Written answers

Thursday, 12 May 2022

Department of Education and Skills

School Curriculum

Photo of Donnchadh Ó LaoghaireDonnchadh Ó Laoghaire (Cork South Central, Sinn Fein)
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86. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the details of her plans to ensure that there is uniform, comprehensive and inclusive relationship and sexuality education in all schools; and if she will provide an update on the review by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment of the relationships and sex education curriculum. [23698/22]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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Social, Personal and Health Education, or SPHE for short, is a mandatory curriculum subject in all primary schools and in post-primary Junior Cycle. RSE is required at all levels in schools, from primary through to Senior Cycle.

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. In addition, 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.

Access to Relationships and Sexuality Education, or RSE, is an important right for students. This is reflected in the Programme for Government, which states that this Government will develop inclusive and age appropriate curricula for RSE and Social, Personal and Health Education across primary and post-primary schools. The Department continues to advance work in this regard.

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment was requested to conduct a review of RSE provision in Irish schools, focussing on a range of topics including healthy positive, sexual expression and relationships and LGBTQ+ matters. The NCCA published “The Report on the Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education in primary and post-primary schools” in December 2019.

This report resulted in the NCCA establishing two development groups, one for primary and one for post-primary, to oversee the work of developing updated curriculum materials in this area and supporting the development of guidance material for schools. These groups have met frequently since their initial establishment.

The immediate focus of the NCCA work has been on creating support materials for teachers as part of an Interim Guidance Toolkit. This Toolkit aims to support effective teaching and learning of SPHE/RSE and to deepen teachers' understanding and skills in addressing important and sensitive topics.

The NCCA Toolkit is being expanded in 2022 to include further age and stage appropriate guidance for teachers on how to address these topics within the SPHE classroom.

In tandem with this work, preparation for the broader redeveloping and updating of the SPHE curriculum has begun. Updated curricula will be developed for Primary, Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle.

A draft revised Junior Cycle specification is due to be agreed at NCCA Council in early Summer, with a public consultation to follow. The final revised specification is due to be completed by the end of 2022.

Preparation to update the Senior Cycle SPHE/RSE specification has commenced and it is intended that a meeting of the Senior Cycle development group will be convened in the next week. This group will prepare a background paper and brief which will form the basis of their work of redeveloping the Senior Cycle SPHE/RSE specification.

In redeveloping the SPHE curriculum, the NCCA will be making explicit the importance of fostering young people's self-awareness and self-esteem and building the foundational skills and dispositions needed for building caring and healthy relationships (including respectful communication, showing empathy, and appreciating difference).

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