Case study:Teen dads

Teenage pregnancy is usually written about from the point of view of the potential blight on young women's lives - or the success of young women, despite their pregnancy.

But what about teenage fathers? asks Mike Hardacre. I've taught in six schools over 33 years and remember particularly two young men. The first was a potential tragedy; the second a heart-warming experience of how school, family and the young people concerned were able to bring about something of a happy ending.

The first case involved a young man with mild learning difficulties. He and his girlfriend were both Year 11 students. One day the young woman's father called, asking me to meet him, his wife and daughter.

I went to see them at their run down council apartment in a puritanical working-class area, where I was confronted by an angry father. His daughter was pregnant by the young man. He'd already booked his daughter into a clinic for an abortion. He was adamant. The daughter was clearly upset but was not prepared to stand up to her father.

The abortion took place a few days later and, after an extended break, the girl returned to school. But despite the pastoral support of the school, she was clearly apprehensive about her relations with her boyfriend.

The young man knew nothing and could not understand why she was cold towards him. The relationship had not been the deepest of love matches but he will go to his grave without ever knowing of the pregnancy.

The second case concerns two intelligent young people who began their relationship towards the end of Year 10; they discovered she was pregnant when they came back at the start of Year 11.

We immediately enlisted the help of the school counsellor and supported the two of them through the discussions with their families. The couple were determined to keep the baby, although both sets of parents were concerned that this would blight their academic careers. The girl's parents supported their decision; his family believed there were simpler solutions, such as abortion or ending the relationship. There were many fraught conversations between the families, and between the families and the school.

From the start we made clear that we would do everything in our power to support both students through their GCSEs. She stayed at school until close to full term. Both were extremely successful in their exams and, with our continued support, both went on to do post-16 studies in school.

He went on to university on a residential basis. This preceded the break-up of the relationship. Until then he'd been a supportive, indeed model, father. Both doted on their child. He is now in another relationship; she is working as a personal assistant to one of the executives at a provincial university, where she is studying for a degree. But he has not lost touch with his child. They still see each other regularly. He, by virtue of having stood up to his family for what he believed in, became a much more rounded and less volatile person, while she has matured into a successful and decisive career woman.

Mike Hardacre is director of Wolverhampton education action zone and acting head of the Northicote school, Wolverhampton

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