You have not enabled cookies! This site requires cookies to operate properly. Please enable cookies, and refresh your browser for full functionality.

By Hilary White

LONDON, February 26, 2010 ( – Figures released this week by the Office of National Statistics show that about 40,000 British girls under 18 became pregnant in 2008, or 40 per 1000, a decline from 46,000 in 1998, or a fall of 13.3 per cent. The figures come as a disappointment to the governing Labour party who, in 1999, pledged to halve the teen pregnancy rate by this year.

The Daily Telegraph quotes Schools Secretary Ed Balls admitting he is “worried” by the situation.

“It was a really ambitious target – it was 50 per cent fall. I think it was right to set an ambitious target and it is going to be really hard to make that amount of fall,” he said.

The plan was to pour all the government’s resources into more, and more explicit sex-education in schools. Over the last decade, such programs have cost the British taxpayer £260 million, according to the Department of Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). Last year alone, the government spent £26.8 million promoting contraception to teens.

The Office of National Statistics has shown that the rate of pregnancy for under 16-year-olds fell by 5.7% between 2007 and 2008. The government has used this to boost their programs in the run-up to the election.

“Teenage pregnancy is no longer a rising problem. It is important that we recognise the progress made by many areas in driving down teenage pregnancy rates,” children's minister Dawn Primarolo said.

This week, the Labour government’s sex education bill passed in the House of Commons. It will extend sex-education into all grades in publicly funded schools and will remove the right of parents to withdraw their children from the classes when their children reach 15.

In addition, the government this week launched its new “action plan” to lower the teen pregnancy rate, which involves a set of programs including intensive one-on-one consultations on contraception for 16-year-old girls. The government has earmarked over £45 million for the new plan, despite the failure of similar programs in the past.

Last year, it was revealed that a scheme implemented as an experiment in 27 areas of England between 2004 and 2007, costing taxpayers £6 million ($9.8 million U.S.), resulted in the girls involved having more than twice as many pregnancies as those in the general population.

The Young People's Development Program (YPDP) cost £2,500 ($4,085 US) per person and involved giving teenagers individual sex education and advice about contraception. At the end of the project a total of 16 percent of those involved became pregnant compared with just 6 percent in a comparison group.

Professor Brenda Almond, Emeritus Professor of Moral and Social Philosophy at the University of Hull, wrote this week in the Daily Mail that the government’s programs will continue to fail until it is recognized that more sex-education and free contraceptives are not the solution.

Almond wrote that with the new statistics, “instead of accepting its mistake and trying a different approach, the government continues to cling to its discredited strategy of dishing out sex advice, pills and condoms.”

She quoted Albert Einstein saying that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing, over and over again, and expecting different results.”

“They are words that could now be applied to Labour’s current sex education policy.”

Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, agreed, telling the Telegraph, “The government's teenage pregnancy strategy has been a disaster for young people. With all its emphasis on sex education and handing out contraceptives to schoolchildren under the age of consent, it is giving them the green light to experiment sexually.
“The expansion of confidential contraceptive services for young people under the age of 16 is making it more difficult for girls to resist the advances of their boyfriends and leading some to become sexually active when they might not otherwise have done so.”

Read related LSN coverage:

UK Announces Mandatory Sex Education for Kindergarteners

£6 Million Government Reduction Program Resulted in More than Twice as Many Teen Pregnancies