Sex Education Fails the Pregnancy Test; Special Advice Lessons Are Ignored by Teenage Pupils

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SEX education does not stop teenage pregnancies, according to the first study of the lessons' effectiveness.

A programme specifically designed to prevent youngsters having underage intercourse was a failure, said researchers.

The revelations in the British Medical Journal today will be an embarrassing blow to the Government's drive to halve the number of conceptions among under-18s by 2010.

Britain has the second-highest teenage birth rate in the developed world, with 31 births per 1,000 girls aged between 15 and 19 in 1998.

The study of 5,854 pupils from 25 secondary schools considered the effectiveness of extra sex education lessons for 13 to 15-year-olds.

They were given by teachers who had completed a five-day training course.

Half the pupils took part in the SHARE programme of 20 lessons across a two-year period aimed to 'improve the quality of sexual relationships'.

These included being given sexual health information leaflets and being encouraged to take part in role play.

The other pupils had ten conventional sex education lessons over the same period.

Researchers from Glasgow University found that children given SHARE lessons were just as likely to have had unsafe sex or to become pregnant as those given the conventional lessons.

A third of the children on the SHARE programme went on to have sex after the course.

Four per cent of the girls had an unwanted pregnancy, compared with 3.8 per cent of those who had conventional sex education.

Lead researcher Dr Daniel Wight said that pupils were more positive about the SHARE programme and their knowledge of sexual health had improved.

But he admitted: 'It had a limited positive effect on contraceptive use. …