New course helps teenage mums in Havering go from ‘baby to briefcase’

FINDING out that you’re going to be a parent for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience but especially if you’re only a teenager yourself.

“Young mums are often very confused and scared when they find out they’re expecting a baby. They often think it’s the end of their life and they’ll never be able to get a decent job after giving birth,” said Carmel Jenkins.

Carmel co-ordinates the pioneering Baby to Briefcase programme, run by carrer group Prospects in connection with Havering College.

The programme is designed to help expectant mothers, aged between 16 and 19-years-old, gain an NVQ Level One in Childcare.

“Usually we have teenagers who are already around three months pregnant when they start the course. But it doesn’t really matter what stage they’re at with their pregnancy,” said Carmel. “What matters is that they’re part of a group, who know exactly what they are going through because they’re going through the same thing themselves.”

Students attending the free course learn a range of subjects including antenatal development and caring for a young baby from birth to six months. The soon-to-be parents also cover modules such as positive parenting, paediatric first aid and career progression.

Candidates also get help with transport and are supplied with a free Oyster card for the duration of the course.

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“The whole course is geared towards helping teen mothers, who feel like they’re the only person to ever have got pregnant at an early age. They hopefully see that they aren’t alone, learn how to be a good parent and come away with a qualification which they can then use to find work or secure further study when they’ve given birth,” said Carmel.

The news comes after a recent report by the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) found that young parents who did not want to continue their education, possibly because they had previously had bad experiences in school or did not have the confidence, preferred taking short foundation-level courses which taught “life skills”.

It suggested that these sorts of courses were a good way of “building young parents’ confidence and helping them back into mainstream education” or employment.

The report also noted that success rates on courses aimed at young parents were higher on programmes that