Teenagers Keep ‘Chastity’ Pledge

A graduation ceremony is to be held for teenagers who stayed celibate for 15 weeks in a study called “Romance Academy”. The project, involving six boys and six girls, was aimed at reducing teenage pregnancies and educating youngsters about relationship pressures.

The Vale of Glamorgan Romance Academy, which ran groups in Penarth and Dinas Powys, described it as “life-changing”. The graduates, aged 14-18, will receive certificates in Barry on Friday night. The Romance Academy project began in London in 2005.

But co-ordinator Naomi Roberts was inspired to bring it to Wales after seeing the scheme featured last year on BBC2 documentary “No Sex Please We’re Teenagers”. She said: “From my own experience of being a mother it would have been invaluable if I could have sent my daughter to something like the Romance Academy.

“She suffered some difficulties in her teenage years and my experience in dealing with this made me think that I could help others face similar sorts of problems and pressures. We want to reduce teenage pregnancies and reduce the amount of teenagers having casual sex. It reduces peoples’ self esteem.”

The 12 youngsters were selected via auditions in the Vale of Glamorgan with the permission of their parents. Mrs Roberts said: “We made sure we picked people from a range of backgrounds. Some were outgoing, some were shy, some had had sex, some hadn’t.”

Before joining the academies, run by a male and female youth worker, the teenagers committed to refrain from sexual activity for the duration of the project. They had talks with teenage mothers and also took home realistic baby dolls to experience being a young parent.

Mrs Roberts added: “People do seem to feel that if you do not have sex on the third date you are flawed or not a normal person. We get them to discuss what they really want to happen in the course of their relationships and help them to go about achieving this. We are finding that the pupils aren’t so quick to jump into bed with someone after discussing relationships in this way.”

Youth worker Nathan Scott-Cook, 35, who ran the Penarth group, said taking the pledge helped the teenagers to “really question their value of sex and what the culture around them dishes out.” He said many of the teenagers changed their views on sex, adding: “The boys have said ‘I would treat girls differently now and not view them as an object.”