Welsh teens top league

WALES has the highest rate of teenage pregnancies and the worst alcohol and drugs problems among UK pupils, the first comprehensive study of its kind reveals.

Wales also has the highest levels of child poverty overall. In the principality just a few miles can make the difference between affluence and want. In the Swansea suburb of North Killay, 3 per cent of children live below the poverty line of pound;145 a week after housing costs. Meanwhile, less than three miles away in Townhill the level is more than 80 per cent.

Research for the charity Save the Children by York University found that in 2000, 33 per cent of Welsh children were living in poverty, compared to 30 per cent in England and Scotland.

Pockets of child poverty were particularly noticeable in English local authorities, with the London borough of Tower Hamlets having the highest concentration, at 74 per cent.

Children from a single-parent household or a minority ethnic group were more likely to be poor, the report found.

More than half of boys and 36 per cent of girls aged 15 in Wales drank alcohol each week. In Northern Ireland the figures were 33 per cent for boys and 20 per cent for girls.

Most recent figures for Wales from 1996 show that 28 per cent of boys and 22 per cent of girls aged 15 had used drugs in the past month. Comparable English figures for 1998 showed 19 per cent for boys and 16 per cent for girls.

The report also shows that 35.2 in every 1,000 Welsh females under 20 get pregnant, compared with 26.1 in Northern Ireland and 28.8 in England.

Children in Scotland and Northern Ireland stay at school longer than their English and Welsh counterparts.

For overall participation, Scotland wins with 78.6 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds in full-time education, followed by Northern Ireland (74.4 per cent), England (69.5 per cent) and Wales (68.7 per cent).

Wales has the highest proportion - 8 per cent - of 16 and 17-year-olds with no qualifications.

A Welsh Assembly spokesperson said there was a full awareness of the need to tackle child poverty in the principality.

The spokesperson added it was crucial to work with children in the most disadvantaged communities, to "assist their social, health and educational development, and also as a means of developing economic activity".

"We are requiring local authorities to prepare children and young people's frameworks, and these plans will demonstrate how central grants and local discretionary funding will work together in deprived communities."

A summary and selected chapters of "The well-being of children in the UK" are available at www.savethechildren.org.uk. Copies available from Plymbridge Distributors on 01752 202 301 or orders@plymbridge.com for pound;18.95 plus pamp;p

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