*none of this has been tested for statistical significance!

Who responded to the survey?


73 parents responded to the survey in the first 7 days. Over half had given birth to their first child in the last 4 years. The most common age for giving birth was in the year parents turned 17. 32% were in school when they found out they were pregnant and 32% were working, 23% were in college and 11% were NEET.

39% lived with their parents where at least one worked when they had their first child. 24% lived with a working partner. 13% lived with a partner who was not working and 13% lived with parents who were not working. 18% lived on their own.

41% had a level 2 qualification when their first child was born, 23% had no qualifications, 19% had level 3 and 16% had level 1.

Those living on their own when they gave birth were more likely to have no qualifications at this time.

For those who gave birth before the year they turned 19 who were living with a partner, the partner was more likely to be unemployed than working.

Those who gave birth 16 or under were also most likely not to have any qualifications at that time.

When do young parents think is the best time to return to education?

Young parents were most likely to feel that the right time to return to education was within a year of having their first child (38.5%). 23% felt that the right time was when the children were at school and 22% felt that the right time was between 1 and 3 years. 15% felt that it was best to return straight away. None felt that they should wait till children were grown up or that they should never return to education, supporting the need to understand how young parents can be supported back into learning.

Those whose children were born between April and August were more likely to state that they thought the best time to return to education was within a year, whereas those born between September and March were as likely to feel that the best time was within a few years. Those who gave birth in summer holidays were more likely than other parents to feel that the best time is when children are at school, none of these felt that the best time was straight away (perhaps because they did not have this pressure themselves due to timing of birth).

Parents who gave birth when they were 18 or under were more likely the feel the best time is within a year whereas older parents (who gave birth in the years they turned 19-20) felt that the best time is within a few years.  Those 16 or under were more likely to feel that the best time was straight away.

      "Depending on circumstances of that parent - both the child and the time needed to give to the education should be considered, there are many courses / environments for learning that fit with parents it needs to be widely accessible."

     "It differs with every parent, some dont want to, others like me go right ahead...."

     "Depends on support available. Most important thing is to bond with child and feel like a 'proper mum'."

At the time of giving birth 21% had wanted to remain in education, although 15% didn’t think about education at this time.

Those who were working when they had their child were less likely to have thought about education when their child was born. Those at school were more likely to have wanted to remain in education and those at college were more likely to have wanted to return within a year.

Those living with a partner who was working were more likely to have not thought about education, or wanted to wait till children were at school.

Those who had their child in the summer holidays were less likely to have wanted to remain in education that those having children during term time.

         "Unable to go back to education because I couldn't afford to"

          "I wanted to go back asap but as my child was disabled I didn’t think I was able"

           "[It] wasn't on my mind at the time, but since having my second child I decided I would like to return to education and fulfill my dream"


Looking back the majority of young mums felt broadly the same as at the time of birth with regards to the best time to return to education, although those who wanted to return straight away when their child was born were more likely to think that the best time was within a year rather than straight away when looking back. Those that did not think about education when their child was born were more likely to think, when looking back, that the best time was when their children were at school. Those who wanted to remain in education when their child was born still tended to feel that the best time was to return to education straight away.

What do young parents think is most important in helping them return to education?

Free childcare was considered the most important thing for young parents, followed by support and advice, childcare close to school/college and flexible timetables. Groups just for young mums was considered least important.

Free childcare                                      3.8 (average score where 4 is 'very important' and 1 is 'not important at all')
Support and advice                              3.7
Childcare close to education provider  3.7
Flexible time tables                              3.6
Part time courses                                 3.5
Maternity leave from school/college    3.5
Home learning                                     3.3
Flexible start dates                              3.2
Groups just for young mums               3.1


Maternity leave was added later as it had been suggested in the comments.
'Other' suggestions included:

  • Emergency leave (day) if child is ill etc
  • Specific support for young parents. Tutors who understand the need for flexibility, and willing to go the extra mile for young parents.
  • Maternity leave from coursework, allowances in assessments
  • An income sufficient to live on.

Those who gave birth at 16 or under were more likely to state that maternity leave from school was most important and were more likely than older parents to feel that groups just for young mums are important. Those who were older than 18 were more likely to value part time courses.

Those who gave birth in Summer holidays thought maternity leave was the most important thing, whereas those who gave birth in Autumn term rated this second least important.

Those living on their own when their child was born were more likely to value young mum groups than other parents, and they rated home learning as the least important. Those living with a working partner or parent still valued free childcare as the most important thing. Those living with a partner rated young mums groups the lowest and were more likely to value part time courses.

All parents with level 1 when they gave birth stated that free childcare was very important and were more likely that state that part time courses were important than other groups. Those with no quals were more likely to be 16 or under so were more likely to value maternity leave and young mums groups that other parents and less likely to value part time courses. Those who already had level 2 rated ‘childcare close to education provider’ as important as free childcare.

Those who were working when their child was born were more likely to value home learning than other parents. All parents who were NEET stated that support and advice was very important, and home leaning was rated as least important.

Policy implications

Care to Learn is being reviewed by DfE because, although funding is increasing and the number of teenage parents are decreasing, the new requirements to stay in education to 17 (in 2013) then 18 (in 2015) means that more young parents will be expected to remain in education between 17 and 18, and therefore there needs to be enough funding to cover childcare costs where needed to support this. The numbers of young parent that will rely on Care to Learn (C2L) to pay for childcare are not yet know. At the moment about half of young parents in EET use C2L. Targets to increase the proportion of young parents in EET have succeeded in increasing proportions from around 20% to 30-40% in typical authorities, although this was a long way off the 60% target and relied on a lot of hard work around providing targeted support and specialist provision. This support has mostly now been scrapped with Connexions either being disbanded or scaled down leaving a huge gap in support for young parents wanting to return to education.

Young parents as a group have not been granted 'exemption' from the requirement to stay in education to 18 because it was felt that they should be encouraged to remain engaged rather than be ignored, which is fair enough although little has been done to look at what support is needed. Around 30% of the current NEET group are NEET because they are young parents so their needs cannot be ignored. Evaluations of pilot areas in raising the participation age identified that more work was needed to align support for young parents.

However, the Care to Learn eligibility consultation has gone ahead before this support has been explored or established. This survey therefore aims to provide a brief snapshot of young parent's transitions back into education and identify what they value most in terms of practical and emotional support.

Of the survey respondents, 25 gave birth during what would have been years 12 and 13. 76% were in education when they found out they were pregnant but only 26% of these wanted to remain in education when their child was born. Looking back only 16% feel that the right time to return to education would have been straight away. 53% felt that the right time would have been within a year and 26% felt the right time would have been within a few years. This suggests that even for those engaged in education a short period of 'time off' is felt to be needed before they can return to education.   Most young parents were not able to gain a level 3 qualification before having their child (and 36% had less than level 2) therefore many may wish to start a course, or retake a course after a year off. Moreover, half of those in this cohort lived with parents where at least one worked so would potentially be ineligible for discretionary funds for childcare through adult learning grants. The support needs of this cohort are similar to the needs overall with free childcare, childcare close to college, and support and advice rated highest.

For those who became parents in the year after year 13, 36% thought that the best time to return to education was within a year although at the time of becoming a parent only 7% said that they thought this. 29% felt that the best time was within 1-3 years. At the time of becoming a parent 28% had not interest or were not thinking about education. This suggests that it takes time for this cohort to think about and prepare for returning to education, even though only 21% had a level 3 qualification. 57% lived with a working partner or parent suggesting that they may not be eligible for discretionary funding if they started a course in the following year. Support and Advice was considered the most important thing for this cohort, with all parents rating it very important, followed by free childcare.

It is considered important that such young parents are able to return to learning flexibly but with an assurance of free childcare to complete up to a level 3 qualification. One year after giving birth before starting a course is considered appropriate for a significant proportion of young parents. Only a small proportion prefer to wait till children are at school, when childcare is less of an issue.

To help reduce childcare costs further FE courses should be available on a part time basis or with flexibility in time tables to fit in with caring for a child, and potentially running a home, without the need for exclusion from mainstream education. Young parent only courses tended to only be of value to younger mums or those living on their own. Support and advice was considered crucial for all groups of young parents, whatever their circumstances. It is important that young parent's roles as a parent is not undermined by pressures to return to education too soon. The parent must feel happy that courses can be flexible and childcare is free, close by and of good quality and that they and their child are both happy and settled. Ignoring young parents' views and experiences is a guarantee to fail and lose the trust of those who often need the most support.