A UNIQUE service for teenage mums who want to stay in school while looking after their babies has scooped a top award after doubling the number of Edinburgh families it serves in only a year.
Staff at the city’s hospital and outreach teaching service (HOTS) young mums unit said they were delighted after being named top in the team category at this year’s Children and Families achievement awards.
The unit was praised as a “positive, purposeful project” which is helping to end the “cycle of disadvantage” after it began working with nine young women aged between 15 and 18 in 2013 – up from four the previous year.
Although levels of teenage pregnancy in Edinburgh seem to be stabilising, project leaders said there was still a “huge need” for the service.
Teacher in charge Justine Haddow said: “The award we’ve received is for expanding our provision. It’s the first time we’ve offered alternative packages of support for girls who come in full-time and also girls who want to stay within their own schools and come into the young mums unit for additional support.”
Based at Wester Hailes Education Centre, the unit was established to help mothers across Edinburgh stay at school and ensure they can boost their own children’s learning at the same time.
Among the free services offered are classes geared towards mainstream secondary school qualifications, as well as bespoke lessons in topics such as healthy eating.
The HOTS young mums unit has been in operation for a number of years but teaching staff said they had been taken aback by the pace of expansion during 2013.
They said further growth would be driven by even closer contact with midwife and nursing teams who work with mothers in the run-up to, and after, birth.
“At this point last year, we had four girls – now it’s nine, seven of whom already have their babies,” said Ms Haddow, who joined the unit 18 months ago.
“It’s the flexible approach that’s making this a success. I’m feeling very positive and I can see this service making a real difference. The girls now have ambition for the future. They’re learning with their babies.”
News of the award was welcomed by city education chiefs, who called the young mums unit a “vital resource”.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “It’s a fantastic service that enables teenage mums to continue in education, with many of them leaving the school with the qualifications that can ensure a better future for themselves and their child.
“It’s a service I think Edinburgh can be very proud of.”
FOR TANISHA, LIFE’S LESSONS DON’T STOP
TANISHA Carr was 15 when she found out she was pregnant with Sienna, now nine months old.
Then a pupil at Gorgie Mills Special School, Tanisha, 16, who is from Oxgangs, said the discovery came out of the blue.
She said: “I had just turned 15 – it was quite a surprise. I just kept telling myself, no, I’m not – then it turned out I was and I just had to get on with it.”
Determined to continue with her education, Tanisha transferred to the HOTS young mums unit, where she is now studying for an Intermediate 1 in Maths and a National 5 in English. Sienna is looked after in a crèche while her mum is in class.
“I’ve always been independent,” said Tanisha. “I just sort of soldiered on and had a positive mental attitude to the pregnancy.
“I think it is more challenging because people are expecting you to fail a lot more. You’re still a child yourself in their eyes and they’re setting standards for you before they get to know you and your child.
“The unit helps me a lot. I’m building up a future and for Sienna, it’s sociable – she’s getting to meet all the other babies. She’s really happy there.”