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quarta-feira, 24 de fevereiro de 2010

Teenage pregnancy rate falls but key target set to be missed

Teenage pregnancy rate falls but key target set to be missed
The pregnancy rate among girls under 18 has fallen for England and Wales although the rate of decline is not enough to stop the Government missing a key target.

Published: 11:12AM GMT 24 Feb 2010
The North East had the highest under-18 conception rate at 49 per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 17 Photo: PA

Ministers pledged to halve England's under-18 pregnancy rate by this year against a 1998 baseline of 46.6 conceptions per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 17.

Today's figures show a rate of 40.4 per 1,000 girls in 2008 - a drop of just over 13 per cent against the baseline figure and a 3 per cent fall since 2007.
The pregnancy rate among under-16s in England fell by almost 6 per cent between 2007 and 2008 from 8.3 to 7.8 per 1,000 girls.

The North East had the highest under-18 conception rate at 49 per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 17.

The East of England had the lowest rate, at 31.4 per 1,000.

This morning Schools Secretary Ed Balls defended the Government's record on teenage pregnancies, but conceded it was going to be ''really hard'' to achieve the 50 per cent reduction.

''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 measures to tackle teen pregnancies were being successful.

''But it is not enough. I'm still worried about it and there is a lot more to do,'' he said.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he also defended legislation passed last night that will force faith schools to teach sex education.

An amendment to the Children, Schools and Families Bill will mean that religious educators will be allowed to teach personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons ''in a way that reflects the school's religious character''.

Secularists have criticised ministers for allowing the Bill to be watered down.

Mr Balls said: ''It is a huge change to make sex relationship education compulsory in every school, including every faith school, for the first time.

''Currently, a faith school can choose not to talk about relationships, to ignore talk about contraception or abortion or any of those things.

''That is now going to change. This is not an opt-out at all.''

Keith Porteous Wood, executive director of the National Secular Society, said: ''The Government have once more bowed to pressure from the Catholic Church, betraying the children in faith schools who have a right to objective and balanced sex education. This cowardice will blight many lives.''

Gill Frances, chair of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group, said she was pleased the figures were back on their downward trend after a slight rise in the 2007 data.

"This is the lowest rate for 20 years and it reflects the intensive work that is going on around the country.

"Successful reduction in teenage pregnancy always depends on local authorities and primary care trusts and we encourage them to press on with this challenging problem.

"Nationally, statutory Sex and relationships education will give an extra benefit and Government must also ensure all young people have access to contraceptive and sexual health services."

Children's minister Dawn Primarolo and public health minister Gillian Merron launched a new "action plan" called Teenage Pregnancy Strategy: Beyond 2010.

It includes piloting one-to-one sexual health and contraception consultations for 16-year-olds alongside more support for parents and teachers and more school-based services.

Ms Primarolo said: "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.

"Last year's increase was very disappointing so I am particularly pleased that today's statistics put us back on track.

"In the last two years alone, local authorities and primary care trusts have redoubled efforts to tackle the causes of teenage pregnancy."

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