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Sex Education

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 25 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) how many schools in England make forms of contraception available to pupils; what counselling is given; and what plans he has to abolish the practice of making contraception available; [121511](2) what consultation takes place with parents of school children before deciding whether their schools will be allowed to make forms of contraception available to pupils; [121512](3) what assessment he has made of the effect of easy access to contraception in schools on sexual promiscuity in underage teenagers; and if he will make a statement. [121513]

The Department of Health is currently collecting data on the number of local authorities in which schools are providing, or planning to provide, an on-site service which includes contraceptive advice. The data will be available at the end of June. We welcome the provision of school based health services where the school identifies a need. The decision to provide such services, and the range of the service, is for governing bodies in consultations with pupils, parents and the wider community. Guidance to schools states that trained staff in secondary schools should be able to give young people full information about different types of contraception, their effectiveness and where advice and treatment can be obtained. This should be made clear in the school's sex and relationship education policy which is discussed with parents.Contraception, including emergency contraception, is provided to young people under aged 16 only under medical supervision. This includes the supply by health professionals such as school nurses and community pharmacists. Health professionals can provide contraception to young people under 16 if they are satisfied that the young person is competent to understand fully the implications of any treatment and to make a choice of the treatment involved. Health professionals work within an established legal framework which involves assessing the young person's competence to understand the choices they are making and encouraging them to talk to their parents. All professionals are bound by their professional code of confidentiality. A young person's request for confidentiality is respected unless there are serious child protection issues.

There is no evidence that access to contraception increases rates of sexual activity among young people under 16. Over the 1990s while the national figure for under 16s attendance at family planning clinics in England increased, the proportion of young people having sex before 16 remained stable. (Wellings, K. et al (2001) Sexual Behaviour in Britain: Early Heterosexual Experience. Lancet, 358: 1843–50)