First school birth control clinic opens

CONDOMS AND contraceptive pills are to be issued from a health clinic in a secondary school playground, as part of the drive to reduce teenage pregnancies, it was revealed yesterday.

The move, in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, is believed to be first such initiative in Britain. The borough has a high teenage pregnancy rate - 12 in every 1,000 teenage girls conceive under the age of 16 against a national average of nine in a thousand.

The decision was taken after pupils at Hookergate Comprehensive School were asked what health advice they needed, and sex advice featured prominently in their replies.

The weekly clinic is to offer pregnancy tests as well as more general health advice. It will be a place where the young are not "morally judged" said Gateshead Health NHS Trust, which is behind the idea. "This school is isolated and it's difficult for young people to get help when they need it," said a spokesman. Contraceptives would not be handed out without "careful counselling".

A 14-year-old schoolboy whose girlfriend is pregnant at the age of 12 was undaunted about his impending fatherhood yesterday.

"The baby wasn't really planned, but I'm going to stick with my girlfriend and bring up the baby together," said the teenager from Sheffield. In a series of claims, the youth said he had slept with 10 other girls, but this was his first long-term relationship. "I really like children and I think I will make a good dad."

The boy, who will questioned by police, claims he lost his virginity at the age of nine. He admitted the pregnancy was a mistake but vowed to stand by his three-month pregnant girlfriend.

"It's all a bit frightening, but now it's happened I'm getting used to the idea," he said. He had started seeing his girlfriend earlier this year but hadn't slept with her for three months, he said.

South Yorkshire Police are investigating reports that the boy's girlfriend is three months pregnant and are also waiting to interview a girl of 12 who has given birth to a baby boy in Rotherham.

The Rotherham case coincided with a fresh drive against teenage pregnancy in the town. One school there has used an electronic baby doll which cries out for food and a nappy change in the night.

Tackling pregnancies through greater contraception is a minefield though, with critics claiming young people are being encourged to have sex before they are ready. The political impetus to reduce pregnancy numbers has now encouraged more health authorities to innovate though, according to BPAS spokeswoman Ann Furedi.

"It's pretty clear that the minority who oppose these initiatives have lost the argument," she said. "People will always say teenagers shouldn add to bottom of copy

Sporting a baseball cap and earring, the youngster added: "We get on really well and she's a good laugh. I think we will stay together.

"She has been saying she wanted a baby for a while but I didn't think too much about it. She said she was pregnant before, but she was lying."

The two children, who are set to become some of Britain's youngest parents, live on a council housing estate in Sheffield.

The boy said he'd been in trouble at school and had been cautioned twice by the police for theft.

"I have been in trouble a few times but I'm not a criminal or anything like that. I don't know if the police will do anything about this latest thing."

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