Sexual health clinics could soon be open in every secondary school as part of a drive to cut teenage pregnancies.[Agencies]
Sexual health clinics could soon be open in every secondary school and college.
All pupils would have easy access to emergency contraception and pregnancy testing without their parents being told.
Around a third of secondary schools in England - almost 1,000 - already have clinics. Some are mobile units shared by a number of schools.
Now an influential study, commissioned by the Government, has recommended extending the coverage to all state secondaries and colleges in a drive to cut teenage pregnancies.
Advocates of the approach say children can be deterred from seeking sexual health services if they have to travel to community centres.
But critics say the policy is a "social experiment" which risks encouraging under-age sex instead of curbing it. Already, the morning-after pill is available to a million schoolgirls.
The survey of school clinic provisions was carried out by the National Children's Bureau on behalf of the Sex Education Forum.
It found that single-sex, faith and independent schools were less likely to have clinics.
Just 14 per cent of all-girl schools and 10 per cent of boys' schools had them. Only a fraction of the clinics restrict services to children over 16 - the legal age of consent. Among further education colleges, which teach four in ten 16-year-olds and growing numbers of 14-year-olds, almost three- quarters have on-site sexual health services.
Some colleges offer condoms only in emergencies but others provide them in vending machines.
The report admits there is a 'lack of research evidence' about the effectiveness of school-based clinics, accessible by children as young as 11.
But it says: 'School is the one place that the large majority of children and young people attend.
'Not all young people will need to use a sexual health service at school age, but providing a service in school is the best way of making sure that those young people who need the service can use it.'