Dáil debates

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

12:25 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Dublin West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I reassure the Deputy that far from standing in the way of change once again the Government is making change happen. This is an important matter, which we broadly agree on. We agree on the importance of our children and young people receiving age appropriate, up-to-date information relating to their sexual health. The question is how we best go about making that change happen. Is it through the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, NCCA, which we have used for decades to set curriculums for subjects, or through primary legislation? We do not have primary legislation saying what should be on the history, physics or mathematics curricula. Primary legislation is not the correct approach to changing a school curriculum. It is best done the way we have been doing it successfully for decades, through the NCCA.

We have asked for a major review of relationship and sexuality education and this is under way. The Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Bruton, announced it last April. As some aspects of the curriculum are 20 years old, we believe that now is the time to carry out a major reform. On its content, the Minister has specifically tasked the NCCA with considering a few areas in conducting its evaluation. These include: consent, which is so important and widely discussed now, what it means and its importance; developments in contraception; healthy positive sexual expression and relationships; the safe use of the Internet for all sorts of reasons that we understand; social media and its effect on relationships and self-esteem; and LGBTQ+ issues. The NCCA has been asked to do that to ensure that we have a modern curriculum and that we can make these reforms and implement them in schools. I strongly believe this is the right approach. This is the way we should make change happen and we should not start legislating for curricula in our schools. That is a different approach and a rather sinister one that does not tend to happen in democratic countries.

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