One in five teens is sexually-active

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A new Department for Education survey has found that 83 per cent of girls have lost their virginity by the age of 18 and that 18 per cent of these youngsters have been pregnant at least once.

More than 1,300 18-year-old girls have been pregnant three times.

The statistics from this latest study show more than a quarter of girls said they had not waited until the age of consent and twenty-seven per cent of 4,298 girls questioned for the study had lost their virginity by the time they turned 16.

The data once again reignites the controversy over Britain's teenage pregnancy rate, which is the highest in Western Europe, and Labour's decade of failure to tackle the problem.

Figures released earlier this year revealed there were more pregnancies among girls under 18 in England in 2008 that there were in 2001.

Family values campaigners have long warned that poor quality sex education fails to encourage teenagers to say 'no'.

The survey shows how education plays an important role for youngsters as they are significantly less likely to have been pregnant by 18 if they did well at school and their parents have degrees.

Statistics from the survey include:

Children who live with both parents are half as likely to engage in under-age sex, according to the study.

83 per cent of 18-year-old girls were sexually active. Of this group, 14 per cent had been pregnant once, three per cent twice and 0.5 per cent three times, equating to about 1,300 of the 18-year-old female population.

Of those who had been pregnant at least once, just under half went on to have the baby, while 36 per cent had an abortion.

A further 18 per cent reported having a had miscarriage.

Girls who gained mainly D to G grades at GCSE were more likely than higher-achievers to have fallen pregnant in a 'noticeable trend'.

Other factors which appear to be associated with increased likelihood of pregnancy were being eligible for free school meals at age 16, having parents who are in more routine occupations and having parents who had lower educational attainment.

The average Briton in the 16 to 24 age group has already had nine sexual partners.

Eleven per cent were 14 or even younger when they first became sexually active, while 16 per cent were 15.

A further 26 per cent lost their virginity at 16, 17 per cent at 17 and 11 per cent at 18.

Nearly half of sexually active respondents - 46 per cent - didn't always use precautions or contraception.

Five per cent reported catching a sexually-transmitted disease.

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