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Figures tricky for teenage mums;Letter

YOUR report "Will Labour deliver on teenage mums?" (TES, March 19) is right to describe teenage pregnancy as "this trickiest of issues". Under the circumstances, your reporter would have done well to check his facts more carefully.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (1998) show that in 1996 there were 94,377 conceptions to under 20s and 8,829 conceptions to under 16s. The number of actual births in any year is considerably lower. In 1997 these totalled 46,316 to mothers under 20 and just 1,600 to mothers under 16 - a far cry from the figures cited in the article.

Moreover, we have no national statistics on the number of young women leaving care who are pregnant or already parents, and the research that is available differs in its findings on this point. Indeed, this lack of information is one of the issues touched upon in a new study on young parents in public care, due to be published by the National Children's Bureau next month.

You also misquote NCB's research summary on teenage pregnancy and parenthood, omitting a small but vital word. As author of the summary (NCB Highlight No 165) I was careful to observe that "teenage mothers are typically less academically able than their childless contemporaries". This is not mere pedantry: it is a reminder of the care we must take before making generalisations about this often misrepresented group of young women.

Judith Corlyon Senior Research Officer National Children's Bureau 8 Wakley Street, London EC1V

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