Past Projects

Title:   The education of pregnant young women and young mothers in England

May 2002 – March 2004

Research Team
Dr Alison Hosie, University of Newcastle
Dr Nona Dawson, University of Bristol
Dr Sara Meadows, University of Bristol
Dr Peter Selman, University of Newcastle
Suzanne Speak, University of Newcastle

About the study
The study explored the education of pregnant young woman and young mothers in 10 Leas in England. The study had six major research objectives, which are detailed below.

A broad review of the incidence of teenage pregnancy leading to motherhood and abortion was explored through a range of literature and statistical sources. The general antecedents and characteristics of young mothers in England, and current wisdom about their education were also considered to set a context for the study and to advise the empirical work.

The LEAs chosen for the study represented a range of educational, institutional and geographical contexts. The study involved detailed face-to-face interviews with 93 young women who were, or had been, pregnant and or mothers pre-statutory school leaving age. Their data was supplemented with baseline data on a total of 456 young women. The experiences of these young women was set against the perceptions and practices of schools and professionals, which were collected by means of questionnaires to all mainstream and special schools in the ten LEAs and a range of other professionals with practical and/or strategic responsibility for the education of pregnant young women and young mothers within the LEAs.

The primary aim of this research has been to explore the educational experience of pregnant young women and young mothers of school age and to identify what factors, and forms of provision, determine both academic and broader success in returning to or continuing with education.

A secondary aim is to present that information in a way which will inform policy and practice, to help increase the number of young mothers who engage with education and training and employment in line with Government’s strategy - “to reduce the risk of long-term social exclusion of teenage parents and their children by getting more teenage parents into education, training or employment” (SEU 1999).

Within these overarching aims there are a number of objectives to be achieved. These are outlined below with the key research questions, which we have sought to answer.

Objective 1: To understand the previous educational experience of young mothers

  • What are the levels of young mothers’ attendance and achievement prior to pregnancy?
  • What is their ‘lived experience’ of education prior to pregnancy?
  • What elements of education did they enjoy and find stimulating and relevant?

Objective 2: To highlight how education might be improved to prevent disengagement either prior to pregnancy or because of it

  • What are the key reasons for young women becoming disengaged or poor attendees prior to pregnancy?
  • How does the handling of pregnancy by the school or others, impact on a young woman’s willingness to remain in education?
  • How can mainstream education be improved to support young mothers?
  • How have government initiatives (e.g. Connexions, Sure Start Plus, Re-Integration Officers) improved young mothers' access to education?

Objective 3: To identify and compare the experience of remaining in, or returning to, mainstream education, against the experience of specialist and non-specialist PRUs, further education colleges or accessing home tuition

  • What makes different forms of provision more or less suitable for different young women, and, in locations with a choice of provision, what are the factors influencing a young mother’s choice?
  • Which forms of provision are likely to maximise a young mother’s academic, vocational and developmental potential?
  • What effect does the form of provision have on broader outcomes for young women in terms of mental, physical and social well-being, the development of parenting skills and self esteem?
  • How is the effectiveness of different forms of provision influenced by local contexts, such as topography or additional forms of support or levels of teenage pregnancy?

Objective 4: To identify how childcare considerations impact upon continuation or re-engagement in education

  • How central is the availability of childcare to a young mothers ability to return to education pre and post 16?
  • What forms of childcare do young mothers prefer, and how crucial is the availability of their preferred type to their willingness to return to, and settle in, education?
  • What are the limitations of childcare being experienced by young mothers and those working with them?

Objective 5: To highlight how education can best encourage young mothers to continue into post-16 education and training

  • What types of educational provision are most likely to encourage a young mother to continue with education and training post-16?
  • What forms of post-16 provision are most attractive to a young mother?
  • Does the locating of pre-16 provision in or near FE act as a stimulus for mothers to continue post-16?

Overall Research Design
This research has made use of three methods of data collection to provide an overall picture of patterns of provision of support for the education of young mothers in ten LEAs of England. A general picture of the experience of young mothers was sought through the collection of baseline data using a spreadsheet developed in a previous study for DfES (link to publications page). This has been linked to insights into the direct experiences of education of a sample of pregnant young women and young mothers in ten LEAs in England by means of conducting 93 in-depth semi-structured interviews. Finally, the views of schools and key professionals in the three LEAs were explored through the use of postal questionnaires.

The findings will be disseminated via health and education professional local networks, conferences and seminars, magazines/journals and other academic outlets.

The final report is available on the TPU and DfES websites as well as here. A briefing paper on this report can also be downloaded here.

Papers already presented on this research can be found on the Conferences & Seminar Presentations and Esteem Indicators pages.

For further details about the project please contact:

Dr Alison Hosie
Tel : 07931 164111
Dr Nona Dawson
Tel : 0117 928 7024
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