At Glasgow's Smithycroft Secondary School, CATRIONA STEWART met the young parents being supported and encouraged to flourish
GLASGOW'S Young Parents' Support Base was set up three years ago to help pupils who become pregnant while still at school.
In the two-and-a-half years since it opened its doors, the centre has aided 60 young women in their schools across the city and had 21 more study at Smithycroft.
The system kicks in as soon as a young mum announces her pregnancy, her situation is assessed and a decision taken whether to support her in her own school or move her to Smithycroft.
For Olivia Diamond, the decision to move schools was straightforward: she had a 33% attendance rate at her original school, Holyrood Secondary.
The then-15-year-old was involved in anti-social behaviour and her future looked uncertain.
But, when she discovered she was pregnant, Olivia, now 17, decided to turn her life around and embrace everything on offer from the base. Olivia, from Oatlands, said: "I was a bit nervous about coming here but the first day people just asked about my pregnancy and how far along I was – there was no sense of judgement from anyone.
"Since I've had Kayla I've wanted to do well for her.
"I have no contact with the people I used to hang around with and I'm planning to go to college now.
"But if it wasn't for the support I've had here I wouldn't be the same with Kayla.
"I would be embarrassed to be out with her and would stay home a lot more."
Jasmin Duff, 17, is mum to two-year-old Jayden and says it is hard to ignore whispers when she's out with her toddler.
Becoming a mum was a particular shock for Jasmin as she only discovered she was pregnant at eight months.
She said: "People judge us. You can hear people talking about you when you're out in shops and on the bus. They think you can't hear them but you can.
"That's why it's so important for me to talk about being a young mum – because I want to show that we are worth something and that we can achieve things.
"It's hard but we haven't done anything wrong and we can be a success."
None of the girls currently have contact with their babies' fathers but support for young dads is also on offer at the base.
Launched as a pilot project in 2010 by Glasgow City Council, the Young Parents' Support Base is co-funded with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHS GGC), the Big Lottery and the European Social Fund.
It was set up in the wakle of research from Glasgow's Young Person's Sexual Health Steering Group, which found it was important that a nurturing environment was provided for young mums.
Politicians from the Health and Sport Committee recently visited the Young Parents' Support Base as part of their inquiry into teenage pregnancy.
It aims to assess whether Scotland is doing enough to reduce teen pregnancies and see what support and services can be given to young people at risk of a pregnancy at a young age.
Currently there are 21 young mums in Glasgow schools with 10 based in Smithycroft Secondary.
The girls drop their babies off at the base's nursery at 8.30am before joining classes at 8.50am.
They study subjects alongside their peers but space is built into their timetables for mum-and-baby playtime at the base.
They also have homework periods scheduled in so they can spend evenings with their children.
Base co-ordinator Deborah Blackhurst said: "Our main aim is to improve outcomes for young parents and for their children and to do this we need to keep young parents in education.
"The main challenge for these girls is their own experiences of being parented have perhaps not been the best they could be and their own personal choices have not been the best.
"Olivia was involved in anti-social behaviour and has turned her whole life around. Holyrood Secondary was at the end of its tether and didn't know what to do with her.
"Obviously we would never recommend young women get pregnant, but we need to recognise that happens and that the young women still have a right to an education."
Lisa Douglas, mum to Holly, five weeks, is 15 and returned to school when her daughter was just a week old.
She said without the support on offer from Smithycroft she would have no idea what to do with her baby.
As well as academic support a huge emphasis is placed on holistic care and mums are encouraged to learn from example.
They take part in group work, as well as one-to-one sessions with a support worker.
And for all of the girls, the results are transformative – giving both mum and child the chance of a happy future.
Lisa added: "You can see their confidence growing in terms of their relationship with their children. That's always very powerful for me."
Head teacher Jean Millar said: "Smithycroft was chosen to house the base because of its inclusive, nurturing environment and it is a privilege for us to have it here.
"Is it unbelievable the change you see in the girls when they come here and the different perspective of life they gain when they become mums.
"As a society we have to think do we bury our heads in the sand and say we don't want these girls out in public or do we support them so they can contribute to society?
"Because these girls really do contribute."