Here's a statement you don't often come across when British teenage pregnancies are the subject of conversation: "Numbers of teenage mothers are relatively small." Tabloid horror headlines might suggest otherwise, but as Jane Evans points out in Not the End of the Story, a report for Barnardo's on how to help teenage mothers return to education, mothers under 20 account for just over 5 per cent of all births in the UK, and girls of school age account for just a few thousand births a year.
Good news! Well, sort of. Her point is that because the number of girls is modest - and falling, down 4 per cent since 2007 - those who have babies when, in effect, they are still children themselves will be marginalised. Teen pregnancy is often the mid-point in an unpleasant cycle: the teenagers who are likely to get pregnant are the ones living in deprivation. After the event, things don't tend to get better: 70 per cent of young mothers are classified as Neets (not in education, employment or training). So the children of young mothers are liable to grow up in poverty, too.
But then again, there is a significant body of evidence to suggest that for teenage mothers from difficult backgrounds, "having a baby increased their aspirations and made them independent rather than dependent". For this reason alone, it's worth making the extra effort to help young mothers back into education - because it might actually work. And, that aside, these are the people who are already engaged with the business of making the next generation.
At the far end of the educational scale, a teenage mother who doesn't learn to read properly isn't just going to be socially isolated and low-earning, she also won't be able to help her child learn that skill.
Based on interviews with young mothers using Barnardo's services, Evans recommends ways to assist a return to education, such as offering better housing and benefits (education comes lower down on most people's list of priorities than not being homeless). More surprisingly,
she found that girls were often unofficially excluded from education during pregnancy - despite long-standing official guidance that pregnancy is not a valid reason to exclude a child.
Evans acknowledges that available, affordable childcare is "the single most important factor" governing the return of young mothers to education. Specialist units providing "both education and on-site childcare " would be best, she says. These would be neither easy nor cheap. But given that this issue affects small numbers of girls, improving the provision of public funding for childcare is surely possible. Making the best of those aspirations now might just save some trouble in the future.