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
I join colleagues in welcoming the representatives and I thank them for taking the time to discuss these two important issues with us and to update us on their work. They had a successful showcase earlier this month in Croke Park, which was attended by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs and Dáil na nÓg delegates from all over the country. I congratulate them on this work and on the issue they highlighted there. They need to be careful about what Deputy Harris said and look at what happened him. He is a fine public representatives and judging by their contributions, the representatives have bright futures.
The two issues raised were mental health and social, political and sexual health education. We have a long way to go to ensuring the way we deal with both issues in our education system is appropriate to the needs of students. As Senator Power outlined earlier, my party has put together a mental health document and we would be interested in Comhairle na nÓg's response to that. The challenges facing young people have evolved rapidly in recent years and our education system has not responded as appropriately as it should have. A great deal of work needs to be done. Mental health is the greatest health concern of young people and the way we handle it leaves a great deal to be desired.
There are gaps in the system in the context of social, political and sexual health education. Our education system teaches students academically but it does not equip young people with many of the wider skills needed for life. We fall down on that and we should focus on ensuring when people go through the school system, they have an opportunity to learn about all aspects of life and are equipped for the wider world. English, Irish, mathematics and so on are obviously important but it needs to be ensured pupils get a rounded education. I very much look forward to working with the representatives. Comhairle na nÓg is a fantastic resource for us, as legislators, to engage with and for the representatives to educate us about the issues and gaps in the education system, which we need to ensure from a national policy point of view are addressed.