Written answers

Thursday, 29 April 2021

Department of Education and Skills

School Curriculum

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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72. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if the Education Act 1998 will be amended or reviewed in order for ethos to no longer be used as a barrier to the effective, objective and factual teaching of the relationships and sexuality education curriculum to which each student is entitled which was recommended in the Report on Relationships and Sexuality Education by the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Skills of the 32nd Dáil; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22553/21]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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Access to sexual and health education is an important right for students.  Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is a mandatory curriculum subject in all primary schools and in post-primary Junior Cycle. Relationships and Sexuality Education (or RSE) is required at all levels, from primary through to Senior Cycle. My Department has set out the content for each of these programmes in SPHE syllabuses and guidelines.

All schools are required to have an RSE policy that is developed in consultation with the school community, including school management, parents, teachers and students as appropriate. The school’s programme for Relationship and Sexuality Education is developed and taught in the context of the school’s RSE policy.  Schools are required to teach all aspects of the RSE programme, including family planning, sexually transmitted infections and sexual orientation. It is important to note that the ethos of the school should never preclude learners from acquiring the knowledge about the issues, but ethos may influence how that content is treated.

The Programme for Government states that ‘this Government will develop inclusive and age appropriate curricula for Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) across primary and post-primary schools, including an inclusive programme on LGBTI+ relationships’.

In April 2018, then Minister for Education and Skills Mr. Richard Bruton asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to undertake a major review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in schools across all stages of education to ensure that it is fit for purpose and meets the needs of young people today in modern Ireland. The NCCA advises the Department and Minister in relation to the curriculum to be taught in schools.

The Report on the Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in primary and post-primary schools was published by the NCCA in December, 2019.

The NCCA was asked to look at a number of specific issues in respect of RSE and the curriculum. These included but were not limited to consent; developments in relation to contraception; healthy positive, sexual expression and relationships; safe use of the Internet and social media and its effects on relationships and self-esteem; and LGBTQ+ matters.

The NCCA has established two development groups, one for primary and one for post-primary, to oversee the work in this area and support the development of guidance material for schools. Both the primary and post primary SPHE/RSE Development Groups have been meeting virtually on a monthly basis since the groups were convened in October 2020.

The immediate focus of the work is on creating support materials for teachers for publication online as part of the Interim Guidance Toolkit. The toolkit's purpose is to support effective teaching and learning of SPHE/RSE linked to the current curriculum. This work is progressing well and the first section of the toolkit (a portal repository of teaching and learning resources linked to the Primary SPHE Curriculum, the SPHE Junior Cycyle Short Course and Senior Cycyle SPHE Framework) is now published and a second section is due to be published at the end of April.

Further sections of the toolkit will be added over the coming weeks/months. To visit the recently updated primary toolkit go to this link

To visit the Junior Cycle toolkit go to this link

To visit the Senior Cycle toolkit go to this link 

In tandem with the development of the online Toolkit, preparation for the broader redeveloping and updating of the SPHE curriculum as recommended in the NCCA Report has begun, with an initial focus on Junior Cycle. The review of the current Junior Cycle SPHE course has been completed and will be considered by the NCCA Council in June. This review contains a brief which will inform the work of the subject development groups in formulating an updated Junior Cycle SPHE specification, which will begin in September. A draft of the updated Junior Cycle SPHE specification will be available for public consultation in Q1 of 2022.

Photo of Gary GannonGary Gannon (Dublin Central, Social Democrats)
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73. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if her attention has been drawn to a programme (details supplied); if the programme been has accessed for inclusivity of LGBTQI+ relationships and experiences; her views on whether it is appropriate that religion is used as a vehicle for relationships and sexuality education in schools; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22554/21]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context

Access to sexual and health education is an important right for students.  Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is a mandatory curriculum subject in all primary schools and in post-primary Junior Cycle. Relationships and Sexuality Education (or RSE) is required at all levels, from primary through to Senior Cycle. My Department has set out the content for each of these programmes in SPHE syllabuses and guidelines.

All schools are required to have an RSE policy that is developed in consultation with the school community, including school management, parents, teachers and students as appropriate. The school’s programme for Relationship and Sexuality Education is developed and taught in the context of the school’s RSE policy.  Schools are required to teach all aspects of the RSE programme, including family planning, sexually transmitted infections and sexual orientation. It is important to note that the ethos of the school should never preclude learners from acquiring the knowledge about the issues, but ethos may influence how that content is treated.

The Programme for Government states that ‘this Government will develop inclusive and age appropriate curricula for Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) across primary and post-primary schools, including an inclusive programme on LGBTI+ relationships’.

In April 2018, then Minister for Education and Skills Mr. Richard Bruton asked the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to undertake a major review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in schools across all stages of education to ensure that it is fit for purpose and meets the needs of young people today in modern Ireland. The NCCA advises the Department and Minister in relation to the curriculum to be taught in schools.

The Report on the Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in primary and post-primary schools was published by the NCCA in December, 2019.

The NCCA was asked to look at a number of specific issues in respect of RSE and the curriculum. These included but were not limited to consent; developments in relation to contraception; healthy positive, sexual expression and relationships; safe use of the Internet and social media and its effects on relationships and self-esteem; and LGBTQ+ matters.

The NCCA has established two development groups, one for primary and one for post-primary, to oversee the work in this area and support the development of guidance material for schools. Both the primary and post primary SPHE/RSE Development Groups have been meeting virtually on a monthly basis since the groups were convened in October 2020.

The immediate focus of the work is on creating support materials for teachers for publication online as part of the Interim Guidance Toolkit. The toolkit's purpose is to support effective teaching and learning of SPHE/RSE linked to the current curriculum. This work is progressing well and the first section of the toolkit (a portal repository of teaching and learning resources linked to the Primary SPHE Curriculum, the SPHE Junior Cycyle Short Course and Senior Cycyle SPHE Framework) is now published and a second section is due to be published at the end of April.

Further sections of the toolkit will be added over the coming weeks/months. To visit the recently updated primary toolkit go to this link

To visit the Junior Cycle toolkit go to this link

To visit the Senior Cycle toolkit go to this link 

In tandem with the development of the online Toolkit, preparation for the broader redeveloping and updating of the SPHE curriculum as recommended in the NCCA Report has begun, with an initial focus on Junior Cycle. The review of the current Junior Cycle SPHE course has been completed and will be considered by the NCCA Council in June. This review contains a brief which will inform the work of the subject development groups in formulating an updated Junior Cycle SPHE specification, which will begin in September. A draft of the updated Junior Cycle SPHE specification will be available for public consultation in Q1 of 2022.

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