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Teen mums left out of school on 'spurious health and safety grounds'

Release Date: 14 Mar 2010

Too many teenage mothers abandon career ambitions and resign themselves to a low income lifestyle because they face barriers getting back into education, says children's charity Barnardo's.

In a report published today, Not the end of the story, Barnardo’s highlights truancy, bullying and difficulties at school as common experiences for teenage mums.

Seventy per cent of young mothers are not in education, employment or training (NEET) compared with about 10 per cent of 16-18 year olds generally.

Many young mothers interviewed as part of the research had never been officially excluded but schools had put pressure on them to drop out over unfounded health and safety fears.

Other mums interviewed dropped out – effectively excluding themselves – due to schools’ lack of support and flexibility regarding their pregnancies. In some cases there were no offers of home tuition or alternative teaching arrangements.

Dr Jane Evans, Barnardo’s research and policy officer and author of the report explains,

“The 20,000 girls and young women under 18 who become mothers each year include some of the most vulnerable and isolated in society. If they drop out of education or training it will impact not just on their own future prospects, but on the life chances of their child.

“Schools may worry about pregnant teenagers but it is important that they do all they can to help them complete their studies. We’re not denying that being a young mum brings extra challenges but teenage motherhood shouldn’t spell the end of the story.

“Helping and supporting them back into education will afford young mothers greater independence and secure a better start in life for their children.”

From 2015 teenage mothers will form part of the cohort of 16 and 17 year olds who will be required to stay in education or training until they are 18.

Dr Jane Evans continues,

“Raising the age of compulsory education to 18 puts the issue of support for teenage mothers in even sharper focus. We need to look now at what help young mums will need to make sure they do not fall further behind.”

Recommendations from the report include:

  • Ensuring that all efforts are made to keep teen mums in education, and where not possible ensuring that certified exemptions come from medical professionals only
  • Assessing teen mums’ housing, childcare and education needs when they first book in with a midwife
  • Providing publicly funded childcare that is on-site or nearby for all teenage mothers returning to education or training, for babies not just 2 year olds
  • Extending the upper age limit for the Care to Learn benefit to allow teenage mums who have taken a break to care for their baby time to complete their studies

Barnardo’s offers practical advice and support to get teenage mums back into education and training. Formal parenting programmes, help with childcare arrangements, housing and benefits advice, taster courses and accredited learning schemes help build self-esteem, provide peer support and help young mums get back into education or training quicker. Offering young mums a recognised qualification which they can take forward helps them build a better life for themselves and their children.

Notes to editors

Not the end of the story interviewed 38 young mothers aged 13 to 20 attending Barnardo’s services across the UK

This report draws on earlier research mentioned in Second Chances (Barnardo’s, 2009)

Care to Learn is a non-means tested learning support benefit available to young parents in England who are returning to education or training up to the age of 20.

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