Pupils should be given information on abortion, conference hears

Teachers should not 'impart our own opinions', but should provide information, say NEU delegates

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Pupils should be given information about abortion in the classroom because many do not discuss it at home, teachers have said.

Youngsters need teachers who can "give them the facts" about what is legal and what is available, the National Education Union's (ATL section) annual conference in Liverpool was told.

It was also suggested that finding themselves pregnant was a "trauma" for teenage girls for which they needed to feel support.

In a passionate debate, delegates discussed a resolution that said that women and girls "still face unacceptable delays, threats of violence and intimidation, inaccurate and misleading information and unequal access to abortion services".

Jennifer Marchant, from the union's Derby and Derbyshire branch, told the conference that she wanted all students to have access to information.

"This is about pro-choice – not about pro-life, not about pro-abortion. This is about giving students information so they can make their decisions," she said.

"And many people here know that. They know the information that is out there. But many students do not.

"Many students come from backgrounds where either it is not discussed at home or discussed incorrectly…whether through a lack of parental knowledge or whether through a cultural bias."

Ms Marchant added: "We are educators first and foremost, and we need to make sure students have got the best, accurate information possible so they can make their choice."

She said it was not the role of teachers to "impart our own opinions", but instead to provide information.

Helen Porter from Berkshire said the motion was "not asking anyone to promote abortion in their schools or colleges".

"Not all students benefit from experiencing and developing a balanced and considered debate about abortion," she said.

"What they do need is teachers in their schools and colleges who can give them the facts about what is legal and what is available in this country."

Trevor Cope, from Devon, said he could not support parts of the motion – including a call to "adopt a pro-choice position on abortion rights" – because he believed that teachers should not offer opinions in the classroom.

He said: "I need to stay neutral. I need to teach the facts. I do not need a policy dictating what my opinions are."

Mr Cope said he was in favour of trained teachers and good resources to give facts to students.

But Michelle Mcwaters, from Somerset, said: "When I am relating to the children, or the kids that I teach, they would see me hopefully as me, not just as this sort of cold teacher who isn't human."

She told delegates: "I know for women having an abortion, that they do not take it lightly.

"When girls as young as 13, 14 get pregnant, for them it is a trauma."

Speaking against the motion, Vincent Conyngham, from the North Yorkshire and York branch, said: "Let's be clear here: this motion is an alignment with a particular liberal ideology that states that abortion should be available on demand, no questions asked."

The resolution was passed by the conference.

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