Just a quick update on Operation Flexible FE / Don't Force Young Mum to Leave their Babies Full Time / Trust Young Mums!

You can still complete the survey about your experiences of being a young mum in education here

It's really important to understand how young mums feel about the support that should be available for future young mums. THEY have lived it. They are still living with it. They are the best people to tell you what works and what doesn't.

We have had 80 responses to the survey so far, ranging from young mums who had their babies this year, to young mums who had their babies in the seventies! Almost half the young mums already have a Degree or higher! And lots more are currently studying for Degrees! After they had their babies they took a variety of routes; 21% went into part-time employment, 14% started or continued a degree, 13% went into full-time employment, 9% continued with GCSEs, and 9% started or continued with Alevels. A further 20% took a variety of different education routes such as vocational quals, alternative curriculum, access courses etc.

61% returned to education. work or training when their child was less than a year old (14% were less than a month old, 30% were less than 3 months old. 14% were between 3 months and 6 months, 16% were between 6 months and a year old). 21% returned when their child was between 1 and 2 years old and 15% when their child was more than 2 years old. If they were in education when they found out they were pregnant, just over 60% took up to a year out before returning to education. 13% stayed in education without a break.

"So I could have a chance to bond and settle before returning to full-time education, yes it was right for me."

"It took me some time to decide what I wanted to do"

"to give my child the best start in life I stayed at home as a fulltime parent. When she was old enough to be happy being with other people, I went back to work/started study"

"I wanted to go back sooner but financial, child cover and transport created barriers"

"I should have waited till I knew I was ready but I was under pressure from my leaving care PA"

"I wanted to get on with my life and be successful but it wasnt right for me and I dropped out"

"I was in the middle of my A-levels, and it never even occured to me to stop!"

"I was pushed to do this by my family. On reflection, I should have had the year with the baby, I was exhausted and unprepared"

"I wanted to get back to school as soon as possible. I didn't want too much time to pass before I went back to school. I absolutely feel this was right for me"

"It was enough time for me to recover but not too long for me to fall too far behind. I had a tutor who visited me 2-3 times a week to help with lessons and homework."

"Childcare was too difficult to study full time and course wasn't available part time"

"I went on to have other children, and later joined the OU."

"I wish I could have gone back. But leaving my baby every day felt wrong to me. Aren't mums meant to look after their babies? But I was leaving him with strangers every day."

"I had a home tutor to complete my GCSE's. This worked well between midwife appointments, building a home and morning sickness!"

"I was breast feeding at the time and I needed time to bond with my son."

"My daughter was born in the summer holidays between the first and second year of my A-levels, and it worked well for me."

"I had no support, no money, no guidance, no help, I was very ill and fell through every safety net there was (i.e. I was turned away wherever I turned for help)"

"My college course that I took up was 3 days out of the week so I didn't feel as if I was "giving up" my son. I then eased into an extra two days of work placement which went smoothly."

"I was sent to a special unit for pregnant schoolgirls. We were given 6 weeks off after the birth, then returned to studies. I went on from there to FE and HE - I am now educated to post grad level."

29% of the young mums felt that young mothers under 18 should be allowed more than a year out of education, or that there should be no time limit. A further 30% felt that young mothers under 18 should be allowed up to one year out of education. None felt that young mothers should have to stay in education without a break, although 7% felt the maximum time off should be a month, a further 10% felt the maximum should be 3 months and 11% felt the maximum should be 6 months off. Many of the comments, however, were about personal choice, while ensuring there is support in schools/colleges for mothers to return.

"It is a mother's personal choice."

"A mum shouldnt have to go back until she feels ready but also a year or under so she doesnt get stuck in a rut"

"It should be a personal choice whether you want to return to education or not- it's what's right for you and your child."

"I would say a year, for mothers who would still be under 18 when their child turns 1. An older mother is allowed a year of maternity leave - I believe younger mothers should have the option to spend time bonding with her child, instead of being forced back into education (if that's not what they want)."

"I believe they should have the opportunity to complete their education to the legal level but there should be no unnecessary pressure."

"They need to be able to focus on the new baby, but also too long a break would destroy any study habit. going back must include sensitive and sensible childcare arrangements."

"The first year of life is developmentally important and babies should have the best start in life, however, young mothers should be encouraged to carry on with their own lives too and not "give up" on their own qualifications"

"Because young mothers should be able to decide what is right for them and their families and not have it dictated to them. Whether it be staying in education, returning in one week, one year or never. It should be their choice."

"Education after becoming 18 should be encouraged and incentivised. But not at the expense of your bond with your child."

"I don't think that a decision about how anyone chooses to live their life should be made for them. I am all for completing education but no one has the right to dictate how and when it's done."

"It depends entirely on circumstances...childbirth is hard whatever your age, you should only go back when it is right for you."

"Babies need their mums for the first year at least. You miss out on so much if you leave then. No mum should be forced to go back before the child reaches school age in my opinion."

"Some people don't trust nurserys. Some mothers want time to bond and they need their own time and should only go back into education when they are ready. But if the child has a disability they should be allowed more time off."

"Maternity leave for women in work is a year isn't it? I don't see that education should be different. Ideally it would be sooner, as I'd imagine it's harder to go back to education, but perhaps it could be supported by home schooling of some kind in the meantime?"

"A mother of any age should have the chance to stay at home and mother their new born and bond without the extra pressure of having to return to work or education. Especially if they have had a traumatic birth such as ceasarian delivery"

"If people are allowed this time off work - so should young Mums. They should then be able to make up for the year they missed after."

"It's mandatory in MA, USA for mothers to have a minimum 6 weeks of maternity leave. Doctors may extend this time. It was enough for me but short enough to not fall out of the school schedule."

"It depends entirely on the situation they are in. It needs to be their decision, but the support should be there to make a true choice possible."

"The most important thing is bonding with the child and forming relationships. Education is not a thing that only happens when you're a certain age."

The conclusions so far? Maybe that we should listen to young mums, as a lot seem to know what they're talking about! 

This is Operation Trust Young Mums! More to follow shortly.......