Education is compulsory in Wales until the age of 16, which means local councils must support teenage parents under this age to continue with their studies, even if it means learning outside mainstream school.
In fulfilling their legal duty, councils will work with the young person, their parents, the school, social services and other agencies like health to support teenage mothers and mothers-to-be. The aim is to enable teenage parents to continue with an education which is suitable for their age, ability, aptitude and individual needs (including Additional Learning Needs).
Local councils may also be willing to arrange educational provision for young mothers and mothers-to-be aged between 16 and 18.
Carrying on at school
Young mothers are usually encouraged to stay in full-time education during their pregnancy, unless medical or personal circumstances make other arrangements necessary. The school’s head teacher will respect the young person’s wishes on confidentiality and make sure that when the pregnancy does become public the teenage mother is dealt with sensitively by teachers and other pupils.
No young woman will be excluded from school because she is pregnant or a young mother, and any instances of bullying must be treated the same as for a non-pregnant pupil, i.e. exclusion from school should not be considered an option.
When a pupil becomes pregnant in Year 11, it might be difficult for them to return to mainstream education in time to sit exams. In these situations, it might be appropriate to go straight onto further education or consider redoing the school year.
Taking time off
If the pupil is unable to attend school for medical reasons but is still able to study, the school will provide work for them to do at home.
Attendance at ante-natal classes will be treated as authorised absence.
A pupil is entitled to no more than 18 weeks of authorised absence immediately before and after the birth, after which a return to school is encouraged. When the teenage mother has not returned within this period, she should continue to have access to support from the school and council, and will be encouraged to return when ready.
If the young person wishes to return to education sooner than this, the council will provide a suitable form of education, i.e. mainstream school or some alternative provision.
It’s important to note that parenthood, by itself, is not a reason to be excused from compulsory education.
It’s important the needs of school-age fathers and fathers-to-be are also met. If appropriate, the school might consider some flexibility to the timetable and curriculum.
This might mean the school allowing the young person time off to attend ante-natal appointments or parenting skills classes (as authorised absence) or arranging help from other agencies. If considered necessary, the school might arrange counselling sessions.
When the baby is born
Young parents returning to full-time education need all the support they can get. If either set of grandparents is able to help with babysitting or financially, it’s a big bonus.
Childcare - The young person’s reintegration officer or personal advisor will provide advice on finding childcare, including help with the costs. Families may be eligible for the childcare element of Working Tax Credit if one or both of the grandparents are working, or childcare costs as part of their Universal Credit.
Financial help - Young people cannot usually claim benefits in their own right until they reach 16. The exception is Child Benefit which is payable to anyone with responsibility for a child under 16.
When you reach 16, you may be able to claim certain benefits depending on your circumstances. Gingerbread has a benefits finder for teenage parents.
If you’re under 18, you may be eligible for Healthy Start vouchers, which you can spend on fruit and vegetables in local supermarkets and shops.
Home-school transport - Your council has discretionary powers to arrange free transport to school if a GP certifies a young person has reached a stage in their pregnancy when they are no longer able to walk to school.