Working with schools is, of course, an essential part of tackling teenage pregnancy. Investing in good quality relationships and sex education is something many areas have done, but Bristol City Council has taken that a step further by establishing a network of drop-in sessions in secondary schools.
The weekly clinics are run by a sexual health nurse and youth worker and are held during lunchtimes. Julia Nibloe, service manager at Brook, which runs the service, says: “We provide contraception and do some STI testing and when we can’t or if a clinical setting is more appropriate we can refer them on. “But most of our time is really spent talking with young people about sexual health and healthy relationships – we discuss what that involves, what is consent and staying safe. We also talk about other things, such as alcohol or pornography and the safe use of the internet. We really encourage young people to discuss anything they need to. It’s about getting students to discuss things in an open and non-judgemental environment.”
But this is just one of a number of ways the council’s public health team has sought to reduce teenage pregnancy. When the national healthy school programme was discontinued, Bristol developed its own version which has been relaunched after extensive redesign and consultation with schools. Rather than one large programme there are now eight smaller ‘badges’ covering different health and wellbeing topics, including relationships and sex education and emotional health and wellbeing. This is a universal programme that reaches thousands of pupils by ensuring a whole school approach to tackling health and wellbeing, including teenage pregnancy and sexual health.
Aimed at making it as easy as possible for schools which have very little capacity to get best practice in place, schools are provided with guidance and support documents from lesson plans to example policies. The major focus is the schools in the most deprived areas of the city. There is also a programme of free or low cost training and a number of networks for schools to attend. Two years ago the council launched a new scheme, Bristol Ideal, in partnership with the police to tackle domestic abuse and sexual violence.
Guidance and training is provided to schools helping them to learn how to identify pupils at risk and how to address that. As part of that schools are expected to appoint one member of staff to take responsibility for the issue. Teenage pregnancy and young parents 17 All the work seems to be paying off. Teenage pregnancies in Bristol have shown a steep decline with the rate now 17.2/1000, lower than the England average and 66 percent below the rate in 1998.
Councillor Asher Craig, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Public Health said: “In recent years we have seen a significant fall in numbers of teenage pregnancies within the city. Our teams have been working with organisations across the city to get to this great result and I hope we will be able to continue to improve this in the years to come.”
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