Boring subjects and unsympathetic teachers are among the factors driving teenage girls to become pregnant, a new study has revealed. Researchers from London university's institute of education found that many teenage mothers shared a dislike of school and a sense of educational failure.
Their report states: "Some of the mothers said that they were made to feel that they were 'thick' at school, often in embarrassing situations in front of their peers. "These experiences made them feel humiliated, and removed all desire to attend school or achieve educational qualifications."
Many said they were bored by the subjects on offer, the methods of teaching, and the constraints of the classroom. Researchers said: "What they were being taught seemed entirely irrelevant to their lives at the time."
Several also expressed frustration at unsympathetic teachers, criticising them either for being too strict or for allowing misbehaviour to disrupt learning.
Almost 250 women who had had babies as teenagers were questioned for the survey. A further 31 were interviewed in focus groups. Most agreed that the sex education offered by their schools had been inadequate. In many cases, lack of contraceptive knowledge led directly to pregnancy. This level of ignorance was common among those who conceived in their early teens. One girl, who fell pregnant at 13, said: "When I first had my period, I didn't even know what a period was."
But many of those questioned felt their prospects had improved since having a baby. One mother said: "If I didn't have (my daughter), I'd be, like, 'I've got to get a job, but it's not that important'. But now I've got her, I'm making sure that I do my education and get a good job, so that I can support her for the rest of my life."
Rhoda Thomas, 20, gave birth to Cory two years ago. She said: "When you're just sitting in a classroom, being talked at, you tend to switch off. But having a child raises your aspirations. You want to support your family."
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* In 2003, 42 in every 1,000 girls aged 15-17 became pregnant, as did eight in every 1,000 girls aged 13-15.
* Nearly 15 per cent of babies in England are born to teenage mums.
* Wales has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe, with 45 for every 1,000 girls aged 15-17.
* Teenage pregnancy is a bigger problem in Britain than in France, Germany, Italy or the Netherlands.
* Young women from unskilled manual backgrounds are more than twice as likely to become teenage mothers than those from professional backgrounds.
* Teenage pregnancies in Britain have fallen by 9.4 per cent since 1999.
* Pregnant under-18s can receive pound;33.50 in weekly income support, or pound;44.05 if living away from home.
* Pregnant under-16s cannot claim any benefit.