Thursday, 19 January 2023
Department of Education and Skills
254. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills her plans to review social, personal and health education, including relationships and sexuality education; if any proposed changes will take account of the many types of families that are now in existence, including blended families; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [2489/23]
The curriculum at primary and post-primary is for all learners, from all backgrounds – regardless of gender, socio-economic background, race or creed. It aims to foster inclusivity, equality and diversity. Currently, 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.
The issue of families and relationships, the different types of families, features across the SPHE curriculum both primary and post-primary. For example, in the primary curriculum under the strand ‘myself and others’, which includes the unit ‘myself and my family’, where family relationships are addressed, including recognising different kinds of families.
As set out in the Programme for Government, this Government is committed to developing inclusive and age appropriate curricula for RSE and SPHE across primary and post-primary schools.
In giving effect to this commitment, the Department of Education's first focus has been on the development of inclusive and age-appropriate curricula and it continues to work closely with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in that regard.
A draft revised Junior Cycle specification was published by the NCCA and a consultation process was run from 18 July 2022 to 18 October 2022. The consultation took feedback from teachers and students as well as other interested groups and individuals. The NCCA are finalising the Junior Cycle specification for presentation to the NCCA Council for approval early in the year. The aim is that it will be implemented in schools in September.
In relation to Senior Cycle, preparation to update the SPHE/RSE specification has commenced. In October, a background paper was published for consultation on the NCCA website. The NCCA intends that the Senior Cycle draft specification itself will be available for public consultation by next summer, with a view to being ready for implementation in schools in September 2024.
Following publication of the new Primary Curriculum Framework, expected early in the year, NCCA will establish a development group for the curricular area of Wellbeing in primary schools.
In tandem with this work, the NCCA has created support materials for teachers published online as part of an Interim Guidance Toolkit, to support effective teaching and learning of SPHE/RSE linked to the current curriculum and to provide guidance on how SPHE/RSE may be approached in a more holistic way. The NCCA online SPHE toolkits includes guidance for teachers on how teach issues on from the ‘myself and others’ as well as to foster partnerships with parents, including building an awareness of different family types as well as different family backgrounds, values and beliefs.