FSRH-RCOG abortion care factsheet to support RSE lessons

The abortion care factsheet is a free resource for professionals in secondary schools to use in relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons. It aims to ensure that professionals involved in educating young people have a factually accurate, unbiased and evidence-based source of information about abortion in the UK.

A 2021 version of the abortion care factsheet is now available, providing an accurate, up-to-date source of factual information

Who produced the factsheet?

FSRH RCOG Abortion Care Factsheet CoverThe factsheet was produced by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare (FSRH).

The factsheet was first produced in 2019, with an updated version produced in 2021 to ensure it reflected latest information and statistics on abortion and abortion care.

The FSRH-RCOG abortion factsheet is officially endorsed by Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care, the PSHE Association and the Sex Education Forum.

RCOG and FSRH are two medical professional membership bodies that produce evidence-based guidance and standards in termination of pregnancy, sexual and reproductive healthcare, gynaecology and obstetrics. Together, we have leveraged our expertise in women’s healthcare and produced a resource that can be used in all secondary schools across the UK.

Why has this factsheet been produced?

A 2012 Ofsted evaluation of Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) and RSE delivery in primary and secondary schools in England found that teachers needed more support and training to teach sensitive and controversial RSE themes. 

Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) became statutory in September 2020 with all schools expected to deliver the full curriculum by summer term 2021. The statutory RSE guidance requires that by the end of secondary level, all pupils know that there are choices in relation to pregnancy, with medically and legally accurate, impartial information on all options, including abortion. This factsheet aims to support schools fulfil this statutory requirement and ensure all educators, whether teachers or external visitors, provide young people with the correct information they need to make their own responsible choices.

In a survey of over 2,000 teachers conducted in 2020 by the National Education Union and NSPCC into school readiness for compulsory RSE lessons, 47% of teachers expressed a lack of confidence in their ability to deliver RSE education. Yet tools and training for teachers in such topics are very limited, which makes resources such as the FSRH-RCOG leaflet even the more crucial.

Despite being a common medical procedure, myths about abortion and stigma are widespread, including in the classroom. We aim to change that. The factsheet counters myths that are known to be taught in schools such as abortion causing infertility and mental illness.

Education for Choice, a project led by the young people’s charity Brook, released a report in 2013 investigating the state of abortion education in schools during a 10-month period. It found that some teachers and external speakers delivering lessons on abortion had been using materials which were inaccurate, biased and often stigmatised abortion. 

A 2018 poll of 1000 young people aged 16 and 17 years old, conducted by Sex Education Forum found that 12% of young people had not learnt about pregnancy options at school. A key barriers to covering these issues in a school RSE programme is a lack of teacher confidence on the subject. Teachers of RSE placed ‘pregnancy options’ and ‘explicit online material’ as the two issues where their confidence was most lacking.

Pupils deserve and have the right to impartial, medically-accurate information.

What is the Myth Busters section in the factsheet?

This is a section that deconstructs common misconceptions about abortion and abortion care. This section includes clear, simple statements with correct information to counter widespread myths.

Is the abortion factsheet a resource for relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons? Who can use it?

Yes. The abortion factsheet is a tool to support relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons in secondary schools in the UK. It is intended for use by teachers, school nurses, pastoral staff, youth workers and others directly or indirectly involved in the teaching of RSE.

Comprehensive RSE cannot shy away from addressing abortion as an integral part of sexual and reproductive healthcare. If young people are to be equipped with empowering knowledge on sexual and reproductive health and how to avoid unplanned pregnancies, they need to learn not only about STIs and contraception, but also abortion. For that to be achieved, we aim to support schools to teach evidence-based, factual information on abortion.

How can the subject of abortion be handled in a way that is sensitive to students of different backgrounds and faiths?

Young people have the right to access factually accurate, unbiased information about sexual and reproductive health and how to avoid unplanned pregnancies in schools, including abortion. It is crucial that abortion is taught in age-appropriate, comprehensive relationships and sex education (RSE) lessons in secondary schools.

Being sensitive to students of different backgrounds and faiths means respecting them intellectually and providing them with the most accurate, evidence-based information on abortion instead of biased and inaccurate information. The FSRH-RCOG leaflet is one example of a resource to help teachers to handle such topics.

Who is officially endorsing the FSRH-RCOG abortion factsheet?

The FSRH-RCOG abortion factsheet is officially endorsed by Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care, the PSHE Association and the Sex Education Forum.

What is the role of the Department for Education?

FSRH and RCOG would like to see the Department for Education (DfE) endorse the factsheet as a recommended resource for schools.

As schools work to implement the statutory RSE guidance, DfE should ensure teachers have access to reliable and evidence-based information and that schools are properly supported - both in terms of sufficient teaching time and financial resources. We would support a ring-fenced budget being provided directly to schools, enabling them to commission appropriate training or resources to effectively implement RSE.

DfE can also support schools to ensure that staff teaching RSE receive subject-specific training and regular updates, including in the teaching of sensitive issues.

How can schools/teachers best access objective and impartial resource materials?

The FSRH-RCOG abortion factsheet provides a list of useful resources and can be downloaded for free.

The Sex Education Forum also offers good resources on its website.

The PHSE Association awards a Quality Mark to resources that meet its ten principles of effective PSHE education. A list of PHSE resources which have been quality-assured by PHSE and awarded a Quality Mark can be found here.

Who should I contact about the FSRH-RCOG abortion factsheet?

You can contact Catrin Hughes, External Affairs and APPG SRH Manager at FSRH at chughes@fsrh.org.

If you have a media enquiry, you can contact Camila Azevedo, External Affairs Manager at FSRH, at externalaffairsmanager@fsrh.org