example of people unwilling to take any responsibility for themselves and their actions.
What about the fathers of these babies? Why aren't they behind bars (or at least given juvenile punishments in the case of the 14 year old lad)? Also, whilst being disgusted by Mrs Atkins's approach to rearing her offspring I do have to wonder - where is their father? Does he bear no responsibility for this mess? And as for the school - given her reckless disregard for her children's sexual behaviour, is Mrs Atkins sure they were ever actually there to learn about anything in the first place?
What a cop out. Why is it always someone else's fault? Are we really supposed to believe that these girls didn't know about the dangers of unprotected sex? And I suppose they didn't realise they were having under age sex either - come on, give the schools a break.
Colin A Williams, Huddersfield
Not one pregnant child but three and Mrs Atkins attempts to blame the schools. I feel sorry for the innocent children who should be placed in the care of a responsible adult. Maybe when the fathers are prosecuted for the obvious sexual offences, Mrs Atkins can stand beside them as aiding and abetting. Her conviction may then make others take better care of their children.
Trevor Bryer, Singapore
Sex education in schools is very good. I am saying this as a youngish person who has had sex education at school. That was some years back and I imagine that it will have improved further by now. The problem is not that kids do not know about sex and its consequences. Kids know so much more than adults realise. I think I would have to agree with what other people say and argue that parents have a big part to play and most likely is the weakest link here. If kids are allowed to roam free out of sight of their parents then what do you expect?
As a parent of four - ages 14 down to 2 - I feel that children are better educated about sex than ever before. Blaming pregnancy rates on schools is avoidance of parental responsibility - you have a much greater part to play in a child's upbringing than any outside agency. Society now allows, even pushes, children to "grow up" when they are much too young. As a parent it is difficult if not impossible to restrict your children's freedoms in comparison with their peers. You can only set guidelines, provide information and hope they take the right course.
Chris Elmes, Glos, UK
Sex education should begin at home. Julie Atkins is wrong to blame the school. This is yet another example of blaming teachers for wider social problems.
Griff, Cardiff, Wales
It is the parent's responsibility to teach their children. People shouldn't rely on others to teach morals, values, etc. including sex education. I am a mum and would hold myself responsible if my child was in this situation.
There is no point having sex education when nobody is teaching the children the self-respect to use it. As it goes, I think that sex education should be started earlier and should include a lot about the emotions involved.
As a parent I will ensure that my son has an appropriate level of sex education. The school may augment this but I believe it is primarily my responsibility. This mother is entirely to blame and her children should have their children taken away to be adopted by adults ready and willing to take on the responsibility of children.
Gavin, Brent Knoll, England
At the risk of sounding like a right wing nut, the reason so many teenage girls get pregnant is because the system makes it so easy for them. A council house, benefits, no need to work, why wouldn't they go ahead and get pregnant, it's a lot sight easier than the work-pregnant-back to work because you can't afford not to route that the rest of us take.
The mother of the three girl's comments just about sum up the complete lack of personal responsibility exhibited by a large proportion of the UK's population. If she can't see that it is her responsibility to ensure that her children are taught the basics of sex education, then she shouldn't have ever become a parent. I am a parent and my wife and I accept willingly that it is our responsibility to ensure that our children are armed with the knowledge they need to avoid this type of situation. If it does ever occur, we won't be blaming other people for our failings as parents.
Bruce, Manchester, England
Having heard this woman admit her 12 year old daughter was having sex with her boyfriend in her own home, I wonder how she has the gall to lay the blame on someone else's doorstep. What about her responsibility to bring her children up knowing right from wrong and understanding the consequences of their own actions.
If I was Julie Atkins I wouldn't want this story to be splashed all over the papers because I would be utterly ashamed for people to know what a failure as a parent I was. Mrs Atkins should stop moaning and trying to pass the blame and admit that she has failed her daughters.
Mrs Atkins has no one to blame but herself. What clearer case of bad parenting does one want? The most disgusting thing about the whole story is that a 16, a 14 and a 12 year old will now be receiving £600 a week.
I think rather than showing how bad the education system is, these three children getting pregnant is a good example of how utterly useless some people are at being parents.
Robin, Birmingham, UK
Surely education starts at home. When will certain parents realise that they also have a responsibility for educating their children. It is not the school's fault that her children had sexual intercourse under the legal age of consent, it is the mother's.
The core issue here is that as the mother she is responsible for bringing up daughters not the state. If she didn't want them having sex underage then perhaps she should have talked to them about it. You cannot blame a school for your poor parenting.
Stephen Mortimer, Reading, UK
As a child my parents told me about sex and answered any questions I had - unlike my school. We didn't have sex education until we were 16 and then it was because it was a government requirement. Sex education should be taught earlier but why should it always be left to the schools to educate society? What's wrong with educating your own child about something so important?
How typical of the mother to waive all responsibility of teaching her daughters sex education. It should not solely be up to schools to teach it. However, she is right that not enough sex ed is taught in schools. In my whole 5 years at secondary school I was only ever taught sex education for one hour.
D Brown, York
The fact that the mother is holding the school responsible speaks volumes about her. She has clearly abdicated all responsibility for her children's welfare and by doing so has so demonstrably and tragically failed them. This family of feckless people are costing the taxpayer thousands of pounds. Unless society takes a much more robust stance this will keep happening at a huge cost to you and I. The mother is ultimately responsible as the primary carer but she obviously can't be bothered.
David , London, UK
Why should sex education be left to schools? It's a parent's responsibility to bring up their children prepared for life in the wide world, so why should this incredibly important aspect be left up to the state? It's nothing but slack parenting and another product of the 'blame someone else' culture. Take responsibility!
Rich, Coventry, UK
One of the daughters had two miscarriages and an abortion before falling pregnant. I refuse to believe that by the fourth pregnancy she didn't know exactly what she was doing. One of the fathers is 38. Perhaps he should take some responsibility for his actions too. Blaming the "government" or "lack of education" is a shameless smokescreen on the mother's part to avoid taking responsibility for her failings.
This is not about sex education. It is about parents and children who do not want to take responsibility for their actions/inactions. If sex education was the problem, why is the whole country not getting pregnant? Its one thing to give proper sex advice and its entirely another thing for teenagers to use that advice.
I think that schools should provide better sex education for children at a younger age. I left school two years ago. I received sex ed lessons when I was 14 which was too late for a lot of people. We had to act out a scene in pairs; practising how to say 'no'. As you can imagine, no one took this seriously! I think schools need to provide more facts on STIs and contraception and start it at a much younger age!
How many different ways can you tell kids that if you have unprotected sex you get pregnant? The problem is not a lack of sex education but that there is no deterrent to young girls who get pregnant, in fact this government gives incentives like housing and benefits. If we started building hostels for these young mothers to go into instead of giving them houses, the rate of teenage pregnancies would soon drop!
Lisa, Gillingham, Kent
If the mother of these girls was that worried about her daughters getting pregnant she should have talked to them about sex herself. There is no way the school should be blamed for her own failings.
Anon, Guildford, UK