Byline: HELEN RAE
TEENAGE mothers on Tyneside are finishing their education while adjusting to motherhood thanks to a special unit in the North East.
Ashlyns Unit in Kenton supports young mothers who are still in education while they give birth and care for their new babies.
The mothers, aged 14 to 17, are able to bring their babies along to be cared for in the crche while they continue with their studies for their GCSEs and beyond.
Three young mothers who are studying at the unit - which is part of Newcastle Bridges School - have spoken about their lives, which are devoted to their children.
Each is juggling motherhood with attending lessons, completing coursework and taking exams with the support of the unit, their families and the local NHS.
Faye, 15, of Heaton, had fourmonth-old baby Amelia.
She said: "I was really scared when I found out I was pregnant, but excited too. I had wanted to have a baby when I was about 20. My parents were in shock but they calmed down.
"I was frightened towards the end of my pregnancy as I was nervous about the pain and bringing someone into the world. When I had her it was hard at first not having any sleep, but I love her to pieces and have adapted to life caring for my daughter with the support of my family.
"In the future I would like Amelia to do something with good money, as that is important. I would like to be a hairdresser when I have finished school."
Becca, 17, had Louie-James, now 10 month, during her GCSEs. She said: "I had a GCSE a week and a half after the birth and I went and did it," she said. "I got bad results so I came to retake them at Ashlyns.
"The birth was agony. It was the worst pain of my life and I wouldn't do it again. The sleepless nights are tough and it is hard to concentrate on work when you are tired.
"Having had a baby at this age is a new focus and makes you want to go out and get a job as you know you have to provide. You think more about your future and my family has been great.
"It is great coming here as you feel supported having the nursery. My mother would have Louie but this gives her a break. The NHS was great as well, my midwife was really supportive and I thought the care was good."
She added: "I would say to other girls to wait to have a family. You will know more when you are older and you can provide for them then. If you get pregnant it is hard work. As they get older it gets harder as they can walk and get around and you are always after them."
Sonia, 16, is mum to 20-month-old Harley-Nathalie. "It is nice to come here and meet other people in the same position as you," she explained.
"It is good that I could come here and carry on with my education which has made me focus. I would like to be a policewoman or an accountant.
"I would say to other girls to wait to have a family until you have your own place and money."
FIGURES Sue Alana Bennett, manager of Ashlyns Unit in Kenton, paid testament to the girls who are adjusting to the pressures of motherhood while taking exams.
"We run Ashlyns like a school and the girls have exams and coursework to complete and lessons to attend," she said.
"We sometimes don't appreciate how hard it is. At home they are awake half the night and have constant responsibility, and we expect them to turn up for school and behave like any other teenager. The girls have a lot more pressure and responsibility than other young people in mainstream school and sometimes we forget that.
"It is really hard for them being up through the night and having an exam the next morning. It is good for the girls that they manage to do this. When you think that adult women are entitled to nine to 12 months off on maternity leave, our girls only take a couple of weeks off then they are back in school."
Meanwhile pupils at a Blyth school have been having sexual health lessons delivered by the local NHS. …