Early test of parenthood

TEENAGERS are getting an early taste of parenthood with the aid of a realistic artificial baby.Pupils at King Edward VI Grammar School in Bury St Edmunds are taking part in programmes in which they spend 24 hours parenting state of the art dolls which cry, soil their nappies and realistically perform many of the other unsavoury acts associated with young babies.

TEENAGERS are getting an early taste of parenthood with the aid of a realistic artificial baby.

Pupils at King Edward VI Grammar School in Bury St Edmunds are taking part in programmes in which they spend 24 hours parenting state of the art dolls which cry, soil their nappies and realistically perform many of the other unsavoury acts associated with young babies.

Girls and boys are currently taking part in the scheme, which is run both as a GCSE and a foundation level course in caring for children. But it is also hoped the babies could act as a vital tool in the war against unwanted teenage pregnancies.

Child development teacher Anne Ball explained that the idea of the courses was to give pupils some idea of the responsibility involved in single-handedly caring for a baby.


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She said: "The babies are very realistic and have a variety of settings to emulate different moods and reactions and are programmed so they will only identify the designated carer.

"This means they alone can care for the child and not pass on the responsibility to siblings or parents, and the babies need nursing and nurturing, not just when they are crying or need changing."

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Her colleague Anne Taylor said the scheme had been a great success, with pupils and parents, and parental consent is needed before the babies are allowed home, as each of the valuable dolls provided by American company Baby Think It Over costs £360.

Mrs Ball said that while the idea is to teach responsibility, the babies could also act as a deterrent against teenage pregnancy.

Elaine Tant, whose daughter is taking part in the scheme, said she was pleased about the initiative and added: "It's a really good idea, my daughter's been told it will be her who's getting up in the middle of the night when it cries and not me.

"She loves babies, because they are so cute, but I'm hoping this shows her the other side of caring for a child."

Earlier this week Dr Rosie Frankenberg delivered a report to Suffolk West NHS Primary Care Trust in which she stated that sex education was one of the most effective ways of reducing levels of teenage pregnancy.

According to the report, 33 in every 1,000 girls aged between 15 and 17 in West Suffolk will become pregnant.

Her report also noted that teenage pregnancy is firmly linked to social deprivation, with 50% of teenage pregnancies in the Eastern region occurring in areas among those identified as having the highest incidence of child poverty.

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