NHS Health Scotland



Provision of early childhood and educational interventions

Link through the outcomes (2c)

Appropriate early childhood and educational interventions in all settings, targeted at those at risk of poor educational outcomes, will contribute to young people having more positive experiences of education and developing their skills and aspirations for the future. This will contribute to increased engagement in education in all settings and ultimately to a reduction in pregnancies and subsequent unintended pregnancies, and improved health, social care and economic outcomes for young people.


Childhood interventions

  • There is reasonable evidence that early childhood interventions and social development projects in primary school, targeted at those who experience social disadvantage, can have a positive impact on pregnancy and/or birth rates, reduce sexual activity or increase safe sexual behaviour and can contribute to reducing unintended teenage pregnancy as well as improving educational and longer-term social outcomes. (1,2,3)

Youth development programmes

  • There is reasonable evidence that youth development programmes addressing non-sexual risk factors for unintended teenage pregnancy as well as those incorporating services to address sexual risk factors can have a positive impact on unintended teenage pregnancy as well as on academic outcomes. (1, 4, 5)

  • There is promising evidence that universal youth work may contribute to improved educational attainment, employability and health and wellbeing. (6)

Programmes to increase school attendance

  • There is reasonable evidence that a range of school, community and afterschool interventions in primary and secondary schools are effective in reducing school dropout and increasing school attendance and that targeted school-, court- and community-based interventions have a modest impact on school attendance. (7,8)

HIIA Note:

The evidence for early childhood interventions and youth development programmes includes programmes targeting children and young people who are socially disadvantaged.


  1. Harden A, Brunton G, Fletcher A et al. Young people, pregnancy and social exclusion: A systematic synthesis of research evidence to identify effective, appropriate and promising approaches for prevention and support. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London; 2006.

  2. Jones L et al. A review of the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of personal, social and health education in primary schools focusing on sex and relationships and alcohol education for young people aged 5 to 11: final report. Liverpool: John Moores University Centre for Public Health; 2009. Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/GID-PHG0/documents/pshe-evidence- review-primary-education2 (accessed 3 June 2015).

  3. Geddes R, Haw S, Frank J. Interventions for promoting early child development for health: an environmental scan with special reference to Scotland. Edinburgh: Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy; 2010. Available at: http://www.scphrp.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/1454- scp_earlyyearsreportfinalweb.pdf (accessed 3 June 2015).

  4. Kirby D. Emerging answers: Research findings on programs to reduce teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Washington DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy; 2007. Available at: http://thenationalcampaign.org/resource/emerging-answers-2007%E2%80%94full-report (accessed 3 June 2015).

  5. Blank L, Payne, N, Guillaume L et al. A review of the effectiveness and cost- effectiveness of contraceptive services and interventions to encourage use of those services for socially disadvantaged young people: services and interventions in community settings. Sheffield: University of Sheffield School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR); 2010. Available at: http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph51/evidence (accessed 3 June 2015).

  6. Edinburgh Youth Work Consortium and the University of Edinburgh. Universal youth work: a critical review of the literature. Edinburgh: Youth Work Consortium; 2015.

  7. Wilson S et al. Dropout prevention and intervention programs: effects on school completion and dropout among school aged children and youth. Campbell Systematic Reviews: 2011: 8.

  8. Maynard BR et al. Indicated truancy interventions: effects on school attendance among chronic truant students. Campbell Systematic Reviews:2012: 10.