Pupils under 16 who were taught to consider other forms of 'intimacy' such as oral sex were significantly less likely to engage in full intercourse, it was revealed.
Britain's teenage pregnancy rate is the highest in Europe. In 2002 there were 39,286 teen pregnancies recorded. The government has spent more than £60 million to tackle the problem but so far failed to halt the rise.
A sex education course developed by Exeter University trains teachers to talk to teenagers about 'stopping points' before full sex. Now an unpublished government-backed report reveals that a trial of the course has been a success. Schoolchildren, particularly girls, who received such training developed a 'more mature' response to sex.
The study by the National Foundation for Educational Research found youngsters were 'less likely to be sexually active' than peers who received traditional forms of sex education, dispelling the fears of family campaigners who believe such methods actually arouse the sexual interest of teenagers.
Now the government will recommend the scheme, called A Pause, to schools throughout England and Wales following the success of the trial in 104 schools where sexual intercourse among 16-year-olds fell by up to 20 per cent, according to Dr John Tripp of the Department of Child Health at the University of Exeter, who helped to design the course.
Teachers who sign up to the course are primed to deal with queries from pupils on all kinds of sexual experience. Those behind the course stress the scheme does not suggest teenagers experiment with oral sex. Instead they say A Pause promotes the message that other forms of physical intimacy are safer than full intercourse.
'It teaches people assertiveness skills and that they should be only as intimate as they feel comfortable with,' said Tripp.
A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said the report's verdict would be made available to all schools. 'All teachers respect peer-reviewed material, and this will help influence their decision,' he said.