North London localised parents, politicians and school teachers have voiced serious concerns over recent government recommendations for contraceptives to be made available in schools. Last week, the National Health Institute for Health and Care excellence (NICE) called for schools to provide free condoms and contraceptive pills to teenagers including those under the age of consent – in a bid to reduce unwanted teenage pregnancies.
However many people including Islington Councillor, Dave Wilson, believe it’s simply a step too far.
“We’ve got to stop the problem at the root & making contraceptives more widely available is a very poor solution,” he said.
In the UK, under 16’s are able to have abortions or take contraceptives ‘without parental knowledge or consent’ and in their latest guidance, Nice called for health professionals to be made fully aware of this law.
However, Mr Wilson says the presence of contraceptives such as the morning- after-pill in schools risks marginalising parents further.
“I don’t think you should give contraceptives of any sort to children without their parents knowing about it and them (the teenagers) discussing with their parents,” he said.
“I understand the main thing is to stop young people having babies when they don’t want them but I think we should be focusing on sexual health education.”
Islington resident and mother of four daughters, Karen Blake is “disgusted” by the recommendations and says she would consider withdrawing her children from their school if condoms and contraceptives were made available to them.
“It’s getting out of control, there’s no way (contraceptives) should be in schools, we send our children there to learn not to be given contraceptives. It’s madness,” she said.
“Two of my girls are in high school at the moment and if their school were providing condoms and morning after pills – they’d be transferring (schools) immediately,” she added.
Businesswoman & former youth worker Charmaine Simpson, has two daughters and is also concerned. She believes having condoms in schools could further normalise promiscuity among teenagers and increase teenage pregnancies.
“In our society today – young people are being highly sexualised at very young ages and we need to educate them so they can avoid the traps and make better decisions about their futures,” she said.
“Young people should be focused on their studies – my mother always said keep your legs closed and your books open and that’s what our young people need to be encouraged to do,” she added.
However, not all parents are concerned.
Sofia Gregg, a mother of two teenage girls and a 15 year old son, says she is confident her children would not use condoms or contraceptives even if they were available in schools without telling her.
“I think it’s down to how you raise your children and the relationship you have with them – but I know my children would come to me or their father first so it wouldn’t bother me if (contraceptives) were in schools” she said.
Dana Thompson, a former sexual health adviser and youth worker says making contraception available in schools and other “less formal” settings could help reduce unwanted pregnancies
“I definitely think that there’s a stigma about going to the sexual health clinics for contraception and girls in particular are sometimes ashamed or embarrassed so they don’t go and that’s one of the reasons we’ve got so many unwanted pregnancies. So it could definitely have an impact,” she said.
Sarah Creighton, a consultant at Homerton Hospital, which often handles contraception and abortion inquiries and procedures also supports Nice’s recommendations.
“There is no evidence that access to contraception increases promiscuity. What it does do is reduce unwanted pregnancies, “she said.
Ms Creighton says it is important to ensure young women have access to a wide range of contraception in a range of ‘easy to access’ service.”
“In Hackney, we have had a number of initiatives promoting access to a wide range of contraception, including emergency contraception for many years now. As a result, we have seen the rate of unwanted teenage pregnancy fall by more than 60%,” she said.
Another potential issue is whether schools would be willing to dispense condoms and contraceptive pills.
A teacher from an Islington secondary school told the Holloway Herald she was “uncomfortable” with the recommendation and suggested schools focus on delivering effective sexual education instead.
The teacher who wishes to remain anonymous warned it could have an impact on relations between parents and schools.
“I think it’s an absolutely terrible idea, how can we expect parents to trust (schools) if we’re giving their children contraceptives without them being aware,” she said.
“It would make more sense to let hospitals and clinics deal with (contraceptive) procedures and let schools focus on educating young boys and girls so they can make better choices for themselves,” she added.