A think-tank has criticised the government’s teenage pregnancy policy after new figures showed a rise in the number of under-16s becoming pregnant.
A total of 7,462 under-16 girls in England (a rate of 7.8 per 1,000 girls) conceived in 2005, up from 7,181 (7.5 percent) the year before, provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed on Thursday.
The Family Education Trust, an independent trust, said it showed the government’s strategy was “failing to make any real inroads”.
Its director Norman Wells added that the government’s emphasis on sex education and handing out contraception to young people without their parents’ knowledge “may be giving the green light to sexual experimentation”.
Children’s minister Beverley Hughes said she was disappointed at the increase, but added that “there will always be fluctuations in statistical data when they are looking at relatively small numbers”.
The Department of Health has made lowering the rate of teenage births a key target after figures showed Britain has the highest rate in Western Europe.
It has adopted a multi-faceted strategy aimed at halving under-age pregnancies by 2010, including a multi-million pound “safe sex” advertising campaign.
Hughes took encouragement from figures that showed the teenage pregnancy rate in England, which includes under-18s, was pushing “in the right direction”.
These had dropped from 41.5 per 1,000 girls in 2004 to 41.1 in 2005 - even though the total number of pregnant teenagers rose from 39,593 to 39,683 during the same period. The overall rate recorded a decline of 11.8 percent since 1998.
“We are successfully reversing an historic trend,” Hughes added.