3 School Education
3.1 In addition to the inclusion of pregnancy and maternity as protected characteristics, pregnancy discrimination in schools is expressly prohibited under section 17(1) (c) of the Equality Act 2010.
3.2 Particular areas of concern identified in the evidence review are the relationship between teenage pregnancy and poverty6, and the resulting disadvantage for young women, and teenage pregnancy and progression in school education and training. Whilst the scale of the issue for compulsory education is relatively small, the severity of the impact in terms of educational equality is significant.
3.3 ISD Scotland reports that the teenage pregnancy rate in Scotland is higher than 'most other western European countries': the 2010 rate for pregnancies among under 16 year-olds was 7.1 per 1,000, and for under 18 year-olds it was 35.9 per 1,0007.
3.4 Harden et al's (2006)8 review of research evidence for the EPPI-Centre on the intersection between social exclusion and teenage pregnancy highlights that 'the disadvantages experienced by many young parents before pregnancy continue after having a baby' (p.67) - and notes recurring problems in relation to housing, benefits, employment and childcare (p.54). Specific problems related to education/training are usefully summarised on pages 58 and 59 - and include being pushed to return to school/education too soon, returning to former school where relationships were not always positive, 'dirty looks' and restricted curriculum available for home-schooled mothers. Many of these recurring problems are evident in a recent report from the Highland Children's Forum, Recipe for Young Parenthood, which draws on data generated from 22 young parents (including three young fathers)9. Both reports support the view of the Learning and Teaching Council that teenage pregnancy can limit 'education and career prospects as there are few structures in place to ensure that under-16s will return to school after a birth'10 (p.17). Furthermore, it is uncommon for teenage mothers over 16 years to continue with schooling, and teenage motherhood more generally reduces the likelihood of progression to post-school education (ibid.).
3.5 Both reports also serve to emphasise that one size does not fit all and that education/training is just one component in what is often a complex set of circumstances and interrelated issues - requiring holistic, bespoke solutions. Building on their earlier work, Harden et al (2009) propose that the best interventions combine 'structural level and individual level components'11. The 2011 consultation by the EHRC on the draft Code of Practice for schools in Scotland12 highlighted the need for further evidence on developments following this consultation and related policy/practice/research.
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