Teenage pregnancy is an issue which was brought into focus in the United Kingdom
(UK) in the last decade because of the high incidence of live births and abortions in this
age group. The negative impact associated with teenage pregnancy, including limited
education options, and the impact on both the young person and their child in terms of
achieving economic wellbeing, has been well documented. Due to these rates, Britain
has been labelled as the country with the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe.
The Local Authority within which this research was conducted has also been branded
as having the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Europe.
This research is an original study involving Year 9 pupils aged 13 to 14 from two singlesex
secondary schools in an inner London Borough. Under investigation are their
perceptions of what they are taught in sex and relationship education (SRE) both
internally, by teachers and externally, by Sexual Health and Relationship Team
(SHARES) facilitators. Further, the study aims to determine whether pupils' knowledge
of SRE increases after receiving input in Year 9 in their schools. A mixed-methods
approach was used which included the use of a pre- and post-input questionnaire and
the running of two focus groups, one in each school. The teachers' and facilitators'
views were obtained through the use of semi-structured interviews. The research
discussions are underpinned by ideas elaborated in three main theories: constructivism,
communities of practice and social learning theory. The study also draws upon ideas
from attachment theory. Critical psychology is referenced with regard to raising the
issue of how society views young people. Past research in this area has focused on teenage pregnancy and its impact,
adolescent attitudes to sexuality and sexual behaviour, and the evaluation of sex and
relationship programmes. The epistemological position taken is that of a critical realist,
as the research draws on data collected both quantitively and qualitatively.
This thesis endeavours to provide some insight into what is actually being undertaken in
schools, including a review of ongoing Government initiatives attempting to reduce
teenage pregnancy. Although teenage pregnancy is not the focus of this study, it
represents on area of decision making related to pupils' perceptions of what they are
taught, which could have an effect on the decisions they make regarding sex and
relationships. It will give some insight into pupils' views on SRE and what they would
like to see included in the SRE curriculum, as well as who they think should teach it.
The findings indicate that pupils' knowledge of SRE increased after input from both the
teachers and the facilitators, and that they would like to be taught SRE in places other
than school. This included youth centres and drop-in centres. Educational Psychologists
have a contribution to make in this area, both in terms of further research and in working
with young people, their parents and communities to ensure that they are supported and
that their voices are heard.
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