THE joys of parenthood are being experienced by students at Colne Valley Specialist Arts College.
Year 10 and 11 boys and girls who are studying GCSE health and social care are taking part in parenting simulation with electronic baby mannequins.
The “babies” are programmed to respond in different ways and cry regularly during the day and night-time.
They respond to touch and warmth and have lights which flash if they are abused or the electronic systems in their backs are tampered with.
Students take the baby home for the weekend and are responsible for providing proper care.
As part of the course they fill in a response form after caring for the mannequin which is later analysed on return to school, alongside electronic data contained inside it.
Izabella Madej, head of health and social care and head of faculty for vocational and experiential learning, said students learned that parenting was hard work and required a great deal of time and energy.
They also realised that though the responsibilities of parenting was great, there were also rewards.
She said: “They learn that babies cry for different reasons. It is difficult to get a full night’s sleep when there is a baby around, parents aren’t free to go wherever they want and, day or night, a baby’s needs come before all else.
“The mannequins aim to simulate both the negative and positive aspects of caring for a baby.”
Around 60 students each year choose to take part in the simulation using the “Read – or Not Tot” mannequins which cost several hundreds pounds each. The course has been running in the school for the past five years.
Year 11 student Laura Smith said she was exhausted after playing “mum” for the weekend despite support from her mum and dad Yvette and Mark and younger sister Olivia.
She said: “I only had the baby for the weekend but I was extremely tired most of the time. The baby did have a big impact on my social life as I couldn’t go out as I would normally on Friday and Saturday night. This made me think about having a real baby and that you wouldn’t be able to go out as much as before.
“I think it would be much better having a baby when you’re older and had done the other things you wanted to do in your life first. Having a baby is a big commitment.
“It was much harder caring for the baby than I thought. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I didn’t think it would be as hard as this weekend has been.
“I found it very difficult when it woke up a lot in the night. On Friday night it woke up about eight times however on Saturday it wasn’t as bad and only woke up about six times. I felt extremely tired especially on Saturday morning when I had to go to work.
“I think I would find it hard if my family hadn’t been there to support me. They looked after the baby when I went to work on Saturday for five hours.
“It has made me think differently about having children but it’s not put me off entirely. I wouldn’t like to be a young mum, I feel that the right age for me to have a baby would be when I’ve done what I want to do in life and when I feel I can be committed to having a baby.”