Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Wednesday, 14 November 2012
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection
Social, Personal and Health Education Curriculum: Discussion with Comhairle na nÓg
Ms Niamh Donnelly:
I represent Mayo Comhairle na nÓg. First, I want to repeat that the Comhairle na nÓg national executive has a youth representative from every county and city authority and the feedback we are getting is coming from young people the length and breadth of the country.
What we have found is that many secondary schools are experiencing a very low standard of RSE and SPHE. Young people really need a consistent RSE and SPHE curriculum, one that will be the same in every secondary school. A standard needs to be met. The only way that this can be achieved is if SPHE teacher training becomes mandatory because we need competent teachers. As the committee can see from the Department's study, many teachers do not teach RSE because they themselves do not feel comfortable with it. The only way one will combat that is if one trains them up and makes it so that they are comfortable in teaching young people RSE and SPHE.
The teaching of RSE and SPHE links in considerably with mental health as well. Schools can play a major role in providing information for young people about services. If there is an adult or teacher in every school, he or she can point a young person who is having a problem in the direction of help even if the adult or teacher cannot help the student within the school.
I hope that our presentation today has let the committee know a little about the work the comhairlí are doing around the country. We also wanted to bring to the committee's attention how important these issues are to young people. We encourage the committee members to contact the comhairlí in their constituencies, learn about what kind of work they are doing and, hopefully, help them in their projects on these issues. We also ask the committee members to take into consideration the opinion of young people in every decision they make. We invite them to our national executive meetings. If they want to talk to us about any issues or anything that they are discussing within the committee, we would ask them to do so. We would be happy to answer questions.