||The education of pregnant young women and young mothers
May 2002 – March 2004
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
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
Objective 2: To highlight how education might be improved
to prevent disengagement either prior to pregnancy or because
- 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
- How can mainstream education be improved to support young
- 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
- 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
- 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
Papers already presented on this
research can be found on the Conferences & Seminar
Presentations and Esteem
For further details about the project please contact: