Sexual health advice clinics should be opened in schools to cut teenage pregnancies and help students concentrate on their work, according to the Government.
A Department for Education and Skills leaflet advises schools on setting up centres to give pupils advice on contraceptives, sexually-transmitted diseases and other health-related issues.
Several schools already provide advice clinics, but the DfES wants more to follow their example. The leaflet is part of a government campaign to halve teenage pregnancies by 2010 from the 41,089 figure in 1998.
The leaflet states: "Young people learn best when they are free from worries. Concerns about pregnancy, sexual health and difficulties in developing positive relationships can be a significant distraction. Access to information and advice from a trusted adult can help overcome this and help avoid situations that can lead to disengagement from learning altogether, such as early pregnancy." Advice clinics at four schools in Gateshead already claim to have helped decrease the number of local teenage pregnancies, which were among the highest in Britain.
Pam Douglas, young person's co-ordinator for Gateshead Primary Care Trust, runs clinics at Whickham and Hookergate schools which were visited by more than 1,500 pupils last year.
At Hookergate, separate sessions are held for male pupils, female pupils and sixth-formers. "We find that clinic attendance goes up after sex education classes," said Ms Douglas. "Pupils want to know about contraception, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. We also get pupils talking about relationship problems."
Extended Schools: Improving Access to Sexual Health Advice Services is at www.everychildmatters.gov.uk