Past Projects

Title:   Monitoring of the DfES Standards Fund Teenage Pregnancy Grant

Research Team
Dr Peter Selman
Professor Diane Richardson
Dr Alison Hosie
Suzanne Speak

October 2000 - October 2001

The issue of supporting teenage parents to return to education was raised as an issue of policy concern within the SEU report (PDF - 2.02 MB - external link) on Teenage pregnancy. The Standards Fund is the Government’s main channel for targeting funds towards national priorities to be delivered by LEAs and schools and the Teenage Pregnancy section of The Grant has two key aims, of which the former is covered within this summary:

  • To reintegrate school age mothers back into education and provide support to pregnant teenagers and school-age parents in education.

  • To support age-appropriate Action Research Projects in schools aimed at reducing the rate of conceptions to under-18s.

Richardson, Selman, Speak and Hosie monitored six areas in receipt of the Standards Fund Teenage Pregnancy Grant, (Durham, Leeds, Newham, Northumberland, Sandwell and Southwark), in order to explore each LEAs use of The Grant and the developing role and effectiveness of the Reintegration Officer.

A central objective of the Standards Fund Teenage Pregnancy Grant was intended to be the ‘reintegration’ of young women conceiving whilst of statutory school age, back into education. The appointment of a Reintegration Officer for each of the 48 LEAs provided with The Grant who would; co-ordinate local provision, help to break down any barriers to reintegration and provide support for pregnant schoolgirls and school-age mothers, was seen as a key element in achieving this goal. Six areas were monitored in-depth by the research team in order to explore: the process of development and the effectiveness of Reintegration Officers; the experiences of young women who were pregnant or mothers before and after the introduction of The Grant; the value of different types of educational provisions for young mothers of compulsory school-age and to highlight evidence of good practice in breaking down barriers to education.

Prior to the existence of The Grant, pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers within the six LEAs had a limited range of approaches available to them regarding their continued education. In Sandwell almost all pregnant schoolgirls would attend a specialist Pupil Referral Unit (PRU), whilst in Durham three part-time units were available for the maternity-leave period of a young woman’s pregnancy. In the remaining four areas, the main options were either mainstream school or home tuition. A number of key issues of concern were raised by the Reintegration Officers regarding the policy and processes in operation, prior to their arrival:

Key points prior to Standards Fund Grant

  • LEAs knew very little about the numbers, educational activities and/or needs of pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers.

  • Many young women would fail to receive home tuition because their schools were unaware of correct procedure or trying to conceal that there was a pregnancy at their school.

  • A significant proportion of young women in all areas had effectively disengaged themselves from school education or were erratic attendees prior to pregnancy, therefore:

    • Without adequate follow-up on non-attendance, most LEAs did not respond to a young woman’s need regarding pregnancy, because they were unaware the need existed.

    • Reintegration efforts would often fail, as previous non-attendees did not wish to return to a school that they had already disengaged from.

  • Evidence of bad practice in the following areas was found in a number of LEAs:

    • Off-rolling of pregnant schoolgirls

    • Incorrect attendance records at school

    • Forced 29 week maternity leave

    • Admissions refusals for Year 11 mothers who had missed a substantial amount of Year 10

    • Pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers being made to feel unwelcome and hence choosing to leave of their own accord

    • Pregnant schoolgirls being told, that on health and safety grounds, school was not the best place for them.

Many schools did not see it as their duty to make sure that pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers were comfortable at school, nor to facilitate flexible or alternative provision to encourage their continued engagement.

“I think this idea of blanket reintegration is wrong. There are distinct categories - you’ve got good attendees, erratic attendees and you’ve got non-attendees, you’ve got people who’ve disengaged long before pregnancy and people who’ve disengaged around pregnancy, people who haven’t disengaged… it’s much more complex” (Teenage Pregnancy and Parenthood Initiative Co-ordinator, Leeds).

The term ‘reintegration’ assumes that a young woman was integrated prior to pregnancy. This was often found not to be the case, which is a key point to acknowledge as it seriously affects the type of educational provision, which may be appropriate for a young mother on reintegration.

Whilst some young mothers felt well supported by their school, more often negative experiences arose from a school’s unwillingness to be flexible on timetabling and in the lack of personal support offered by teachers. Generally those in receipt of education at a specialist provision commented very favourably on the education received and the social support provided, reflected by exceptionally high attendance rates. However some noted limitations in the range of subjects that a specialist unit could provide in comparison to mainstream school. Most often home tuition was not viewed favourably due to its poor quality, but in practice it was often the only viable option particularly in large geographical areas or for those young mothers wishing to remain at home for the first few months to bond with their child.

The Reintegration Officer: establishment, development and effectiveness

Despite a relatively short time in post, all Reintegration Officers have made significant achievements in their LEAs. Each Officer has adopted a different approach dependent on what systems were/ were not in place prior to their arrival. The achievements across all 6 LEAs can be summarised as follows:

Raising awareness: Within the LEA of the broader issues and in individual schools of their obligations towards pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers.

Establishing procedures: For the referral of pregnant schoolgirls and school age mothers to the Reintegration Officer and other education providers and monitoring of progress. Many schools noted relief that there was now a named officer to whom they could refer young women or ask advice and support.

Data collection: On individual pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers, the outcome of their pregnancy and their education progress and achievements.

Overcoming barriers to reintegration: Into mainstream and alternative provision and post-16 options. One of the largest barriers to overcome was that of prevailing negative perceptions of pregnant schoolgirls at an institutional level. Many teachers noted the direct effect that The Grant was having on positively changing attitudes of staff towards pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers.

Altering negative routes through education: By establishing new forms of provision as alternatives to mainstream school and home tuition (i.e. FE college) or by changing attitudes and behaviour of young women and/or educational establishments to encourage new positive routes.

Improving attendance: Within both mainstream and alternative provision and both before and after the birth. Improvements were most noted amongst those young women who were poor / erratic / non-attendees or permanently excluded prior to becoming pregnant.

General support: Including advocacy, parenting and relationship support. Supporting pregnant schoolgirls by facilitating an atmosphere where they are allowed to enjoy their pregnancy and the prospect of motherhood, instead of continually being condemned for having done something wrong, is crucial to the ongoing development of self-esteem.

Changing mothers’ perceptions of education: In many cases successfully capitalising on renewed motivation to succeed for the sake of the child, although this was often dependant on other factors including local context, a mother’s pre-conception experience of education and the different forms of education on offer in any LEA.

Improvement in educational attainment: For those already engaged prior to pregnancy remained high, the greatest improvement was seen in the proportions of previous erratic/ non-attendees entered for and passing qualifications.

Improvement in non-education attainment: This was noted amongst many young women, in particular, in relation to improved post-birth contraceptive use, raised self-esteem and the development of sound parenting skills.

How else could the LEA perform the Reintegration function?
Many initiatives have been launched in recent years to help support young people in education; the Standards Fund Teenage Pregnancy Grant is the first to have had a specific remit to work solely with teenage parents. The value of having a named person with the specific task of raising awareness, establishing procedures and changing attitudes at LEA and school level, whilst at the same time working directly with young women, cannot be made explicit enough.

The non-educational role played by the Reintegration Officer is, in many cases, as important for encouraging the engagement of pregnant schoolgirls and young mothers with education as is the local support and educational provision context.

What would improve the Reintegration Officer’s effectiveness?
In order for a Reintegration Officer to be effective in encouraging young women post-conception to continue engagement or to re-engage with education, there must be a range of suitable forms of provision available to offer. ‘Flexible provision’ has been highlighted as a key issue of importance, particularly for those dis-engaged from mainstream school prior to pregnancy.

The insecure nature of short-term posts does not help Reintegration Officers to plan their future work effectively. The negative impact this has, especially when working with young people, cannot be overstated. If Reintegration Officers posts are not confirmed for several years at a time, it is very likely that when the posts are removed, the work of Reintegration Officers will be undone within a year or two.

What can be learned from the process?
Two key lessons have been highlighted: first, role development and evolution based on local context highlights the need for flexibility and the fact that no one model suits all areas. Second, uncertainty over the future of Reintegration Officers has meant that they could not plan effectively and in some cases were making promises to young mothers for example - over childcare provision - which could not actually be guaranteed. Encouraging young women to trust in an institution that has often already failed them, only to be let down by the short-notice discontinuation of The Grant would effectively undo, any progress that had been made.

Therefore, if The Grant is to be discontinued, clear and early notification must be given, if effective exit-strategies are to be developed and successfully implemented.

The findings have been disseminated via health and education professional local networks, conferences and seminars and other academic outlets.

The final report is available in hard copy.

Papers already presented on this research can be found on the Conferences & Seminar Presentations and Esteem Indicators pages and an online copy of the report can be found on the Publications page.

For further details about the project please contact:

Dr Alison Hosie
Tel: 07931 164111

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