Young Campaigner Award

Stop Student Maternity Discrimination

Student maternity discrimination is anything but a niche issue – it’s a societal one.

The Campaign

Higher and further education institutions are required by law to make maternity provisions for their employees, but there’s no such protection for students. This blind spot has led to student mothers facing avoidable adversity in higher education, including not accessing flexible working arrangements, not being told where they can breastfeed, or even being pressured to quit their courses.  

Founder Sophia Moreau was told to consider leaving her course by a senior lecturer because she had ‘too much on her plate, and when she asked for a student maternity policy was told that there’s no legal requirement for her university to have one. Eventually, Sophia secured an apology through the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education – a process that should not have been necessary, but an experience that is not unique. 

The campaign to end student maternity discrimination is now part of Pregnant Then Screwed, a charity campaigning against the motherhood penalty and providing free legal advice.  

The Change

The campaign has been adopted into the live policy of the third largest lobbying body in the UK, the National Union of Students. It has also attracted mainstream press attention to the plight of student mothers, ranging from BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour to Sky News. This led to a change in the conversation on maternity rights, illuminating the impact of blocked educational prospects on future earnings and the socio-economic mobility of an entire family. 

As part of the campaign, Sophia started a peer support and advice hub for students through Pregnant Then Screwed, which supports people facing obstacles in education due to pregnancy or parenting young children. This can range from navigating complaints procedures to signposting to legal support. Unfortunately, this is believed to be the only advice service specifically for students facing and tackling maternity discrimination. 

The campaign began at Birkbeck, University of London, during Sophia’s own experiences of maternity discrimination there. Through a mix of strategic litigation and internal lobbying, Sophia got discriminatory clauses removed from the university’s extensions policy. 


The Future

The support network run through Pregnant then Screwed continues to act as an advice hub for students, and an essential organising influence. The campaign is ongoing, so stay tuned for updates from Pregnant Then Screwed (@PregnantScrewed) and Sophia herself (@MsSMoreau). 


Who else was involved?

The entire Pregnant Then Screwed team deserve all the credit, especially Joeli Brearley, Sarah Ronan, Olga Fitzroy and Aceil Haddad. The Young Women’s Trust provided invaluable campaigning training, and the sisterhood of the advisory panel supported the campaign from its inception.