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School-age mothers want to learn

Teenage mothers in Northern Ireland offer a startling contrast to the stereotypical under-achievers often cited by politicians and the media, research has discovered.

More than three-quarters had a qualification, including one in six with at least A-levels or Higher National Diplomas, says a report by the University of Ulster's Centre for Research on Women, which surveyed 91 school-age mothers for the Save the Children Fund.

More than four-fifths regarded education as important or very important, both before and after giving birth, and 70 per cent said they wanted to return to education or training. Lack of childcare was one of the barriers to this course of action, and it had also caused some young women to drop out.

The report brings the encouraging news that, by and large, the education system serves the girls well. Almost half said their school treated them as well after their pregnancy became known as before; a third said it treated them better and described heads and teachers glowingly.

But a fifth of students said the school treated them worse or much worse than before, and slightly more complained about fellow students.

School-age mothers: access to education is available for Pounds 5 from SCF, 15 Richmond Park, Belfast BT10 0HB, tel 01232 431123.

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