3. Why it's important to support young people who experience pregnancy and parenthood to remain in school
"I want to get an education so I can work and support my son. I want to be independent. If I didn't stay I know I would regret it in the future."
Parenthood is a positive experience for many young people. Good quality, integrated support for young pregnant women and young parents and their families through positive, trusted relationships helps them to achieve positive outcomes for themselves and for their children.
Education has a crucial role in contributing to improving the life-chances of all young people. Schools, provide a supportive and nurturing environment in which young people can grow in confidence and adapt to their new, dual role of being both young parents and students.
Pregnancy is not a reason for exclusion from school. Directly or indirectly implying that a young pregnant woman is no longer welcome at school, is discriminatory behaviour. Health and safety is not a reason to exclude pregnant young women from school.
The Technical Guidance for Schools in Scotland covers discrimination in schools, in relation to the 2010 Equality Act. Published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission it includes information in relation to discrimination against pregnancy and maternity. It sets out that:
"A school must not discriminate against a pupil because of her pregnancy or maternity, or because she is breastfeeding. This means that it is unlawful for a school to restrict the education, benefits, facilities or services available to pregnant or breastfeeding pupils, or to restrict the options available to them.
However, it is not unlawful to treat a female pupil more favourably because of her pregnancy or maternity, or because she is breastfeeding. So a school can offer pregnant or breastfeeding pupils' additional education, benefits, facilities or services, or offer them in a more flexible or favourable way than they are offered to other pupils. Schools should avoid making assumptions about the educational and career aspirations of teenage mothers".
And additionally that:
"It is unlawful to exclude a pupil because of her pregnancy or maternity".
- Some young people may need additional or more intensive support as young parents. It is important to consider and explore with each individual what matters and what is important to them. It is also important to provide an opportunity to explore their own experiences and circumstances to understand and hear what they feel would be helpful and supportive.
Engaging with the wider support network
It can take time for the young person and their family to come to terms with such life-changing news. For many, informing the school about the pregnancy is a big challenge to be negotiated. How the young person is supported by the school can affect both the young person and their wider support network's immediate and long-term responses to education and wider offers of assistance.
The wider support network of the young pregnant woman and the father of the baby, if present, need to be reassured that continued involvement in education will benefit both parents and enhance their ability to successfully support their child in the future. It is important for the young person and their wider support network that the response from the school offers reassurance that support will be available to meet the changing circumstances.
Ensuring all young people are well informed about pregnancy
"They only talk about stopping pregnancies."
"We need help, we need guidance."
Providing information to all young people about pregnancy and the importance of speaking to someone if they're pregnant – or suspect they might be – is central.
It is important that young people are helped to understand who they can approach in confidence should they require support and advice about pregnancy. Some young pregnant women may not want to access services due to anxiety and distress over their pregnancy and may need additional, personalised help to access that support and advice, which schools can play a role in facilitating if required.
Learning through Relationships, Sexual Health and Parenthood (RSHP) education should prepare young people so that they will be informed in advance and better able to confidently seek support and advice should they experience a pregnancy.
In some schools, drop-in health services provide help and advice to young people around pregnancy. It is also useful to provide easily accessible information on noticeboards etc. about local sexual health services, pregnancy testing and support.
In some situations, it may be helpful for young women to access independent advocacy to help them understand their rights and what options they have. This type of support should be independent of the other services involved in their life and can help them articulate their views or decisions to others.
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