Launched in 1999 a £248 million Government plan to slash the number of teenage pregnancies failed miserably. The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy aimed to halve the under-18 conception rate by 2010, and establish a downward trend in the under-16 rate.
The plan was heavily criticised last year when official figures revealed that in 2007, 41.9 girls per 1,000 aged 15 to 17 became pregnant compared with 40.9 in 2006. The incidence of sexually transmitted disease amongst teenagers is also rising. Despite all the money and planning the UK still has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe.
The strategy seems to have had the opposite effect of that intended. Overall the rate of decline in teenage pregnancy has slowed over the lifetime of the plan. In 2009 the number of teenage pregnancies in England and Wales actually rose for the first time in five years.
A survey by Hull University and commissioned by East Riding of Yorkshire Council and NHS East Riding of Yorkshire investigated the sexual health knowledge, behaviour and attitudes of youngsters aged between 13 and 16.
Hidden away amongst the usual sociological verbiage there are a few interesting results. Irrespective of gender more youngsters wish to be taught about family values and the responsibilities of parenthood rather than the mechanics of intercourse and contraception. They at least realise that putting condoms on bananas is not enough.
The survey concluded that, “It is important to note that uniform by both gender and school year was the desire for more information about becoming a parent. An increased focus on the role of being a parent might impact on safe sexual practices.”
Half the girls wanted sex education to focus on the consequences of pregnancy, rather than the mechanics and biology of sex, what Lady Edwina Mountbatten termed “the hydraulics.”
The majority of 13 to 16-year-old boys wanted to know what “being a parent” is all about and that this is the most important issue for them.
Government sponsored sex education which did little more than facilitate casual sexual experimentation by school age youngsters has clearly failed, and the youngsters know it. Three out of five girls and almost half of boys said they would only have sex in a long term serious relationship.
Sex education which proceeded on the expectation that young people would have sex at the earliest possible moment and which majored on teaching the mechanics of intercourse and contraception has clearly failed. It seems to have been predicated on the obsessions of the educators rather than the wishes of the pupils.
A growing number of youngsters are now looking for sex education which emphasises marriage and the family and which empowers them to say no to sex outside a committed relationship. Not exactly a return to Christian morality, but a vast improvement on what exists in schools throughout Britain today.