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Pregnancy, Parenting and School Completion

What it Takes: Supporting pregnant and parenting young people

What it Takes provides an outline of AWE's support for pregnant and parenting young people, information about the 2009 Symposium, detailed case studies of community and school-based programs for pregnant and parenting young people, an overview of effective practice and makes recommendations for the future. The report, written by Kay Boulden, was published by the AWE in September 2010. 

 

Download the file

Download the report "What it Takes"

 

Present, Pregnant and Proud

Keeping pregnant students and young mums in education

The Association of Women Educators' 2000 publication celebrates the dedicated, compassionate, imaginative and resourceful staff of schools across Australia who have found innovative ways to support pregnant and parenting students complete school and most of all, the courageous young women who shared their stories with us and who are doing their best to make good lives for themselves and their children.

 

Every year in Australia thousands of young women who are still at school become pregnant.

 

Birth rates to teenagers (and therefore pregnancy rates) vary greatly between states and territories as the table below illustrates. Rates in Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are consistently higher than the national average, while rates in NSW, South Australia, Victoria and the ACT are lower.

 

Year

NT

TAS

QLD

WA

NSW

SA

VIC

ACT

AUST

1980

98.9

38.1

36.9

30.2

28.0

26.3

21.0

19.9

28.1

1992

90.5

29.0

26.5

25.0

22.8

18.7

14.7

14.0

21.9

1994

84.0

27.2

25.6

24.9

20.6

16.1

14.2

14.0

20.7

1996

78.6

26.8

26.0

22.8

19.9

18.3

12.8

14.4

20.1

Births per 1,000 of the estimated resident 15-19 years female population 1996

 

At present a young woman’s chances of completing secondary school once she becomes pregnant - and makes the decision to continue the pregnancy - are very low.

 

Jodie became pregnant at 13. Unsure of what was happening, and frightened to seek help, she kept her pregnancy a secret until the 8th month.

 

When her mum found out, she contacted the school counsellor for advice. Jodie had a month off school before the birth and a short time off after her baby, now aged 4, was born.

 

She believes she was the first girl at her school to come back after a birth, and says the principal tried to be supportive and flexible.

 

She managed to complete Years 9 & 10 with lots of support from a particular teacher, but found Year 11 too much - peer pressure and "teachers talking behind my back - some teachers were flexible but some said your fault, you have to live with it".

 

Early school leaving is a major factor in shaping a set of circumstances which often spell a life of hardship and poverty for the young woman herself, her child and any other children she may have.

 

One of the most effective ways to minimise the risk of such outcomes is to support young pregnant women and young mothers to stay connected to schooling.

 

Further information on issues involved in the rate of teenage pregnancy and life outcomes for young parents is available in the research section of Present, Pregnant and Proud.

 

So what are education systems and schools doing?

There are still state education systems in Australia which have not made a policy commitment to the retention of pregnant students and young parents in education, and some schools which still fear that having pregnant girls and young mums on campus will give the school a "bad image". Still others actively encourage them to leave - but there are schools with very positive stories to tell.

 

Plumpton High School in Sydney’s western suburbs, has been running a Young Mothers in Education program since 1994. The key to its success lies in the commitment of the school staff to the principle that all young people are entitled to a full secondary education. The program draws on staff from local agencies to cover issues such as finance and budgeting, housing, ante-natal health care, baby care, and legal issues, and organises excursions (for example, to the maternity units of local hospitals) to ensure young women are prepared for what lies ahead.

 

Pregnant students have priority enrolment at Plumpton – something principal Glenn Sargeant says is necessary because other schools continue to make life very difficult for them. "We have one girl here this year who was told by her previous principal, ‘Well, you’ve made your bed and now you can lie in it.’"

 

The school has developed a comprehensive policy which lays the foundation for its work. The policy addresses the importance of flexibility; non-judgmental attitudes; whole of family support (including young fathers); confidentiality; and young mothers’ access to maternity leave and special family leave.

 

Their approach has been so successful that there are currently five pregnant students in Year 12 all intending to go to uni, as well as a number of past student mums currently studying at university.

 

It’s stories like these that Present, Pregnant and Proud set out to tell, stories about schools which have developed creative ways to make their strong commitment to education for all a reality for young mums.

 

Our hope is that making these stories available to other schools will encourage them to explore the various ways in which young pregnant women and young mums can be encouraged to complete a full secondary education.

 

AWE plans to keep an eye on developments around the country, and to update information on this web-site about what school systems are doing to support pregnant and parenting students.

 

Keep an eye out in coming months to see what’s happening in your area.

 

To assist schools to plan effective ways to help young women who are pregnant or who are already young mothers to complete a full secondary education, the Association of Women Educators has developed a policy which may provide a framework for the development of policy for schools and education systems.

Guidelines for effective practice, illustrated by school case studies, are included to help other schools to get started, or to develop their programs further.

 

Find out about ordering Present, Pregnant and Proud

 

Links

Research

Present, Pregnant and Proud canvases recent research about:

  1. What we know about pregnant teenagers and young mums.
  2. Groups of young women more likely than others to become teenage mums.
  3. The things that affect teenage decision-making about pregnancy and parenting.
  4. The health and welfare issues associated with teenage pregnancy.
  5. Young mums, school and life outcomes.
  6. The fathers of children born to young mothers.

 

State Education Systems

A summary of policies currently in use in school systems across Australia in relation to pregnant and parenting students:

  1. Queensland
  2. New South Wales
  3. ACT
  4. Victoria
  5. Tasmania
  6. South Australia
  7. Western Australia
  8. Northern Territory.

 

Schools

Present, Pregnant and Proud provides case studies of effective practice from the following schools:

  1. Albert Park Flexi School, Qld
  2. Brisbane School of Distance Education, Qld
  3. Christies Beach High School, SA
  4. Claremont College, Tas
  5. Cleveland State High School, Qld
  6. Gepps Cross Girls High School, SA
  7. Marsden State High School, Qld
  8. Para West Adult Re-entry College, SA
  9. Plumpton High School, NSW
  10. Preston Girls High, Vic
  11. Tasmanian Open Learning Service

 

Guidelines for good practice

The guidelines are intended as starting points for schools and their communities to think about how they can assist pregnant students and young parents to make the greatest investment they will ever make for the future well-being of their children – to finish school.

 

Schools can do good things to support pregnant students and young parents to stay at school and complete secondary education.

 

Some of those things are very simple and require no great reorganisation of normal school routines to achieve. Others are a little more complex, and may take some time to organise. But schools that are truly committed to the notion of providing education for all can and do find ways to help the young people they are there to serve to overcome the obstacles in their way.

 

The guidelines are organised into four sections:

  1. Making it happen – developing and implementing effective practices.
  2. School is a good place to be – maintaining a positive school environment.
  3. Making connections – providing practical support to pregnant students and young mums.
  4. Reducing Risk – focused on developing and implementing effective preventative programs.