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Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Assembly rejects school condom plan
AMs are leaving school contraception to governors
Free condoms and contraceptive pills will not be handed out to pupils at secondary schools in Wales, unlike in England.

The Department of Health plan sparked outrage among some family groups when announced Thursday at Westminster in an attempt to halt high teenage pregnancy rates.

But Welsh Assembly health officials at Cardiff Bay said they would not follow suit choosing instead to leave the matter up to school governors.

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
The number of teenage mothers in Wales fell from 644 in 1996 to almost 500 in 2001.

Even so, teenage pregnancy rates in some parts of the country still topped European league tables.

The UK Government's plans go further than ever before in the battle to try to cut the soaring teenage pregnancy rate.

Teenage pregnancies

The country has the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in western Europe and the second highest rate in the developed world.

In addition, the 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.

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 but an April school inspectors report said this was failing to teach pupils enough about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases.

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

School choice

Under the new English plans, a nurse or doctor would be at a school to supervise contraceptive services, handing out free condoms and the pill to under-16s where appropriate.

The Department of Education and Skills stressed it will be left to individual schools to decide whether to offer the service.

An assembly spokesperson told BBC Wales on Thursday its policy was to let school governors in Wales decide on the issue.

That is despite a January warning from a sex education specialist of a dramatic rise in sexually-transmitted diseases in northeast Wales.

Chlamydia rise

Doctor Olwen Williams said she has witnessed a significant increase in the number of cases of Chlamydia during her work at the Wrexham Maelor and Glan Clwyd hospital.

There had been a 25% rise in Chlamydia cases in a year, she said.

According to Dr Williams, around 685 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Wales compared with nearly 48,000 in the UK as a whole.

North Wales Health Authority said condoms should be made more widely available in its January health strategy document, but local health authorities stopped short of wanting condom machines in school toilets, saying it was not a priority.

The BBC's James Westhead
"The plans go further than ever before"
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
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