"Someone to talk to and Someone to listen" - Supporting young pregnant women and young parents in school

Every pregnant young woman and young parent should be supported to stay in school. This guidance aims to set out why it is important to provide support, how that support could be provided, and what needs to be taken into account when reaching decisions with the young person.

Appendix A

Pregnancy and parenthood support for young people at school

"(School)… It's a nice break. You could focus on yourself and chat to your peers."

Ongoing communication throughout a pregnancy will help the young person adapt to their new circumstances.

The GIRFEC National Practice Model can support the process of assessment, analysis, action and review in partnership with the young person.

The support that the young person would like to see put in place should be developed and agreed at the earliest opportunity, to enable the young person to make decisions about their future; and reviewed regularly at key points e.g.

  • 8-10 weeks prior to the due date to provide reassurance to the young mother that she will be welcomed back to school and will be able to continue her education. Includes consideration of maternity/paternity leave
  • 2-3 weeks before the planned return to school, to provide an opportunity for the young person to reflect on their return to school following the birth of the baby

This will support the young person to consider their needs and help to ensure support is provided that meets their ongoing needs. It will also enable adjustments to be made when circumstances alter over the course of the pregnancy and in parenthood.

Who should be involved?

In addition to the young parent the team around the child/family might include:

  • Parent/carers or other supportive family member
  • Relevant school staff such as guidance teacher, school nurse, educational psychologist
  • Family Nurse
  • Any other relevant professionals or trusted adult(s)
  • Third Sector

Involve only essential people in planning support to avoid the young person/people feeling overwhelmed. It will be important for the young person/people to be listened to about who is an important partner to their plan.

It's important to note that care experienced young people may not have the same family support network in place. In such cases, it's essential that the young person is supported by trusted adults with whom they have existing, established relationships.

Initial Support Meeting

An initial support meeting enables the young person to make decisions about their future. The following questions will help the young person consider what supports they might want or need.

You might find it helpful to share the questions with young people prior to their meeting, so they have time to consider them.

Considerations for assessment and planning at the earliest opportunity

Helpful questions to explore with young people and school staff as part of gathering information:

Who will support me in school?

Who needs to know about my pregnancy?

What social, emotional and practical support do I need?

What time will I need off school?

Who else can provide me with support?

What childcare options are available to me?

What are my strengths?

Key Considerations may include:

Who is the key staff member in the school providing support for the young person and their family?

Who in the school needs to know about the pregnancy?

What support from family/carer, if any, is in place?

What supports does the young person need? Social, emotional and practical support.

What time off might be needed during pregnancy? For example, antenatal care and classes, maternity leave, morning sickness and other related health issues.

Is the young parent care experienced – what additional support might they need?

Who are the other professionals in the team around the child?

What are the childcare needs for returning to school?

How will the school support breastfeeding?

Learning needs

The learning needs of the young person will differ depending on where they are in their education. It is important that this meeting provides a positive opportunity for the young person to discuss their educational aspirations and how they can be achieved with the right support.

Practical Support

There are practical supports that will make a difference to young pregnant women in school and the provision of these should be discussed at the initial support meeting. These should include, but are not limited to:

  • A toilet pass
  • An early class release pass, to avoid busy corridors and stairwells
  • A lift pass
  • Locker/storage if available
  • Flexibility around uniform requirements as pregnancy progresses

Health and Safety

Curriculum adjustments may be necessary to take account of additional needs during pregnancy. The needs of new and expectant mothers in school should be taken account of through a risk assessment, to ensure an optimal experience of school during their pregnancy.

Risks which may affect the health and safety of new or expectant mothers include:

  • Physical e.g. manual handling;
  • Biological e.g. infectious diseases, such as measles, mumps and rubella;
  • Chemical agents e.g. exposure to toxic substances in science activities;
  • Learning conditions e.g. physical fatigue etc.[9]

Risks assessments for an expectant mother should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure they remain effective[10].Pregnancy is not a reason for exclusion from school and health and safety should not be used as a reason to prevent a pregnant pupil attending school.

Key Planning Output: Young Person's Pregnancy Support Summary

Considerations for support prior to the due date

Reviewing the support in place at around 8-10 weeks prior to the due date will enable the young woman and her support network to consider the help she will need following the birth of the baby and should provide reassurance that she will be welcomed back to school and will be able to continue her education.

As with any parent, it's important that young people have the time and space to bond with their baby through a period of maternity/paternity leave. Their midwife, family nurse or health visitor and other trusted professionals will be able to help them to make that decision in co-ordination with parent/carers and the school.

The length of leave required will depend on:

  • personal circumstances
  • the health and wellbeing of parent and baby
  • the parent's educational commitments, including imminent examinations.

It will be important to take account of staff movement as part of these discussions. If the young person's main point of contact leaves the school, it is vital that the same level and nature of support continues. The young person should be supported as they build a new relationship, which may take time depending on the existing contact they have had with that person.

Post birth planning must take into account the young person's mental, emotional, social and physical health needs, the demands that childbirth and being a new parent will put upon them as well as their learning needs.

The following questions will help the young person consider what supports they might want or need. You might find it helpful to share the questions with young people prior to their meeting, so they have time to consider them.

Key considerations for the young person

When will my maternity/paternity leave begin?

When will I return to school?

Who will keep in touch with me during my leave?

How will I keep in touch with my friends?

Key considerations

When will the maternity/paternity leave begin?

What might affect their return to school date e.g. portfolio, exams, digital inclusion?

Who will be the young person's key contact whilst they are on leave?

How can we help young people to keep in touch with their peers?

Key Planning Output: Young Person's Post Birth Support Summary

Support considerations prior to return to school

"Some teachers seem to forget that you are going home to take care of your baby."

Reviewing the support in place 2-3 weeks before the young person's preferred return date to school will enable to the young person to consider their return to school now they are a parent.

The post-natal period can potentially be challenging for young mothers, so they may need help and support to enable their return and their any previous plans may need adapting or adjusting. Being flexible about a previously agreed return to school date will help young mothers and fathers feel positive about returning at a time when they are ready.

The following questions will help the young person consider what supports they might want or need. You might find it helpful to share the questions with young people prior to their meeting, so they have time to consider them.

Key Considerations for the Young Person

Do I feel ready to leave my baby?

Who will look after my baby when I'm at school?

How can I be reached if there is a concern about my baby?

My mental, emotional and physical health

The health of my baby

How I feel, how tired I am

What support will I have from my family/carers and/or other services?

How do I feel about going back to school?

Can I breastfeed if I return to school?

Key Considerations for mental, emotional, social and physical health of the young parent

Health of the baby

Energy levels of the young mother

Levels of support available from the family/carers (if any) and other services


If the young woman feels ready to leave the baby in the care of others

Potential anxiety about returning to school

Whether a phased return to school may help the young parent adjust

Support if the mother is breastfeeding

Practical factors to take into consideration should include:

Authorised time off for appointments

Caring needs: enabling them to arrive later if they have to take their baby to nursery/childminder

Enabling the young woman to see her Family Nurse during school time, if that is her preference

Access to local groups for young parents

Learning Needs

It is important to help young parents to manage their expectations; managing a full range of subjects as well as parenting their baby may prove challenging. In such circumstances it is important to help the young parent feel positive about their achievements to date and to support them in achieving their aspirations without feeling overwhelmed.

Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) promotes flexibility and allows schools to personalise learner journeys to meet the needs of all children and young people.

The provision of flexible pathways can help the young parent manage their studies with their parenting responsibilities. This is important for both young mothers and fathers, so that fathers are also able to care for their baby[11].

The Additional Support for Learning framework recognises that young parents may need extra help at school and it allows schools to provide this support to ensure young parents fully benefit from their learning. Young parents may also benefit from Alternative Assessment Arrangements. The particular arrangements should be discussed with the school.

Due to their parenting commitments, young parents may find it difficult to study after school. The following can help young parents with their studies:

  • Build study time into timetables to provide young parents with the opportunity to study, finish homework and coursework during the school day.
  • Flexibility with deadlines to help young parents to keep up with their peers, if they are coping with sleepless nights, or looking after an unwell child.

Key Planning Output: Young People's Decisions Summary


Email: rebecca.herbert@gov.scot

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