Teenage pregnancy rates in England and Wales are still among the highest in the developed world, despite being currently at their lowest point since records began. There is also significant disparity in teenage conception rates between areas, with some areas experiencing rates as high as 40 pregnancies per 1000 girls under the age of 18, while others have rates as low as five per 1000.
Population Matters has published a briefing paper examining teenage conception rates in England and Wales specifically, and considering the reasons for these large disparities between areas.
The paper finds that teenage conception rates have fallen due to, primarily, the implementation of a government strategy to tackle teenage pregnancy through improved provision of sex and relationships education (SRE) and increased access to contraception for young people.
Areas that have achieved the greatest reductions in teenage pregnancies have followed this strategy effectively, providing both good quality school SRE, as well as accessible sexual health services.
The paper concludes that while great progress has been made, there is still a long way to go. The Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) considers SRE to be “not yet good enough” and the UK government has introduced recent public health cuts that threaten to reduce access to sexual health services.
Teenage pregnancies impose significant costs on young mothers, children, society, the economy and the environment. In order to reduce these costs, the state, and local authorities, must enhance the quality of SRE in schools and ensure that everyone who needs sexual and reproductive health services can access them.