Here I hand over my blog to Lisa Hallgarten to reflect on the past 20 years of work at Education for Choice....
This year Education For Choice (EFC) will celebrate its 20th birthday, but we’ve got something else to celebrate as well. In January this year we became a project within Brook and are proud to now be part of Brook’s amazing work helping young people maintain and improve their sexual health and wellbeing.
EFC was set up to provide good quality education about abortion to young people in schools in England. For our first few years direct work with students in London schools was our main focus, but with the advent of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy in 1999, we were able to plug into a national network of professionals who cared about young people’s sexual health too. We developed a training programme that has now been delivered to 4,000 professionals from Newcastle in the North East to Truro in the South West and about 65 towns and cities in between. As well as our training and schools work, we have produced resources for young people and professionals. We have been a source of reliable research and accurate information on abortion and young people for policy makers, media, and professionals as well as parents and young people.
In 2003 the Government’s Independent Advisory Group on HIV and Sexual Health flagged EFC up as a model of good practice in educating young people about abortion; and in 2010 we were delighted to be joint winners of the fpa’s Pamela Sheridan Award for good practice in Sex and Relationships Education, for our Talk About Choice schools programme. We were really chuffed to share the prize with Brook Wirral which delivers brilliant resources and workshops for young people, as well as being a fab team.
Much as prizes and public acknowledgement are nice, our biggest achievements are probably captured best by the lovely comments we get on our evaluation forms from young people and professionals alike; the repeat bookings we receive for our training; and the respect and affection with which EFC is regarded by people from lofty Whitehall to lowly youth centres.
In the past two years the EFC staff team has worked hard to build our profile and spread our message that all young people should be able to access evidence-based information; and that anyone experiencing unintended pregnancy should be able to expect impartial support with pregnancy decision-making. We have used Twitter (www.twitter.com/edforchoice) our blog (www.educationforchoice.blogspot.com) and every occasion possible to promote young people’s rights to this whoever they are and wherever they are.
Now we have to make sure that diminishing funds don’t diminish our work. After 20 years, there’s more to do than ever. We’ve learned that when it comes to sexual health and reproductive rights you need to keep winning the same arguments again and again. There’s no room for complacency. People are amazed to hear that organisations that deliberately disseminate misinformation about abortion, and prejudice about homosexuality are still routinely invited into schools to provide workshops and presentations for our young people. They’re shocked that those who oppose contraception and abortion are able to set up pregnancy advice centres to ‘counsel’ women and are even trying to get paid by the NHS for doing so.
So, what are we going to do about it?
Our immediate plans include:
- continued advocacy to tackle misinformation in schools and pregnancy advice centres;
- information and support for people to respond to the forthcoming Department of Health consultation on abortion counselling;
- continuing to provide information, resources and training to young people and professionals;
- enthusing Brook with our passion for young people’s right to informed choice on pregnancy and abortion, and sharing our knowledge and expertise with the staff teams to deliver workshops
- helping local areas address repeat abortion rates;
- tweeting, blogging, meeting, talking...
I don’t know about the next 20 years, but that’s the next 20 months sorted.