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More advice urged to cut teenage abortions

The Lothian Brook Advisory Centre is calling for action by the Scottish Office to reduce high levels of unwanted teenage pregnancies. The centre, which offers contraceptive advice mainly to the under-25s, is to press for more counselling for young people.

The Brook hallmarks of accessibility, confidentiality and counselling, have been portrayed in an information video presented by third-year pupils at James Gillespie's High School in Edinburgh who undertook an intensive sexual health education programme delivered in school by Brook Advisory staff and sessional workers.

Pupils, working in self-selected, predominantly mixed groups of eight, had six sessions covering relationships, legal issues, reproduction, contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and, using their own video, further services for young people.

Joette Thomas, who led the Gillespie programme, said: "It was clear that the pupils trusted us and that we were therefore the appropriate people for this work." Ms Thomas and the pupils now advocate using double periods for each session. "This has been a taster. Hopefully we will go back and work in more depth," she said.

At the Brook's recent annual meeting pupils portrayed the issues in chat-show style. A Professor Sexberg advocated the traditional talking down from experts while Mr McDade, father of two teenage children, urged that the subject be left to parents.

A 20-year-old single parent of a four-year-old showed just how successful these approaches were while 14-year-old Anna and Sacha, as themselves, urged that the James Gillespie-Brook approach was the way ahead. Second-year pupils should also be involved, they said.

The Brook wants to take more account of young people's views in its planning, and the annual meeting passed a resolution to that effect. This could be achieved, according to Cynthia Milligan, the chairperson, through focus groups and by establishing a buddy system where young people can introduce each other to the centre's services.

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