Pregnancy tests at school

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Girls as young as thirteen are to be offered routine pregnancy tests in schools in Liverpool and Wirral, as part of a teenage health drive on Merseyside.

The move has been condemned by family campaigners who said the proposals to distribute condoms and provide routine pregnancy tests for thousands of schoolgirls risked promoting promiscuity.

Dr Adrian Rogers, a GP and founder of the Family Focus campaign said: "Offering this kind of service in the school setting is going to promote promiscuity.

"There is already free, confidential testing and advice available at every GP's surgery and family planning clinic.

"Schools would be far better holding group discussions about the stupidity, the seriousness, and the damaging effects of immature teenage girls who indulge in early sex.

"Schools wading in to provide this service is a complete waste of time and money and will prove counter-productive. Medical professionals are already well-qualified to provide wide-reaching advice to young people"

In Liverpool, health officials are planning to fund a pilot project in five schools where full sexual health clinics will be operated.

In the borough of Wirral, 13 out of 29 secondary schools are already involved in the programme of offering routine pregnancy tests.

The drop-in clinics allow pupils to pop in during the school day. The clinics could allow children as young as 11 to receive pregnancy tests, morning-after pills, screening for sexually-transmitted diseases and confidential advice. Students can also confidentially receive pregnancy tests along with a raft of services ranging from the morning after pill, height and weight measuring, and advice on alcohol and smoking .

Although pupils are encouraged to tell parents of their visits, Wirral health and council officials have written to parents confirming they do not require consent as the law dictates 'no young person can be prevented by the school from accessing the health service'.

The move comes as figures show the number of Wirral under 18s falling pregnant dropped from 312 to 303 between 2006-7.

Gordon Fair, a lead consultant on the programme said: "Initial indications have shown that health services in school teams are providing early identification on a range of potential health related issues."

He added: "We have found that many young people are being helped and guided on issues including smoking, alcohol use and associated risk-taking behaviours."

Figures for 2007 show that in Liverpool 51 in every 1000 girls aged 15-17 fall pregnant compared to the the national average of 41.7.

A Liverpool PCT spokeswoman said its project was 'in its infancy' but would be offered to schools 'on a voluntary basis, and only with the full agreement of senior management teams and governing bodies.

"National and international research evidences that if we are to improve young people's sexual health and reduce the number of unplanned conceptions in young people under the age of 18, we must provide high quality sexual health education, and easy access to sexual health services for information and support."

Meanwhile, the National Children's Bureau (NCB) has called for the clinics to be expanded to every secondary school and college to give pupils access to high-quality advice and help.

Health clinics have been introduced to schools since the launch of the Government’s “extended schools” initiative in 2000, which turns schools into one-stop-shops for education, health and social services.

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