Great news – Teenagers are getting better and not doing something!
Yes, I know, unbelievable right?!
They’re getting better, better at not getting pregnant! Since 1998 the teenage pregnancy rate has halved, yes, cut by 50% in England and Wales in less than 20 years.
According to the Office for National Statistic (ONS) there has been a major reduction in under 18s getting pregnant – from 47 in 1000 in 1998 to the 2014 figure of 23 in 1000. There was a fall of a staggering 6.8% in 2014 alone.
Alison Hadley, Director of the Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange at the University of Bedfordshire led the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy – started in 1999 – said of the statistics “this is an extraordinary achievement addressing a complex public health and equalities issue…this shows that committed senior leadership, dedicated local practitioners, effective education programmes and access to contraception equips young people to make informed choices”
She added “despite the big reduction [in teenage pregnancy] the job is not done, England lags behind comparable European countries…it is vital to keep the focus on teenage pregnancy to sustain the progress made and narrow inequalities…high quality sex and relationships education needs to be in place so successive generations of young people have the knowledge, skills and confidence to make choices”
Lucy Emmerson who coordinates the Sex Education Forum says that school is often cited as the place where most young people get their Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) however, nearly 25% of young people rated the SRE they received at school as ‘bad’ and 4 in 10 are unsure where their local sexual health clinic is. She commented “the downward trend in teenage conceptions can only be sustained if SRE becomes a statutory requirement in all schools”.
This seems to be a brilliant time to be supporting SRE in schools – especially against the backdrop of further reports of young women suffering from pressure to perform sexual acts that boys have seen online on ‘adult’ websites, the continued statistic that 1 in 4 women will be affected by domestic abuse and the cuts in funding for NHS services.
Sadly Nicky Morgan the Education Secretary chose February to reject calls for compulsory SRE education to be made statutory in schools in England and Wales. Following this decision, four key House of Commons committees have written a joint letter to Ms Morgan to press for statutory SRE to be made compulsory in Primary and Secondary School in the UK.
It’s a confusing and complicated picture – perhaps social media and staying indoors rather than being out on the streets and in bus shelters with their mates is having a more positive effect on teenagers’ lives than we thought? What is certain is that to ensure young people get the facts about Sex and Relationships Education having a statute to promote and support it would really be a positive step – as opposed to leaving it to chance and the ‘birds and the bees’ chat with mum or dad, or worse still, leaving it to the internet to educate our young people about healthy relationships and SRE.