Teenage pregnancy has been a long-standing phenomenon in the UK. Over the last few years the profile of teenage pregnancy has reduced, despite the UK still having the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe1.
With teenage pregnancy and young parenthood comes barriers to employment, due to either lack of qualifications, scheduling or stigma.
Straight Talking Peer Education is a charity aimed at raising teenage awareness of the realities of early parenthood as a preventative measure, whilst upskilling and employing the young people for them to have more prosperous futures.
Meet a few of the young people working for Straight Talking:
The teenage mothers and young fathers educate young people in secondary schools about early parenthood, healthy relationships, child sexual exploitation and sexting, enabling them to make responsible life choices.
Using young people from a similar age, background or social culture makes it easier for pupils to understand and relate to the difficult issues.
One peer motivator likened her experience to 'talking to younger siblings'; telling them 'what not to do' in regards to sex and relationships.
She remembers her younger self not being able to talk to her mother about similar situations; feeling a lot more comfortable listening to visitors like herself who came into school.
How it started:
Hilary Pannack was working as a youth worker with teenage parents, when a teacher approached her to provide more concrete relationship and sex education for young people. This led to the design and development of a course that is the basis of the interactive peer education programme that Straight Talking has delivered since 1998.
Whilst based in the heart of Southwark in Elephant and Castle, nationally Straight Talking has worked in the Home Counties, West Midlands, Buckinghamshire, Somerset, Greater Manchester, Colchester & Tendering.
Over the years, teenage parents working for Straight Talking have updated the course content so that it remains fresh and relevant to the world young people live in today.
"Nothing gives us more pride or satisfaction than seeing those who previously lacked self-esteem, drive or skills reach a level of confidence that enables them to succeed and provide for the needs of their young families.."
At our visit to a session Straight Talking was delivering at Robert Clack School we met Leo, a peer motivator who spoke very highly of their organisation. He became a father at 17, and says:
"since straight talking has come into my life, I've managed to balance myself financially and mentally.. and it's somewhere where everyone is willing to listen to you. They've really helped me out, I've come a long way".
The teenage parents who have worked with Straight Talking have gained masters degrees, now work in healthcare professions, youth and social work, local politics and the police force, to name a few.
How can you help:
Last academic year, 44 peer educators delivered 304 courses in schools over the years, reaching approximately 9,000, but there is stil work to do and they need your support.
Are you a young parent, know someone in a similar situation, or just really inspired by the work that Straight Talking do? You can either:
For more info:
Telephone: 020 8546 4665
Address: 5th Floor, Hannibal House, Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, London, SE1 6TE