British newspaper The Sun broke the
story of 13-year-old father Alfie Patten.

Furor Over “Baby-Faced Dad” Highlights Teen Sex Concerns in UK

February 16, 2009 10:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
As the British government tries to reduce teen pregnancies, a baby born to a 13-year-old father and 15-year-old mother has captivated the nation, and much of the world.

Young Parents Become Symbol in Old Debate

One of the newest families in Britain includes a 13-year-old father who was 12 when he impregnated his now 15-year-old girlfriend. The girl, Chantelle Steadman, gave birth to Maisie Roxanne early last week, reported the Daily Telegraph.

Police have investigated the case and decided that prosecuting Steadman or the baby’s father, Alfie Patten, was “not in anyone’s interests,” the newspaper reported.

Steadman told the newspaper, “When I was pregnant the police and social workers came to interview us and they decided that we would make good parents to Maisie. Now we will prove to everyone that we can be, and give her a great future. When Alfie is 16 he can come and live here with me and my family.”

Patten and Steadman plan to stay in school.

The young parents have caused a national uproar, with Britain’s Children’s Secretary, Ed Balls, telling the Telegraph: “You look at that young lad being a dad when he is so young—and also the teenage girl—and you think it’s not right, this looks so terrible.”

Worldwide, 16 million teens between the ages of 15 and 19 give birth each year, according to the World Health Organization. Just seven countries are responsible for  half of the world’s teenage pregnancies: the United States, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

But Britain has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Europe, according to a December article in the Daily Mail. In 2006, 41,800 girls under the age of 18 became pregnant in England and Wales, the paper said, and in 2007 approximately 43,000 girls in the same demographic became pregnant.

The British government has been trying to cut the teen pregnancy rate since 1998, when then-Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a new initiative. The teen pregnancy rate had dropped slightly most years until 2007, but did not meet the goals the Labor government set.

Related Topic: UK mandates sex education for students

In October, after nine months of review and consultation with education, social and religious specialists, the British government announced that compulsory “relationship lessons” would be implemented for students from age 5 to 16.

Covering an array of subjects, not limited to, but including sexual education, the “age-appropriate” lessons will focus on all the necessary subjects to help children make a healthy and safe transition from adolescence to adulthood.

The program’s focus on relationships and their connection to sex appears to have earned the government praise.

The Methodist Church of Britain applauded the move for stressing “the importance of relationships and sexual health education into a framework that can be supported and managed.”

“We are not talking about teaching six and seven-year-olds the Kama Sutra,” Sandy Youngson, a Methodist Church representative who advised the government, told the Ekklesia news service. “The Methodist Church wants to support young people to develop as a whole.”

After finding that education of alcohol, sexual and drug issues was “patchy” in UK schools, the national government has ordered the implementation of lifestyle lessons, though the exact nature of the classes remains subject to review.

The Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) classes will also be malleable according to local needs and demands, and their implementation will be determined by a review board.

Inviting clergy members to offer their opinions on a “moral context” in which to provide the information, the government has hoped to avoid controversy.

“We are not suggesting that five and six-year-olds should be taught sex,” Schools Minister Jim Knight told the BBC. “What we are saying is we need to improve in particular the relationship education, improve the moral framework and moral understanding around which we then talk about sex later on in a child’s education.”

In the last 10 years, the United Kingdom has seen significant growth in the number of sexually transmitted diseases, making education increasingly important.

A review of UK schools found that sexual education was addressed mainly from a scientific angle, focusing on the biology and process rather than taking personal or emotional components into consideration.

Some criticized the PSHE curriculum plans.

The government announcement came just days after the Scout Association, the UK version of the Boy and Girl Scouts, decided to begin a sex education program that will provide age-appropriate lessons to young scouts.

The scout leaders had requested guidance at a national meeting of the organization, marking a significant change from the group founder’s dated advice that young men should “wash your parts in cold water and cool them down” if they experience sexual urges.

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