Thursday, 12 May 2022
Department of Education and Skills
154. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the position of her Department in relation to the rights of gay and trans students to be respected and recognised in their school by staff and principals; if her Department approved or was informed of a decision to invite a person (details supplied) that engages in conversion therapy as a key speaker to a conference and is on record as wishing to deny rights to trans persons; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23810/22]
Ensuring that all students and staff, including LGBTQI+ students and staff, feel supported, welcomed and secure within their schools is a key priority for the Department of Education.
The Department of Education supports a number of programmes that support LGBTQI+ students and staff. For example, since 2013, the Department has provided funding to BeLonG To, for StandUp! Awareness which is a campaign that supports school communities to take a stand against bullying that is homophobic, transphobic or bi-phobic. The campaign also seeks to raise awareness in schools about the experience of LBGTI+ Students. The Department has also collaborated with advocacy bodies and partners to prepare a resource document for schools to support LGBTQI+ students, which has been made available online and to schools.
The Action Plan on Bullying 2013 and the Anti Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post Primary Schools 2013 set out the Department's approach to tackling bullying and promoting an anti-bullying culture in schools. The Department has recently commenced a review of the Action Plan and the Anti Bullying Procedures that will take account of research and developments since they were published. It will specifically consider cyber bullying, identity bullying and sexual harassment, among other areas.
Access to Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is an important right for students, and it is important that the SPHE/RSE programme that is in place in our schools is relevant, up-to-date, and inclusive of all of our students and staff. This is reflected in the Programme for Government commitment to ‘develop inclusive and age appropriate RSE and Social, Personal and Health Education curricula across primary and post-primary levels, including an inclusive programme on LGBTQI+ relationships and making appropriate legislative changes, if necessary’. Following an extensive review of the RSE curriculum, focusing on a range of topics including healthy positive sexual expression and relationships and LGBTQI+ matters, the NCCA published ‘the Report on the Review of Relationships and Sexuality Education in primary and post-primary schools” in December, 2019. The NCCA has begun work to update the SPHE/RSE curriculum for Junior Cycle, Senior Cycle and Primary. A draft revised Junior Cycle specification will be published before the end of this year which will be subject to further public consultation.
Finally, specifically in terms of staff, it is also worth noting that under employment law, employers, including schools, have a duty to ensure the health and safety of their employees in the workplace as set out in the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (as amended).
My Department offers an Employee Assistance Service for all school staff, including LGBTQI+ employees. This free service includes a wide range of supports including a confidential 24/7 helpline, short-term counselling, a well-being portal, webinars, podcasts and blogs. It also provides advice and support to managers to help them deal with health and well-being issues in the workplace.
The Department has no role or input into conferences organised by Education Partners.